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‘Running priest’ kept from Pope

Workers strip off broken stained glass panels from church windows in Palo Cathedral which were damaged by Supertyphoon “Yolanda” in preparation for Pope Francis’ visit.  LYN RILLON

Workers strip off broken stained glass panels from church windows in Palo Cathedral which were damaged by Supertyphoon “Yolanda” in preparation for Pope Francis’ visit. LYN RILLON

LUCENA CITY—Just a day after activist priest Fr. Robert Reyes criticized the government for security measures that he said kept the Pope away from the people, Reyes himself encountered what he had been railing against when he tried to enter an event for the Pope in Palo, Leyte.

“It’s the risk of speaking out,” said Reyes in a post on his Facebook account yesterday.

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On Friday (Jan. 16), while Reyes was at the chancery of the Archdiocese of Palo to get his identification card as a priest to attend activities for Pope Francis, he was told by the person in charge that the Presidential Security Group (PSG) was withholding the release of his ID card.

“When I had my turn to ask for my ID, the one in charge gave me a rather quizzical gaze. A nervous pause of a few seconds preceded the words, ‘Sorry father, we cannot release your ID,” Reyes said in his post.

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When the priest asked why, the unidentified staffer of the chancery informed Reyes that the PSG had ordered that the priest’s ID should not be released.

“In effect, the Church which already had my ID was allowing Malacañang, through the PSG, to bar me, a Catholic priest, from participating in Catholic activities led by the leader of all Catholics, Pope Francis himself,” Reyes said.

When he complained and demanded that his ID be released, the person in charge and the others beside just looked away and seemed not to know what to say or do, Reyes said.

In a phone interview yesterday, Reyes declined to identify the staffer of the chancery in charge of ID distribution except to say that “they are also religious.”

“One of them even told me that I was one of the leaders behind People Surge and I could be a communist,” Reyes said.

“What is now happening to my Church?” he said.

People Surge is a group of survivors of Supertyphoon “Yolanda” and their supporters criticizing the government for its incompetent handling of the disaster, one of the biggest to hit the country.

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Reyes said he decided to tell his story to media to report the “terrible injustice where the State is in fact violating the constitutional provision of the separation between Church and State.”

He looked for news reporters in the area and found one from a major TV network who interviewed him.

As Reyes was about to end his interview, the priest said someone from the secretariat sneaked from behind and told him to stop because they have decided to release his ID.

“The one in charge tells me off: ‘you shouldn’t have spoken to media,’” Reyes said.

“I told the one in charge how disappointed I was that instead of defending me from the unreasonable and unjust move of the PSG they just gave in and allowed themselves to be bullied,” he said.

As an afterthought, the priest said he was almost tempted to endure the injustice but remembered all the Yolanda survivors who would never get the chance to see Pope Francis.

“I owe it to all of them, those usually barred, marginalized, excluded and discriminated by the structures and systems of exclusion and inequality, to speak out and protest against this seemingly innocent yet truly lethal act of convenient accommodation and discrimination,” he said.

On Thursday, Reyes assailed the Aquino administration for barring ordinary people from seeing the Pope through tight security measures.

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