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Philippine bishop arrested in anti-terror sweep

IFI Bishop Carlo Morales arrested with Communist guerilla leader on Thursday in Mindanao

The Prime Bishop of the Episcopal Church of the Philippines has called for the release of a bishop arrested by police in an anti-terror sweep in Mindanao. On 11 May 2017 the Rt. Rev. Carlo Morales of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI) was arrested by the security services near the city of Ozamiz in a car with Rommel Salinas, the secretary general of the outlawed Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) in Mindanao, along with the bishop’s wife and their driver.

Brig. Gen. Rolando Joselito Bautista told reporters Salinas was leader of the New People’s Army (NPA) in Mindanao and was responsible for a string of murders, abductions, robberies and terrorist attacks. A hand grenade, along with mobile phones, battery packs and cash were seized by the police in the arrest.

“Coordination work from the community, local government units, the national police and the army led to the capture of one of the highest-ranking CPP-NPA leader in western Mindanao,” Gen. Bautista said.

The arrest of Bishop Morales and his wife, however, sparked outrage from religious leaders in the Philippines. The IFI — a church in full communion with the Anglican Communion released a statement saying: “We find no reason that the good IFI Bishop of Ozamiz will be illegally arrested, handcuffed and illegally detained in jail. He had properly introduced himself as a bishop but was still accorded with maltreatment.”

Bishop Renato Abibico, the Prime Bishop of the Episcopal Church of the Philippines, on 14 May 2017 wrote on Facebook condemning the arrest. “I speak on behalf of the ECP constituency in solidarity with the Iglesia Filipina Independiente in seeking for the immediate release of Bishop Carlo Morales by the PNP/Military. He is not a criminal to be treated as such. He is a man of peace.”

Earlier in the week, four NPA rebels were killed in separate clashes with police on Mindanao. The attack followed a rebel raid on a rubber plant in Davao last month which left one civilian dead. The NPA has waged a low level guerrilla against the government since the late 1960s that has left over 40,000 dead. A new round of peace talks is scheduled to begin in The Netherlands this month.

The IFI has not yet offered an explanation why Bishop Morales was travelling with the rebel leader.

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