THE Philippine government (GRP) peace panel has urged the Department of Justice (DOJ) to expedite the process for the immediate release of a Protestant bishop who was arrested along with an alleged high-ranking rebel leader in Ozamis City last month.

Government chief negotiator Silvestre Bello III said the DOJ should look into the case of Bishop Carlos Morales of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI) or the Aglipayan Church.

He noted that the priests and bishops of the IFI have been “assisting the government it its peace efforts and initiatives especially in facilitating the release of (government) captured soldiers/military officers or members of law enforcement agencies in the past.”

Morales was held on May 12 at a military checkpoint together with alleged ranking rebel leader and National Democratic Front (NDF) consultant Rommel Salinas on humanitarian grounds.

The IFI bishop claimed he did not know Salinas who flagged him down and asked for a ride last May 12, several weeks before the cancelled 5th round of peace talks in Noordwijk, The Netherlands.

At that time, Bishop Morales told police investigators he just took pity of Salinas who was carrying several bags.

Salinas was arrested by virtue of a warrant of arrest for destructive arson, murder, frustrated murder, attempted murder and robbery.

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

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 (NPA), the military wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).

The CPP and the NPA are two of the rebel organizations under the umbrella of the NDF. (SDR/SunStar Philippines)