Abad: No conflict between Aquino, Iglesia Ni Cristo
A top Cabinet official on Tuesday said there was no animosity between President Benigno Aquino III and Iglesia Ni Cristo (INC) despite a reported failed Malacañang overture to seek the withdrawal of former Justice Secretary Serafin Cuevas as lead defense lawyer of Chief Justice Renato Corona.
“There is no rift, perceived or otherwise, between the INC and President Aquino,” Budget Secretary Florencio Abad Jr. said in a text message. “Certain people are simply trying to correlate certain events and inaccurately and unfairly make a conclusion.”
Cuevas told the Philippine Daily Inquirer last weekend that a Malacañang emissary had asked him to withdraw from the defense team in Corona’s impeachment trial in exchange for the dropping of a criminal complaint against former National Bureau of Investigation Director Magtanggol Gatdula.
Corona and Gatdula are both INC members.
Abad stressed the removal of Gatdula from the NBI “was based purely on a (justice department) investigation and has nothing to do with his religious affiliation.”
House of Representatives Minority Leader Danilo Suarez said he saw no serious rift between the President and INC because there were still a number of Iglesia members in influential positions in the government.
The Corona impeachment trial is not the first occasion that the administration and INC have “crossed swords.”
INC leaders were previously reported to have lobbied lawmakers not to vote for the impeachment of then Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez.
Impeached by the House of Representatives last year, Gutierrez resigned before her trial at the Senate.
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