Binay defends Iglesia ni Cristo, chides Aquino gov’t
Vice President Jejomar Binay seemed to be courting the Iglesia ni Cristo’s (INC) favor as he urged the present administration to stop meddling in the affairs of the influential religious sect.
In a statement Friday, Binay said the INC was only exercising its freedom to assembly and religious freedom when a thousand members held a protest action before the Department of Justice on Thursday which continued until Friday.
Binay, a presidential aspirant in the 2016 polls, is seemingly wooing the favor of the INC, known for their bloc voting during elections.
The INC supporters criticized Justice Secretary Leila De Lima, who happened to be celebrating her 56th birthday that on Thursday, for allegedly meddling in the internal affairs of the INC.
The DOJ is investigating a criminal complaint filed by an expelled INC minister against eight members of the Sanggunian, the sect’s highest administrative body.
“We cannot fault the INC for resorting to mass action to protect the independence of their church from a clear act of harassment and interference from the administration,” the Vice President said.
“Religious freedom is guaranteed by our Constitution. Yet the administration chose to trample on this sacred right. What we are seeing are people fighting for their faith,” he added.
Expelled minister Isaias Samson filed a complaint of illegal detention, harassment, threats and coercion against the Sanggunian for allegedly detaining him and his family amid a power play that almost split the Manalo family, the founders of the INC.
Isaias Samson Jr., the former editor of the INC publication “Pasugo,” was accused of penning the hard-hitting articles online that exposed alleged corruption in the INC.
The articles written by a certain Antonio Ebangelista claimed at least 10 ministers were abducted and detained for going against the alleged corrupt practices of the Sanggunian, including the alleged commissions padded into the construction of the Philippine Arena.
Binay took the side of the INC, which has urged De Lima to instead focus on investigating the botched Mamasapano anti-terror raid which resulted in the deaths of 44 Special Action Force (SAF) troops, 18 Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters and five civilians.
During their protest action, INC members chanted “Justice for Mamasapano,” and “Huwag niyong pakialaman ang Iglesia!”
Binay said instead of meddling with the INC, the administration should focus on resolving the congestion and breakdown problems of the Metro Rail Transit-3, as well as massive poverty in the country.
“It would do well for the Palace and justice officials to deal with what’s on their plate first,” Binay said.
Malacañang, however, said on Friday that the government is not interfering in INC’s affairs.
Binay also hit De Lima for reviving the case when the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) had ruled out the allegations of serious illegal detention and declared it case closed.
“Why the persistence when an NBI team had already concluded there was no crime committed? The DOJ secretary’s actions and the Palace’s support for her demonstrate the administration’s obsession to control independent institutions like the INC, in violation of their freedom to worship. And if the administration cannot control, they harass and intimidate,” Binay said.
De Lima had said the case is not yet closed, chiding Manuel Eduarte, chief of the NBI Anti-Organized Transnational Crime Division, for saying there were no signs of detention in the house of Felix Nathaniel “Angel” Manalo, brother of the INC Executive Minister Eduardo Manalo.
The unrest in the INC stemmed from a split in the founding family when the brother and mother of Executive Minister Eduardo Manalo posted a YouTube video online claiming their lives were in danger.
In the video, Felix Nathaniel “Angel” Manalo appealed for help. Meanwhile, the Manalo matriarch Cristina “Tenny” Villanueva Manalo prayed for the safety of some ministers who she claimed were abducted. Marc Jayson Cayabyab/IDL
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