Priests, nuns in Jolo now being guarded by police, soldiers from Abu Sayyaf
ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines – Priests, nuns and lay leaders in Jolo, Sulu, are now being guarded and placed under close monitoring by police and military authorities to keep them safe from the Abu Sayyaf and other lawless elements, according to Archbishop Orlando Cardinal Quevedo.
Quevedo, who heads the Catholic diocese of Cotabato, told the Philippine Daily Inquirer here on Tuesday that the measure was welcomed by the Catholic Church as a precautionary move against kidnappings of, and attacks against priests, nuns and lay leaders on the island-province.
“They are always guarded within Jolo and their movements are monitored by the military,” he said.
Monsignor David Alonzo, spokesperson of the Archdiocese of Zamboanga, said eight priests, nuns, and missionaries, headed by Bishop Angelito Lampon of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, have been working in Sulu.
Quevedo and Lampon belong to the same religious order.
Alonzo said members of the religious community in Sulu, directly under the Archdiocese of Zamboanga, knew the dangers and the risks there.
“We have nuns and brothers in different congregations and convents in Sulu and assigned in some schools. They are aware of the situation there,” he said.
Quevedo said another precautionary measure the Catholic Church has taken was to prohibit priests and other members of the religious community from venturing into areas outside of Jolo.
“Another policy is that they are not allowed to move out of the town of Jolo,” he said.
While precautionary measures have been taken, Quevedo said the safety of members of the religious community in Sulu could not be ensured 100 percent.
“One cannot be completely assured of safety. Anything can really happen and so again, vigilance, caution about their movement and even cautious in the house itself,” he said.
According to Alonzo, lawless elements hardly touch priests and nuns these days but previous experiences showed that they were not safe from harm.
On December 28, 1990, Fr. Benjamin Inocencio, OMI, was shot behind the Jolo Cathedral.
The Abu Sayyaf was tagged in the Nov. 14, 1993 kidnapping of American missionary Charles Watson in Sulu. He was released less than one month later.
There was also the 1993 abduction of three Spanish nuns in Jolo.
In 1997, American priest, Fr. Clarence Bertelsman, was also abducted in Jolo.
On February 4, 1997, Jolo Bishop Ben de Jesus was killed in an attack just outside the same cathedral when two gunmen shot him at close range. He had six bullet wounds, one in the head.
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