THE TWO FOREIGN PRIESTS standing trial for murder in the Philippines have rejected an offer of a pardon from President Ferdinand Marcos. Fr Niall O'Brien from Dublin and an Australian, Fr Brian Gore, along with six lay workers are accused of killing Mayor Pablo Sola of Kabankalan in March 1982. They have denied the charges.
The offer of a conditional pardon was conveyed to the eight accused on June 7 by the state prosecutor at their trial in Bacolod City on the central island of Negros. The two priests, however, rejected the condition that they had to leave the Philippines. The six lay workers were to be placed on parole. In rejecting the pardon, the eight said that they were still prepared to negotiate with the Government. They added though that "we merely stated the basic minimum which we required . . that the innonence of the accused not be compromised". • A ninth defendant, Fr Vicente Dangon, was released last month because of a lack of evidence against him.
Following the priests' decision, President Marcos has ordered the Ministry of Justice to speed up the trial which began in February this year. He also demanded that two other charges relating to illegal possession of firearms and explosives and incitement to riot be pursued against Fr Gore.
Representatives of the Colomban Order, of which both priests are members, in Dublin took the President's decision as an ominous sign that the Government was no longer prepared to come to. an out-ofcourt agreement with the priests.
Fr O'Brien and Fr Gore have continually claimed that they are victims of a frame-up by the authorities on the island who resent their activities with basic Christian communities.