CHR chair: No violation of ‘separation of Church and State’
The chair of the Commission on Human Rights belied on Saturday claims by members of the Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) that the Department of Justice (DOJ) was violating the “separation of Church and State” doctrine by looking into the criminal complaints filed by expelled members against the religious sect’s leaders.
In text messages to the media, CHR chair and human rights lawyer explained that “separation of Church and State does not arise at all in this instance. This is a matter involving the proper exercise of powers by the Justice department, involving an investigation of a case that may involve violation of law that exempts no one.”
Gascon explained the doctrine of separation only ensures that “the State does not favor any particular religion” and that “every person is able to believe and practice faith.”
“On matters of criminal law, the justice system must be allowed to take its due course no matter who may be the perpetrators involved, otherwise, people will ultimately be taking the law or interpretation thereof upon themselves, which would undermine it,” Gascon said.
To ensure human rights, the “rule of law” must be secured, Gascon said. “No person or institution under our constitutional system can place themselves above or beyond the reach of law,” he added.
The past week, the INC members have held rallies outside the DOJ, and then on Edsa, accusing DOJ Secretary Leila de Lima of meddling in the INC’s affairs. The rallies have caused traffic gridlocks on and around the roads where they have been held.
To this, Gascon noted: “Every person has the right to exercise freedom to [peaceably] assemble to redress grievance… However, it is also a basic civic duty of every person in a civil society to exercise their rights to the extent that they do not impinge upon rights of others.” Jaymee T. Gamil/RAM
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