The National Priests Organization (NPO) strongly decries the arrest of Rev. Marco Sulayao, a priest of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI) in the Diocese of Iloilo.
He was arrested with 41 others in a multisectoral indignation caravan in Jaro district, Iloilo City, dedicated to activist Jose Reynaldo Porquia who was gunned down on April 30. The group was arrested by operatives of Police Regional Office 6, after they had agreed to forego the activity and disperse. All are currently detained at the Jaro Police Station.
The group is composed of church people and rights defenders from progressive groups, as well as members of alternative media and a lawyers’ group. Also arrested were Krisma Niña Porquia, daughter of the killed activist, and MC Mace Sulayao, the priest’s daughter, also a leader of the Youth of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente and the ecumenical youth movement in Panay.
We are enraged by this malevolent attack directed at the religious and activists who only wanted to mourn a grave injustice, and have genuinely stood for civil liberties, social justice and human rights in the country. For the event to push through without dangerous consequences, the organizers even coordinated with the local government beforehand, set in place precautionary measures to address COVID-19 concerns, and willingly talked with the police onsite. In the end, when they had agreed not to push through and head home, they were surrounded and then arrested.
Since President Rodrigo Duterte declared a public health emergency on March 15, his government has no longer bothered to hide its monstrosity, intensifying an already troubling effort to crack down on human rights defenders, progressive groups and people’s organizations. He has mischievously turned the public health emergency into a combat situation, where the primary focus veers from COVID-19 and focuses on suppressing dissenting forces and critical voices.
President Duterte has been more keen on using law enforcement forces to spread a climate of fear than supporting medical approaches, like mass testing and greater support for health workers. He, the military and the police have been overzealous in eradicating all dissenting forces and critical voices, sidelining the more important issue at hand: ending the spread of the pandemic. This thirst for violence unfurls while the need for a comprehensive medical and humanitarian solution grows.
We call on all people of faith and the greater public to condemn with us today’s attack on Rev. Sulayao and his fellow activists. Let us defend the rights of human rights defenders in the face of state attacks and reprisals.
Rev. Jonash Joyohoy
National Priests Organization
May 1, 2020