Marquez says INC rally show of support for judiciary
MANILA, Philippines—The invitation of the Iglesia Ni Cristo for Chief Justice Renato Corona and other justices of the Supreme Court to attend the influential religious group’s activity on Tuesday was a show of support for the entire judiciary, according to Supreme Court spokesperson Jose Midas Marquez.
But Corona, who is facing an impeachment trial in the Senate, decided not to show up at the INC gathering to avoid insinuations he was using the religious event for his own personal interest, Marquez said.
Marquez, the concurrent Supreme Court administrator, said the Chief Justice heeded the advice of his fellow magistrates and close friends to just watch the event on television.
“More than the Chief Justice, it’s the institution which is being supported,” Marquez told reporters before the start of the INC’s “Grand Evangelical Mission.”
“It’s really the judiciary and the Supreme Court as an institution, more than anything else. We welcome all the support since the Chief Justice is part of the institution,” he added.
Accompanied by fellow court personnel, Marquez arrived at the Manila Hotel more than an hour before the start of the 5 p.m. prayer rally, billed as a “grand evangelical mission” at the nearby Quirino Grandstand.
He and his group were met by prominent INC members, among them former National Bureau of Investigation director Magtanggol Gatdula and Ferdinand Topacio, lawyer of Jose Miguel “Mike” Arroyo.
Gatdula, a retired police director, was recently axed by President Benigno Aquino after he was implicated in the alleged abduction of an undocumented Japanese woman.
Also in the group were Abraham Espejo, Gatdula’s lawyer and the law school dean of the INC-owned New Era University, former Quezon City Representative Annie Susano and Navotas Representative Toby Tiangco.
Topacio doused speculations that the event had something to do with Corona’s impeachment and the sacking of Gatdula.
“We are just doing our mission to spread the gospel of God as what the Bible says. This is a just religious event,” Topacio told reporters.
But an INC insider told the Inquirer that the gathering of the INC flock was a “show of force to deliver a strong message” to the Aquino administration.
“The INC leadership and most of our members are displeased with how the government was treating some of our brethren,” the source said.
“It seems that this government is only interested in exacting revenge against its political opponents than bring meaningful reforms for the good of the Filipino people,” he added.
Asked if the INC hierarchy would issue a statement against Aquino, he said: “Do we really have to say the words? The number of INC members who trooped to the event is enough indication of our position.”
According to Marquez, he went to the event in deference to the personal invitation he received from the INC a few days ago.
“I personally got an invitation that’s why I’m here. I’m one with their evangelical mission and I thank them for inviting me,” he said in Filipino.
“I hope there will be no political insinuations. This is my first time to attend a gathering like this.”
For his part, Gatdula said his presence at the prayer rally was part of his commitment as a long-time INC member.
“It’s my responsibility to help spread the word of God. My faith gives me strength,” said the former NBI chief.
Asked if he enjoys the support of the INC, Gatdula said: “Yes. I think so.”
Tiangco, who bolted from the House majority after he refused to sign the impeachment complaint against Corona, also downplayed allegations that the INC event had a political dimension.
“Let’s not put any political color into it. This is just a prayer gathering,” Tiangco said.
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