Binay ally Harry Roque tells Iglesia ni Cristo: Resist gov’t pressure
MANILA, Philippines — A lawyer known to be an ally of Vice President Jejomar Binay applauded the actions taken by members of the Iglesia ni Cristo in the past four days, as he called on them to remain steadfast in the next few days.
Lawyer Harry Roque was the first public personality to step onstage at Edsa Crossing at around 8 p.m. Sunday, after thousands members of the religious sect trooped to Ortigas Avenue near Edsa Shrine.
In his brief speech, Roque lauded the INC for standing by their freedom of speech and religion, which he said were important elements in a democracy.
Roque, who introduced himself as a constitutional law and human rights professor, urged the INC members not to give in to government pressure.
“If you let them [pressure you], they would dictate on your faith and how you would practice it,” the lawyer told a cheering crowd.
The rumored United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) senatorial aspirant reminded the religious sect that their fight would be a long one because “the forces of darkness do not want democracy.” UNA is the political party, which launched the presidential candidacy of Binay recently.
“They want to earn your support through intimidation. Will you allow them to use you? Will you stand up [for your rights]?” he said.
Council of Philippine Affairs secretary general Pastor “Boy” Saycon, also a known Binay ally who was earlier seen in Edsa with former Tarlac Rep. Jose “Peping” Cojuangco and wife Tingting two days ago, followed Roque’s speech.
Saycon told the crowd that Justice Secretary Leila de Lima “meddled” with expelled INC minister Isaias Samson Jr.’s case when she said in a press conference that there was “strong evidence” in his illegal detention, harassment and coercion complaint filed against the religious sect’s Sanggunian or governing council.
“As [justice] secretary, she should have [advised Samson] of the proper procedural process in filing his complaint. Samson should have filed his complaint at the Quezon City fiscal’s office so that the [Iglesia’s side] can be heard,” Saycon said.
He noted that if the proper process of the law was denied the INC, “can you fault them for bringing their grievances to the people?”
Saycon, who said he would not run for any elective position in the 2016 elections, told the crowd that as a devout Catholic, he joined them in their protest as he “understands” and “believes in what [the INC] is fighting for.”
“What we are doing is for God, for country and for the Iglesia,” Saycon said.
As of 8:10 p.m. on Sunday, the Eastern Police District estimated the crowd at Edsa Shaw to be around 7,000 individuals and noted that it was “decreasing.” It also estimated that the crowd gathered in front of SM Megamall and at Ortigas bus stop at the northbound lane of Edsa to be around 3,500. The crowd who trooped to Edsa Shrine was estimated to be around 4,000 individuals. (As of 11 p.m., the crowd estimate by the EPD was at 16,000.)
The Philippine Daily Inquirer had tried to contact Mandaluyong Mayor Benhur Abalos to ask for the city’s plans after the INC’s permit was supposed to have expired at 12 midnight, but repeated calls went unanswered. He earlier said that he would be on the ground to ensure the INC “abides” by the permit they issued. When asked if he’d issue an extension, he replied: “we’ll see.”
Before the INC crowd at Edsa Crossing got their fill of speeches, they earlier got enough dose of entertainment from singers, dancers and beatboxers who pumped up the energy of those who slept in the streets in tents and mats.
From morning to mid-afternoon, the INC assembly appeared to be a free concert, with pop music interspersed with upbeat religious songs blaring from the speakers set up in the area.
To show that the INC membership in the country has been one in their support of the church hierarchy, the emcee at the Edsa rally announced that similar gatherings have been scheduled at Cebu’s Plaza Independencia for Monday, from 11 a.m. to Sept. 1, 12 noon.
A similar gathering will also be held at the Benigno Aquino Hall of Justice at Candelaria Street in Davao City, starting 7 a.m. on Monday, according to the emcee.
At 7:30 p.m. on Sunday, the INC’s members at Edsa chanted “INC” for nearly two minutes. It was followed with wild cheers and chant of EVM, the initials of embattled INC executive minister Eduardo V. Manalo.
The action was led by an emcee, who urged members to contact their kin and friends, to honk their car horns and chant “INC” wherever they may be at the same time as those gathered at Edsa as a show of support.
Not to be outdone, motorists stuck on Edsa made their grievance known by blaring their car horns, which only made INC members cheer. At one point, the emcee proudly announced that they managed to stop traffic as far as Edsa Guadalupe.
Greco Belgica, a senatorial candidate who lost in the 2013 midterm elections, also spoke to the INC crowd, lecturing them on the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) and Disbursement Acceleration Fund.
At one point, Belgica said that “funds should be with the people and not with the government.” He alleged that public funds would only be used by politicians in their campaigns.
In defense of charges of corruption against the INC, Belgica said that “the INC handles funds better than politicians,” noting that no other project could outdo the 55,000-seater Philippine Arena.
He also called on the government’s “selective justice,” noting that only three senators have been detained following the PDAF scam when in fact he said hundreds of lawmakers benefited from it.
“The government chooses [who it applies] its justice … A government that is sinful should be the one which should be investigated,” he pointed out.
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