Churchmen’s appeal falls on Aguirre’s deaf ears
Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II on Friday gave a cold shoulder to religious groups who urged him to intervene in the arrest of two Protestant church officials accused of working with communist rebels.
Aguirre told reporters that the criminal case filed against Bishop Carlo Morales of Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI) had already been taken up by the National Prosecution Service (NPS), the prosecution arm of the Department of Justice (DOJ).
Representatives of the IFI, Ecumenical Bishop’s Forum, Promotion of Church People’s Response and the United Church of Christ in the Philippines hand-carried their letter when they went to the DOJ on Friday.
But the justice secretary was taking a hands-off stance.
“We are not in the habit of intervening in cases filed before the NPS. They can submit their evidence to the NPS, but they cannot go to us and ask us to dictate upon the NPS,” Aguirre said in an interview with reporters.
“We have a due process. If the cases would be submitted to the Office of the Secretary, then that’s the only time when we could intervene,” he said.
The religious groups recounted in their letter that Morales was arrested by policemen and soldiers last May 11 in a checkpoint in Ozamiz City.
He was traveling with Rommel Salinas, said to be a “peace consultant” of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, the political arm of the Communist Party of the Philippines.
They said that another church official, Pastor Kama Sanong of the Association of the Dulangan Manobo Evangelical Church, was taken by the Marines and policemen from his home in Kalamansig town, Sultan Kudarat province, on July 11.
Both Morales and Sanong were charged with illegal possession of firearms and explosives using “planted evidence,” the religious groups claimed.
“These cases should summon the (DOJ) to corrective action as even Church pastors and bishops have been victimized through the planting of evidence,” they lamented.
“The disturbance on the lives of those victimized by trumped-up charges and their families is deplorable,” they said.
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