Aglipayan bishop & peace talks consultant cleared from 7-year case

Jul. 06, 2024
Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI) Bishop Carlo Morales (Photo from Bp. Morales’ Facebook account)

DAVAO CITY, Philippines – A bishop of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI) and a peace talks consultant were acquitted from a seven-year case of possessing illegal explosives in Ozamiz City.

In a 33-page resolution released on July 2, 2024, Ozamiz Regional Trial Court Branch 15 Judge Grace Yulo dismissed the charges against IFI Bishop Carlo Adlaw Morales and Rommel Salinas, a consultant for the National Democratic Front on the peace talks, after the prosecution failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt their possession of explosives found in the bishop’s vehicle.

“The prosecution failed to present any evidence concerning the negative fact that the accused had no license or permit to own or possess the firearm or explosive, which fact may be established by the testimony or certification of a representative of the Philippine National Police Firearms and Explosives Unit,” Yulo said in her decision.

On May 11, 2017, police arrested Bishop Morales and Salinas at a checkpoint along the highway of Barangay Gango, Ozamiz City, and were charged with possession of a hand grenade in the vehicle. Police also detained Morales’ wife and driver but were both released the next day.

The bishop’s detention was met with condemnation from the IFI, other religious and human rights groups. He was granted bail ten months later on March 14, 2018. Salinas remained in detention despite his status as a peace consultant that is protected under the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) signed by both the GRP and NDFP.

RELATED STORY: OPEN LETTER| Letter from prison by IFI Bishop Carlo Morales

The IFI leaders said in a statement then that Morales, as a religious figure, “definitely does not have the intention of bringing a grenade inside his official car.”

Ozamis City–based Atty. Virgilio Ponciano T. Ocaya who assisted Salinas said “It took seven long years for the wheels of justice to grind fine.”

“While the decision vindicated our innocent clients, much is yet to be done since many more innocent people who are victims of political persecution are still languishing in jail and facing trumped-up charges similar to these dismissed cases,” Ocaya added.

Counsels from the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) and the Union of Peoples’ Lawyers in Mindanao (UPLM-NUPL) who assisted the case welcomed the decision.

“With this hard-fought legal victory, the government should also seriously consider formally resuming the stalled peace talks with the NDF as soon as possible to address the root causes of the rebellion in our country,” urged lawyer Antonio Azarcon, chair of UPLM.

NUPL Chair Efraim Cortez praised Judge Yulo saying, “to a fair and impartial judge, who assert her independence, a contrived case, similar to what Bishop Carlo and Rommel had to endure, cannot survive judicial scrutiny.”

IFI Obispo Maximo Joel Porlales is grateful of the decision, as he noted Bishop Morales and Salinas “endured the heavy burden of false accusations and the harsh reality of imprisonment.”

In a statement, the IFI leader thanked lawyers’ groups for defending Morales and Salinas and for the prayers of the IFI community and allies.

“Let us remember that this victory is not just for Bishop Carlo and Rommel Salinas, but for all who seek justice and truth. It is a reminder that the enemies of justice and truth—those who wield power to oppress and falsely accuse—cannot prevail against the steadfast commitment to righteousness that we, as a people of faith, uphold,” Porlales said. (

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