‘Just Let Us Enter So There Will Be No Trouble’

Nov. 05, 2006

Below is the factsheet on the Nov. 1 raid by the police, provided by Sisters Geraldine Ortuoste, Amelia Hendani and Laarni Bongato of the Contemplative Sisters of the Good Shepherd.

FACT SHEET : On the Military Harassment of our Contemplative Sisters in Butuan City- Philippines
When : At around 8:45 PM, November 01, 2006
What : Illegal Search of the Contemplatives Convent by the Philippine National Police
Who : Colonel Wilfredo Reyes and Companions from the PNP
Where : Contemplatives of the Good Shepherd (CGS) Convent located in Ampayon, Butuan City

CHRONOLOGY OF EVENTS : Day 1 November 1, 2006

At around 8:45 PM Sr. Amelia (Amie) Hendani (An Indonesian) was practicing songs for the Mass the next day. Sr. Laarni Bongato was working on the computer while Sr. Geraldine Ortuoste (Acting Sister Coordinator) was in her room. Sr. Laarni noticed that there were cars coming to the convent and she informed Sr. Amie and suggested to her to check who these people are. Sr. Amie opened the door in the parlor area and from the door asked (in English) who they were. But the men did not answer. Instead, they asked Sr. Amie to approach the gate. As they did not respond , she went near the gate and asked who they were again (in Visayan dialect). They said they are police and started speaking in the Visayan dialect. Sr. Amie could not understand them. But they were trying to get inside the convent. Sr. Amie told them that she doesnt speak fully the local dialect (as she is Indonesian). She said that she would call Sr. Laarni who is speaking the dialect. As she was about to go inside, the leader of the group prohibited her. Sr. Amie noticed that another man started to climb the gate to get inside and even shook the bamboo gate. When she saw this, she tried to call aloud Sr. Laarni but she did not come outside right away as she went to her room first to get her veil. Sr. Amie called louder but by the time Sr. Laarni was able to come out, the men have already pushed forcefully the gate. Sr. Laarni saw several armed men rushing into the convent. Some were in uniform. They entered the parlor area. Sr. Laarni stopped them and asked who they were and what do they want. The men only answered pasudla lang me para walay gubot ( Just let us enter so there will be no trouble).

Web Host Philippines (www.hostphilippines.com)Realizing something is wrong, Sr. Laarni told them that she would inform Sr. Geraldine (being the most senior sister and acting as the Coordinator in the absence of Sr. Josefina Stella who is the Local Coordinator of the community and is in Malaysia). But the men did not heed her. Sr. Geraldine heard the unusual commotion and noise and came out of her room. Sr. Geraldine was surprised to see the armed men and asked who they were and what they wanted. The leader of the group just said they were police and they were to arrest a person who they were informed is hiding in the convent. Sr. Geraldine asked who the person is, and the leader showed the warrant of arrest but did it so quickly that Sr. Geraldine was not able to read it all. Sr. Geraldine asked for their identity but these men kept on saying later on Sister. Meanwhile, some of the men were already inside the convent and started opening the doors of the rooms including the sisters rooms. Realizing the situation, the sisters sent a message through the cellphone to the Rector of the Seminary nearby and informed them about men with guns who barged in the convent. Father Ruel called the Bishop (Bp. Pueblos) informing him about the message he received from the sisters. Sr. Geraldine also tried to call the Bishop by phone. They were informed that the Bishop was talking with somebody so the sister just left a message for the bishop about the men in the convent who were searching for a certain person. Sr. Grealdine asked again the leader his name. and thats the only time he showed his identification and that he is Colonel Wilfredo Reyes. He showed the warrant of arrest and sister saw the name of the person they were looking for Jorge Madlos. Sr. Geraldine inquired if they are really sure if this is the right place to search for this man. Colonel Reyes answered MSM , Sister. Sr. Geraldine told him :This is not MSM. This is Good Shepherd. Colonel Reyes then went out to make a call to somebody. Sr. Geraldine followed him outside the gate and she noticed there were three cars parked. Colonel Reyes went back inside and told Sr. Geraldine RGS, Sister Religious of the Good Shepherd. And the information they were told is at the back of the hospital. The convent is located at the back of the hospital. Colonel Reyes said he has to go and see the Bishop. He apologized to Sr. Geraldine and Sr. Amie and that he did not know she was not a Filipina. He said he will come back the next day to explain the whole thing. After some time, Fr. Ruel came and the sisters told him what had happened. Afterwards, Bishop Pueblos also came. The Bishop related to the sisters that the police made a mistake. Fr. Ruel and the Bishop left the convent at 11:30 PM

Day 2, November 2, 2006

At around past 9 AM, Colonel Wilfredo Reyes called and told them he will be going to the convent within an hour. He came together with his two officers and asked for an apology to the Contemplative Sisters. Sr. Geraldine asked Colonel Reyes why they did not present a Search Warrant last night. Colonel Reyes said that the Search Warrant is not necessary because they were looking for a person and the Warrant of Arrest is enoughfor the purpose. Sr. Geraldine told him that the incident did not only affect three sisters but the whole congregation as well and asked him to submit an apology in writing. He replied by saying that he is leaving for Manila today and that he cannot yet give the apology letter. The men brought peace offerings of fruits, bread and canned goods etc. He explained that he was not aware what a contemplative community is. He says, he does not like to antagonize the religious sisters because he was brought up in a Christian way. They left at around 11:30 AM.

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