BARUG Katungod Mindanao, a consortium of human rights groups, condemns the warrantless arrest of Iglesia Filipina Independiete (IFI) Bishop Carlos Morales, his wife Teofilina Morales, driver Isadome Dalid, and National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) personnel Rommel Salinas.

The arrest was made by the 102nd Infantry Battalion of the 1st Tabak Division, Philippine Army and police at a checkpoint in Gango, Ozamis City around 6 p.m. of May 11, 2017.

Ryan Amper of Barug Katungod Mindanao, in a statement released on Saturday, May 13, said that Morales’ arrest was unlawful.

“Bishop Morales and his companions were arrested by police even as the warrant of arrest was only against Rommel Salinas,” the statement read.

Amper said that the police did not declare that Morales and his company were in possession of any illegal materials when they were accosted at the checkpoint.

“One vehicle took Bishop Morales and his companions to the police station while their belongings were separated from them and taken to another vehicle. At the police station, they were surprised to be informed by the police and elements of military that they were in possession of one hand grenade and “subversive” documents,” Amper’s statement read.

Amper said that the bishop and his companions have decried the planting of evidence against them by the military to justify illegal arrest and detention.

“This is clearly a variance of the government’s “tanim droga” and “tanim bala scheme nnly that this practice has been with us since Martial Law and is perpetrated by state security forces with impunity,’ he said.

He clarified that Salinas is an accredited person under Joint Agreement on safety and immunity guarantees (Jasig) and a holder of Document of Identification No. ND978453 under the name of Hermie Abella according to the NDFP.

“Under the JASIG which was signed by the Philippine government, state forces are prevented from arresting any person under Jasig protection” Amper said.

The group said that the Jasig is an identification system that gives protection to individuals involved in the peace negotiations between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) to be able to freely participate and promote the peace process in the country.

Amper said that while Teofilina and Dalid have been dropped from the charges after the inquest proceedings, but both Bishop Morales and NDFP consultant Salinas have been charged with illegal possession of firearms and ammunition and police have obtained a commitment order from the court for their continued detention.

He said that the police showed a copy of the case to Bishop Morales’s fellow church leaders.

“Like in the case of NDFP consultant Ariel Arbitrario who was arrested at a Davao City checkpoint in March this year, this act by the Ozamis police and the military clearly shows that, still, state forces arbitrarily refuse to honor the Jasig by arresting NDF consultants based on trumped-up charges,” the statement read.

“We call on President Duterte to devote attention to this yet another disturbing circumvention of the rule of law and a blatant turnaround on previously-signed GRP-NDPF peace agreements like the Jasig [happened],” the statement read.