IFI bishop arrested with alleged rebel out on bail

IGLESIA Filipina Independiente (IFI) Bishop Carlo Morales was released on bail last Thursday evening, March 15, after the court granted his petition and posting the P200,000 bail bond.

"On a phone conversation some minutes after his release from prison, he said he is fine and well and ready to resume work, free, outside from jail. While his liberty is temporary because the case still continues, he said this is a so precious liberty," the IFI Supreme Bishop Rhee Timbang said.

Morales was arrested last May 11, 2017 along with Rommel Salinas, an alleged high-ranking New People's Army (NPA) personality, at a checkpoint in Barangay Gango, Ozamiz City.

Police said Morales personally knows Salinas and aided his travel, but the IFI bishop denied knowing Salinas and his affiliation with the NPA.

He said it was for humanitarian consideration that he picked up Salinas on the road that rainy night.

In a statement, the Mindanao Bishops Conference 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.”

Morales is accused of illegal possession of explosives, a case dismissed by the IFI community as a trumped-up charge.

While the IFI celebrated its bishop's temporary liberty, the Church vows to continue to continually condemn the act of prosecuting a servant of God based on trumped-up charges. The group of IFI bishops said, this is a “big injustice made to a person and to the Church that expressed solidarity of the struggle of the people and support to the peace talks between the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).”

The IFI called Morales’, all NDFP peace consultants’, and all political prisoners' incarceration a violation of human rights, and blasted President Rodrigo Duterte who, they said, has lost his moral authority to administer this nation.

"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," it says.

The bishop's release has led to renewed calls for the resumption of peace talks.

"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," it adds.

Morales immediately presided over a thanksgiving mass on Friday afternoon at the IFI's St. Mary’s Cathedral in Ozamiz City.
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