Filipino bishop faces charges after exposing police abuses in PNG

Filipino bishop faces charges after exposing police abuses in PNG

Bishop Rolando Santos of Alotau-Sideia. PHOTO FROM THE DIOCESE OF ALOTAU-SIDEIA’S FACEBOOK PAGE

By Roy Lagarde

September 11, 2019

Manila, Philippines

A Filipino Catholic bishop is facing charges after exposing alleged police abuses in the southeast of Papua New Guinea.

Police have filed defamation cases against Bishop Rolando Santos of Alotau-Sideia for reporting an “abuse of authority” incident involving some authorities.

“I still have a case in court. But I am not worried. So many have shown me great support, especially the Lord who is my protector,” Santos said in a letter sent to CBCPNews on Wednesday.

Instead of getting discouraged, the 70-year-old Vincentian prelate considers his case as a “blessing in disguise”.

“What happened to me has seemingly generated a national reaction against police abuse of authority,” he said.

“It has also mobilized and emboldened many communities and action groups here in Alotau to fight for their rights within the law and without using violence,” Santos said.

The case stemmed from the bishop’s statement that police from the Mobile Squad Task Force burnt 19 houses at Daga compound on predawn of Sept. 1.

The Vincentian prelate also posted the incident on his Facebook account and instantly went viral.

In his post, he alleged that the cops were drunk when they set the houses ablaze, including that of acting diocesan education secretary Gregory Nimagale.

On Sept. 4, Bishop Santos and Nimagale were arrested but later released on bail.

A member of the Parliament for Alotau visited the fire victims over the weekend and promised to build low housing for them.

Charles Abel also apologized to Bishop Santos publicly and said he will reshuffle the police force.

The official also informed the prelate that he asked the task force to drop their charges against him.

This was the second time that police from the task force burnt houses in Alotau, the prelate said. The first was in New Kitava in December last year.

“Until now they are homeless,” the prelate added.

Since 2001, Santos has been serving the Church in Papua New Guinea, which is also home to a number of Filipino missionaries.

He was appointed the bishop of Alotau-Sideia in 2011. CBCPNEWS