09/12/2019, 14.58
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Alotau Bishop investigated for "defamation" after posting online a story about police abuse

On 1st September, police set fire to 19 houses. Archbishop Santos posted the story of what happened online. Three days later, he was arrested and released on bail. "I am not worried,” he said. “So many have shown me great support, especially the Lord who is my protector.”

Port Moresby (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Mgr Rolando Crisostomo Santos (photo), Filipino bishop of the diocese of Alotau-Sideia (south-eastern Papua New Guinea), is under investigation for bringing to light a case of "abuse of power" involving local law enforcement officers.

Police filed a defamation suit against the prelate, who belongs to the Congregation of the Mission (the Vincentian Fathers). In a letter to CBCPNews, the press agency of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines, Mgr Santos states that the case is still before the courts. However, he added that he was “not worried. So many have shown me great support, especially the Lord who is my protector.”

For the 70-year-old prelate, his case is a “blessing in disguise”. In fact, “What happened to me has seemingly generated a national reaction against police abuse of authority. It has also mobilised 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 complaint that police from the Mobile Squad Task Force burnt 19 houses at Daga compound before dawn on 1st September.

The bishop posted the story on Facebook, which instantly went viral, alleging that the cops were drunk when they set the houses ablaze, including that of acting diocesan education secretary Gregory Nimagale.

This was the second time that police set fire to homes in Alotau, the prelate said. The first time took place last December in New Kitava. The residents are still homeless, the bishop noted.

On 4 September, Mgr Santos and Nimagale were arrested and subsequently released on bail.

An Alotau MP visited the fire victims and promised to rebuild their homes. Charles Abel publicly apologised to the bishop and said that he will reshuffle the police. He also informed the prelate that he had asked the police to drop charges against him.

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