Peace panel vouches for Aglipayan bishop

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THE government peace panel on Friday told the Justice Department to expedite the release of an Aglipayan bishop who was nabbed along with an alleged high-ranking communist leader in Ozamis City last month.

Government chief negotiator Silvestre Bello III and panel members urged the department to look into the case of Iglesia Filipina Independiente Bishop Carlos Morales and release him on “humanitarian grounds” after he was mistaken to have helped NPA leader Rommel Salinas.

Salinas has pending arrest warrants for “destructive arson, murder, frustrated murder, attempted murder and robbery.”

Meanwhile, the communist rebels still in the underground will remain immune from arrest or surveillance after the updated list of consultants covered by the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantee was recently deposited in The Netherlands, government negotiators said Friday. 

Government peace negotiator Angela Librado-Trinidad said the list, encrypted in USB (Universal Serial Bus) flash disks and a back-up security drive and locked in a safety deposit box, contains photographs and the real identities of the rebel consultants who are still underground.

Government chief negotiator Silvestre Bello III

Aside from Librado-Trinidad, former Agrarian Reform Secretary Hernani Braganza from the GRP panel likewise joined the depositing of the JASIG list, along with NDF chief negotiator Fidel Agcaoili and senior adviser Luis Jalandoni.

Morales was held on May 12 at a military checkpoint together with Salinas. The bishop claimed he did not know Salinas who flagged him down and asked for a ride, and several weeks before the canceled fifth round of peace talks in Noordwijk, The Netherlands.

Morales told police investigators he just took pity on Salinas, who was carrying several bags.

Bello told the Justice Department that priests and bishops of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente  had been “assisting the government in its peace efforts and initiatives especially in facilitating the release of captured soldiers and military officers or members of law enforcement agencies.

He said another prelate of the IFI, Bishop Felixberto Calang, had been actively participating in the GRP-NDF negotiations in Europe as an independent observer.

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, the military wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines.

The Philippine government and the NDF have resumed their peace negotiations under the Duterte administration after these collapsed in 2011. 

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