Church leaders, rights activists call for release of Bishop Morales, NDFP consultant Salinas and all political prisoners

Numerous faith-based institutions and human rights advocates from different countries called for the immediate release of Iglesia Filipino Independiente (IFI) Bishop Carlo Morales, peace consultant Rommel Salinas, and all political prisoners, before the fifth round of formal peace talks between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).

On May 11, 2017, Bishop Morales, Salinas, public school teacher Ma. Teofilina Morales, and IFI driver Isadome Dalid were accosted in a checkpoint of the 102nd Infantry Battalion-Philippine Army in Gango, Ozamiz City. The four were brought to the Ozamiz City Police Station and their access to their legal counsels were restricted. Guns and explosives were planted in their personal belongings. The next day, May 12, trumped up cases of illegal possession of firearms and/explosives (Republic Act 9516) were filed against Salinas and Bishop Morales, while the two others were released.

In separate letters to Pres. Rodrigo Duterte, the World Council of Churches (WCC), the Christian Conference of Asia (CCA) and the United Church of Canada (UCC) called for the release of Bishop Morales.

“We consider that the arrest and detention of a religious and spiritual leader like Bishop Morales is appalling and a violation of human rights. We urge the authorities in the Philippines to release Bishop Morales immediately,” said Matthews George Chunakara, CCA General Secretary.

Patti Talbot, Team Leader of the Church in Mission Unit of the UCC, said “it is especially offensive that this be accorded to a person who is a religious leader – a Bishop who has an obligation to provide protection or sanctuary to a person who is in distress or politically persecuted.”

Upon the initiative of the International Coalition for Human Rights  in the Philippines (ICHRP) in the US, numerous religious leaders in the US, known American human rights advocates such as former US Attorney General Ramsey Clark and staunch US activists like Frank Chapman, Bill Fletcher Jr., Azadeh Shahshahani, Joe Iosbaker, Sara Flounders and John Parker called for the release of Morales, Rommel Salinas and all political prisoners in the Philippines.  

“The ICHRP network in the US not only finds that arrest of Bishop Morales and Salinas in violation of international law and agreements signed between the GRP and the NDFP. We condemn the illegal arrests for obstructing the ongoing peace talks between the GRP and the NDFP, a viable and important forum of struggle relied on by the Filipino people to help address the massive social inequality at the root of the long running armed conflict in the Philippines…The network appeals to you, Mr. President, that you cause the immediate and unconditional release of Bishop Carlo Morales and Rommel Salinas and all political prisoners,” they stated in a letter sent to Duterte on May 14, 2017.   

 

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