IFI renews calls to release jailed bishop in Ozamiz

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews / 2 Aug) –The Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI) has renewed its call for the release of Bishop Carlo Morales, who is detained in Ozamiz City in what the group described as “trumped up charges.”

Bishop Morales (center) surrounded by fellow IFI bishops in this file photo from his Facebook page.

Morales is languishing in jail since May 11. He was detained along with Rommel Salinas, a consultant of the National Democratic Front (NDF), the political wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP). They were accused of illegal possession of explosive.

“We found the allegation against our good bishop malicious and ridiculous,” Bishop Joel Porlares, IFI general secretary, said in a statement furnished to MindaNews on Wednesday.

“We demand the immediate release of Bishop Carlo Morales. He must continue his mission and ministry outside of prison,” he added.

“His love for justice and lasting peace must be preached beyond the prison walls. And above all, his immediate release is ‘just and fair.’ His captors are the ones supposed to be jailed for accusing a ‘righteous person’,” said Porlares, also the spokesperson for Free Bishop Carlo Morales Movement.

He noted that Morales is in good condition and in high spirits inside the jail.

On Tuesday, the IFI Mindanao Bishops Conference convened in Cagayan de Oro City where they renewed their demand to free Morales and tackled other pressing issues facing the country.

The Mindanao bishops enjoined the IFI faithful and the public to support the campaign to free Morales, as well as other political prisoners, by conducting novena prayers, fasting, liturgical activities, marches and camp outs.

Along with the call to free Morales, the IFI also urged the government to continue the peace talks with the communist rebels. During the second State of the Nation Address of President Rodrigo Duterte on July 24, he said he “no longer wants to conduct peace talks with the communist guerillas.”

On June 22, Silvestre Bello III, government chief negotiator in the peace talks with the communist rebels, said the Philippine government peace panel (GRP) had asked the Department of Justice (DOJ) to expedite the legal process for the release of Morales from prison.

Bello urged the DOJ to look into the case of Morales on humanitarian ground.

In also asking for Morales’s release, Bello said that IFI bishops and priests have been “assisting the government in its peace efforts and initiatives especially in facilitating the release of captured soldiers or members of law enforcement agencies in the past.”

Another prelate of the IFI, Bishop Felixberto Calang, has been actively participating in the GRP-NDF negotiations in Europe as an independent observer.

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 CPP. (Bong S. Sarmiento/MindaNews)