Iglesia ni Cristo-led rally cheers up tearful Chief Justice
Seven thousand people and not one organizer behind them.
This was what the rowdy crowd that gathered outside the Supreme Court building on Thursday would have the public believe, with picketers saying they were simply “concerned citizens” who happened to come across one another at the same place and time.
As early as 11 a.m. Thursday, droves of people, many of them members of the politically influential Iglesia ni Cristo (INC), started convening outside the Supreme Court compound on Padre Faura Street in Manila.
They carried placards bearing such messages as “No to Impeachment,” “Uphold Judicial Independence,” “Uphold bank secrecy law” and “Stop Malacañang takeover of the judiciary.”
At least 20 placards were obviously from the same source, with red words printed on white tarpaulin sheets. But when asked, the picketers said they were “volunteers” or “individuals” showing support for Chief Justice Renato Corona.
At around 2 p.m. a tearful Corona appeared with his wife Cristina at the tribunal’s balcony and waved to the crowd.
“Walang iiyak! Walang iiyak (No tears)!” the crowd chanted.
No rally permit
Police estimated the crowd at 7,000 by 2:30 p.m.
The area in front of the Supreme Court building is a hot spot for activists lobbying for their causes, but Thursday’s crowd was not from the usual leftist groups, according to Superintendent Ricardo Layug, commander of Manila Police District Station 5 and ground commander of the 100 policemen deployed to guard the rally.
“They’re apparently from different places. They won’t say what group they’re from, and they have no leaders on site. They said they just met here,” Layug said in Filipino.
He said the people in the crowd did not have a rally permit but authorities nevertheless allowed them to hold their mass action.
“This area is usually for mass actions like this, so we allowed them to proceed,” he said.
Officials said there was a police intelligence report claiming that a number of those present were INC members.
At the interreligious prayer service held in the court foreground, many in the crowd were particularly observant and loudly cheered after an INC laywoman said her prayers.
The stretch of Padre Faura Street in front of the high court compound was closed to vehicular traffic. The crowd was densest outside the high court gates, roaring gamely whenever a photographer took pictures.
A man wearing a makeshift shirt made of cartolina walked around, soliciting signatures for his “No to impeachment” campaign.
The picketers joked they were signing an “attendance sheet” as they humored Fernando Flor, 41, a salesman from Navotas City.
Flor said he was at the rally and embarking on the signature campaign as his way of helping Corona.
“This is the people’s way to get attention. I hope the government realizes we are tired of the impeachment trial. They should be attending to more important issues such as employment or housing,” he said in Filipino.
Alexander Fajardo, 32, a call center agent from Quezon City, expressed the same sentiment, adding that the picketers were simply “upholding democracy.”
Fajardo, accompanied by a friend, worked the crowd with a megaphone, calling for “unity.”
He said he had just finished his work shift and had headed straight to the Supreme Court on his own volition.
“This group, if there is a group behind this, has good intentions for the country,” he said.
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