Iglesia ni Cristo leaders ‘manufacturing revolution,’ says former minister’s lawyer
Leaders of the Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) are manufacturing a “revolution” and politicians are pandering to their whims unaware that the prized bloc vote of the group may be gone, the lawyer of an expelled INC minister who brought the criminal complaint that sparked the standoff between the government and the homegrown Christian sect said on Saturday.
Trixie Cruz-Angeles, the lawyer of expelled INC minister Isaias Samson Jr., said the Iglesia mass action on Edsa began as “a crisis within the church,” but it seemed that there were “political opportunists who would like to cast this as something else.”
“If the Sanggunian (the INC governing council) wants to use [the] government to ratify their patently illegal acts, given the elections, doubtless they will find officials willing to go so far for them. As in fact, there already are,” Angeles said.
Television reports late Friday said Margarita “Tingting” Cojuangco, President Aquino’s aunt who lost a run for the Senate as an opposition candidate in 2013, and Council of Philippine Affairs (Copa) head Pastor Saycon were seen at the INC rally in front of the Edsa Shrine.
Members of the INC are known to follow directives from the sect’s leadership under the threat of expulsion, enabling the group to deliver votes to politicians endorsed by its leaders.
INC followers began to mass up in front of the Department of Justice (DOJ) building on Padre Faura Street in Manila on Thursday, accusing Justice Secretary Leila de Lima of bias for accepting for investigation Samson’s complaint of illegal detention, harassment, threats and coercion against members of the sect’s governing council.
The former editor in chief of the INC’s official publication, Pasugo (God’s Message), filed the criminal charges after the council allegedly placed him and his family under “house arrest” in July, suspecting him of being behind accusations of corruption and wrongdoing against the sect’s leadership published online.
Samson denied the allegations.
The crisis within the sect became known in July when the mother and younger brother of INC executive minister Eduardo Manalo posted on Facebook an appeal for help from other Iglesia followers, claiming their lives were in danger.
Cristina Manalo, widow of the late INC leader Eraño Manalo, and Angel Manalo were expelled for trying to cause division within the church, according to spokesperson for the group.
Concerned for the safety of the two Manalos, disgruntled sect members disclosed bad business decisions and financial excesses involving members of the governing council, leading to a scandal that suggested the secretive INC may not be rock-solid after all.
Those who stayed with the leadership showed their obedience by massing in front of the DOJ building on Thursday then, following fresh orders, moved to Edsa during rush hour on Friday night, occupying a site from where popular revolts toppled from power strongman Ferdinand Marcos in 1986 and President Joseph Estrada in 2001. Marcos died in exile in Hawaii in 1989. Estrada is now mayor of Manila.
Angeles said the protest was the INC governing council’s way of protecting its members.
In an earlier interview, Angeles said those behind Samson’s abduction were “running scared,” aware that they faced “serious jail time.”
“[All that Mr. Samson] is doing is [trying to save] the church from its wayward leaders. These leaders, on the other hand, need some outside help and the only way to do that is to cast this as something revolutionary,” Angeles said on Saturday.
Asked about politicians who are riding on the INC mass action, Angeles said they could be banking on the Iglesia bloc vote, which may no longer exist given the crisis within the sect.
“They don’t realize that the church is divided now. The much vaunted bloc vote may not materialize anymore,” Angeles said.
“If this (situation) continues, we may be looking at the end of the [political] influence the [INC]. Its leaders have cooked their own goose. Ironic that their greed has led to this,” she said.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.