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Morita Alegre walks free, appeals for the release of son Selman

Morita Alegre, 75-year old political prisoner and widow of political prisoner Jesus Alegre, is free.

Political prisoner support group Kapatid announced on Saturday that Alegre walked out of the Correctional Institute for Women in Mandaluyong City on Friday, January 28, after 16 years in prison.

“Through combined lobby efforts by Kapatid, Karapatan and church groups led by Negros Bishop Gerardo Alminaza, she was granted commutation of sentence on December 24, 2021,” Kapatid said in a statement.

Alegre’s release came a few days after Alminaza’s public petition last January 22 for her release.

READ: Bishop renews call for release of elderly prisoner and son

“Deo gratias!” (Thanks be to God!) was the prelate’s reaction to the announcement on his Facebook wall.

Kapatid said Alegre’s release papers show she had already served her maximum sentence with 3,676 days – more than 10 years – for “Good Conduct Time Allowance.”

“Today, there is nothing more Nanay (Mother) Morita wants to do than to return home. And home is their coastal barangay (of Taba-ao) in Sagay, Negros Occidental,” Kapatid said.

The group added that Alegre first intends to visit the grave of Jesus when she arrives in Sagay.

The widow last saw her husband at his wake at the Iglesia Filipina Indipendiente National Cathedral on Taft Avenue, Manila in June 2021 when she was given a furlough to see him before his body was flown to their hometown for burial.

Jesus died on June 13 from renal failure and multiple complications despite repeated appeals for his humanitarian release.

READ: 2nd oldest political prisoner dies in detention

The Alegres, fisher folk and farmers, were arrested on April 14, 2005 and ended up convicted for the killing of one Rogelio Tipon, bodyguard of local landlord and alleged land-grabber Avelino Gaspar.

Tipon’s widow Helena has executed an Affidavit of Desistance, but Karapatan said Gaspar has instigated the trial’s continuation that convicted the Alegres.

The Alegres’ refusal to give up their land has also caused the death of a son, Romeo, Karapatan said.

Kapatid said Morita seeks support for Selman, 47, who remains jailed at the New Bilibid Prison, Muntinlupa City.

The group also appeals for assistance to fly Morita home to Negros Island.

Donations may be coursed through Kapatid’s  GCash number 0929 612 3517 (Roni), Kapatid said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Sea of white makes crusading Bishop’s heart grateful

San Carlos Bishop Gerardo Alminaza said his heart was filled with gratitude when he saw a sea of white as he celebrated Mass at the San Carlos Borromeo Cathedral last Christmas Eve and yesterday, Christmas day.

In response to his call that parishioners wear white during Masses on December 24 and 25 to demand for an end to extrajudicial killings in Negros Island, thousands of parishioners throughout the Diocese turned church pews to white, the fourth straight year they did so.

“I feel until now so much gratitude in my heart! For so many reasons, [including] that our people are still very much with us,” Alminaza told Kodao.

“We are very much in touch with our people and we truly express their deepest sentiments when we called on them to wear white as an act of solidarity and to express our desire for and commitment to peace, sanctity of life, human dignity and human rights, and our collective call to end the killings, COVID pandemic and abuse of our common home,” the prelate added.

Mass at San Carlos Borromeo Cathedral, San Carlos City, Neg. Occ. celebrated by Bishop Gerardo Alminaza. (Photo from the Bishop’s Facebook account)

Oplan Sauron

Towards the end of his homily at the funeral Mass for slain red-tagged community doctor Mary Rose Sancelan and husband Edwin last December 22, Alminaza again called on his Church’s faithful to collectively act for justice for the victims of extrajudicial killings in the island.

The Sancelans were shot to death by unidentified assassins at past five o’clock in the afternoon of December 15 near their home in Carmen Ville Subdivision, Barangay Poblacion, Guihulngan City.

Their assassination was the latest in a long list of extrajudicial killings in the island that included massacres of peasants and assassination of lawyers, activists, progressive politicians, dubious midnight raids that resulted in massacres in the past three years.

The Philippine National Police-Central Visayas’ counter-insurgency program Oplan Sauron has also resulted in mass arrests of workers, journalists and human rights defenders.

Sancelan, Guihulgan City health officer and Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) chief, was previously included in the hit list of the anti-communist vigilante group Kawsa Guihulnganon Batok Komunista (Kagubak) in 2019.

Kagubak mistakenly named her as JB Regalado, Central Negros New People’s Army spokesperson.

Sancelan was among the five in the Kagubak hit list who have since been killed, including lawyer Anthony Trinidad, Heidi Malalay Flores, and Boy Litong and his son.

Mass at the St Anthony De Padua Parish Church, Toboso, Negros Occidental, ked by Fr, Martin Brodit. (Photo from Bishop Alminaza’s FB account)

Right values

But Alminaza expressed gratitude that the faithful of his Diocese “have not lost yet [their] right values and priorities : sanctity of life, human dignity and human rights, integrity of creation, solidarity. “

The prelate said the Diocese’s display of solidarity proved that it is “a listening Church.”

“I also feel affirmed, very happy, inspired and encouraged. It shows the collective efforts of everyone: our priests, religious, and lay faithful,” he said.

Alminaza said he witnessed how the members of the diocese reminded each other through text and personal message before they left their homes to wear white in accordance with his request.

“I witnessed how we all feel so empowered that we are all in this together! Our message is CLEAR: #WearWhiteForPEACE #StopTheKillingsPH #DefendLifeAndRights #SilenceKills #Justiceforallvictims #CareForThePoor #CareForOurCommonHome,” he said.

Christmas Eve Vigil Mass at Nuestra Señora de las Flores Mission Station, Brgy Masulog, Canlaon City. (Photo fro, Bishop Alminaza’s FB account)

Mixed emotions

Alminaza however revealed that while his brother priests were mostly happy to see a sea of white during the Masses, one told him he felt angry because of the continuing incidence of extrajudicial killings in Negros and throughout the country.

But the Bishop said that the priests of his diocese mostly felt happy with the response of the faithful.

“I feel further affirmed when another (priest) also shared, ‘Personally, I felt joy because I saw the lay faithful listening and participating and cooperating in our various advocacy and diocesan pastoral concerns, particularly our collective call to end the killings, commitment to peace, sanctity of life, and others,’” he said.

Another priest told him the people’s response has become a powerful symbol of the diocese’s collective awareness about the social realities the Church is faced with, the Bishop said.

The priest added he felt challenged not to get discouraged or remain in the sidelines because the people look up to [the Church] for guidance especially at this time.

Mass at St. Joseph Parish, Sagay City. (Photo from Bishop Alminaza’s FB account)

Bell ringing to continue

Alminaza told Kodao that the nightly 8 PM ringing of church bells throughout the Diocese will continue this Christmas [season], “and beyond until the killings stop.”

“The bells are intended to prick the conscience of those who move in our midst and exact evil in killing hapless civilians; they must turn from their wicked ways,” he said.

“The bells ring as a soothing reminder to families who have been victimized that we are with them in their grief. Most importantly, they are a clarion call to our people that we must rise and pursue justice and peace!” Alminaza added.

The Bishop said he is asking the vigilante group Kagubak to stop terrorizing the people in Guihulngan with a list of those to be killed. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Christmas and Fiesta Mass at the Holy Family Chaplaincy, Central Lopez, Sagay City. (Photo from Bishop Alminaza’s FB account)
Christmas Eve Mass at St. John Mary Vianney Seminary College, Inc., San Carlos City  ·(Photo from Bishop Alminaza’s FB account)