11/06/2006, 00.00
PHILIPPINES
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Butuan bishop condemns military raid of Good Shepherd convent

by Santosh Digal

The bishop, Mgr Juan de Dios Pueblos, intends to ask the Melo Commission, which is tasked to probe human rights abuses, to investigate. The sisters said the attack shows the soldiers' disrespect for the law.

Butuan (AsiaNews) – The bishop of Butuan has condemned an army attack on a convent of Good Shepherd Sisters on 1 November and called for a thorough investigation by the authorities.

The bishop, Mgr Juan de Dios Pueblos, said: "The military admitted their mistakes so they should take the consequences for what they did. I intend to ask the Melo Commission, which is tasked to probe political killings and other human rights violations in the country, to make an investigation into the incident."

The army confirmed that seven men in full battle gear stormed their way into the convent, which is situated south of Manila, on All Saints Day "to ask about the rebel leader Jorge Madlos, spokesperson of the National Democratic Front (NDF) in Mindanao." The soldiers destroyed the gate and damaged part of the convent.

The sisters said: "The soldiers were seeking rebels, but we were the only victims of the raid. We condemn this intimidation perpetrated by instruments of the government, which is clearly deliberate." Sr Catabian said the men "did not present any search warrant. They forced themselves into the rooms of the sisters and all over the convent."

Chief Superintendent Antonio Nañas, Caraga police chief, said: "The raid was part of the police's efforts to arrest terrorists. We had no intention of harassing the sisters to whom I extend my sincerest apology."

Sr Crescensia Lucero, of the Association of Major Religious Superiors of the Philippines, said apologies were "not enough". She added: "Their action shows their utter lack of respect for holy places but even more so, it shows their blatant disregard of the right to due process."

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