Bishop Carlo Morales told court he did not know the hitchhiker to whom he had offered a lift was a Communist guerilla leader
A Filipino bishop arrested last year on terrorism charges has been released from detention and granted bail. On 15 March 2018 the Rt. Rev. Carlo Morales left prison after posting a 200,000 Peso ($3800) bond. In a statement made after his release the Mindanao Bishops Conference of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI) — a church in full communion with the Philippine Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion – said Judge Edmundo Pintac of Ozamis City Court granted the bail because “the prosecution’s evidence presented at the bail hearing is not strong enough to convict the accused bishop of the charges against him.”
On 11 May 2017 Bishop Morales 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.
The arrest of Bishop Morales and his wife, however, sparked outrage from religious leaders in the Philippines. The IFI 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.”
The Most Rev. 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.”
According to local press reports, Bishop Morales (pictured) told police that he had stopped to give a lift to Salinas as a humanitarian gesture on a rainy night. He did not know Salinas and had no knowledge that Salinas’ bag contained weapons.
The IFI bishops’ statement noted that: “While Bishop Morales is temporarily free, we cannot close our eyes on the continuing incarcerations of arrested social activists, intensified military operations in the countryside that displace thousands of national minorities, and the persecution of activists tagged as terrorists.”
They further asked the government to return to the negotiating table with communist guerillas. “We steadfastly call on our people to stand firm in the struggle for justice and lasting peace. We further call on our faithful to be in solidarity with the struggling masses and invoke the Holy Spirit to guide us in this struggle.”
The Sun-Star reported that immediately after his release Bishop Morales presided at a Eucharist offered in thanksgiving at the IFI’s St. Mary’s Cathedral in Ozamiz City.