Bello appeals for release of IFI bishop

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/24 June) – Government (GRP) peace panel chair Silvestre Bello III urged the Department of Justice to review the case of detained Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI) bishop Carlos Morales and fast track the process of his release “on humanitarian grounds.”

In a statement Friday, Bello said they recognize the role that priests and bishops of the IFI play in the “peace efforts and initiatives especially in facilitating the release of captured soldiers/military officers or members of law enforcement agencies in the past.”

Bishop Morales on handcuffs. Photo from IFI-Ozamiz’s Facebook page

On May 12, Morales, along with his wife Ma. Teofiliina Morales, church driver Isadome Dalid, and alleged National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) consultant Rommel Salinas, was arrested at a military checkpoint in Ozamiz City.

The statement said the IFI bishop denied knowing Salinas and claimed the latter “flagged him down and asked for a ride last May 12, several weeks before the canceled 5th round of peace talks in Noordwijk, The Netherlands.”

It added Morales told authorities “he just took pity” on Salinas, who was arrested by “virtue of a warrant of arrest for destructive arson, murder, frustrated murder, attempted murder and robbery.”

It also acknowledged the efforts of another IFI prelate, Bishop Felixberto Calang, who has been actively participating as an independent observer in the GRP-NDF negotiations in Europe.

“On several occasions, Calang served as third party facilitator in the release of government soldiers and policemen captured by rebels belonging to the New People’s Army, the military wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines,” it said.

Talks between the GRP and NDFP, which collapsed under former president Benigno S. Aquino III, resumed under the Duterte administration. (Antonio L. Colina IV/MindaNews)