Edsa rally shows INC clout is waning, says ex-minister
If their five-day protest rally proved anything, it is that the Iglesia ni Cristo’s (INC) influence is waning and that its Sanggunian (governing council) was losing its credibility among followers.
So said expelled INC Minister Isaias Samson Jr., whose charges of illegal detention against the sect’s elders led to the Aug. 28 to 31 INC mobilization that paralyzed traffic, initially on several streets surrounding the Department of Justice (DOJ) in Manila, and later, along Edsa and Ortigas/Shaw.
“Many members don’t believe (the Sanggunian) anymore,” Samson told the Inquirer in an interview on Monday night.
He added that INC’s powerful governing council only exposed its diminishing sway over church members when it called on them to join the protest against the DOJ, but managed to muster a crowd of only 20,000 at its peak.
“If you noticed, the first three days (of the) rally were not successful. Only a few came, even on Edsa… That alone proves that the members are no longer listening to them,” Samson said.
The 20,000 peak number was seen on Edsa-Ortigas around 1 a.m. of Monday, August 31, just hours before the INC declared an end to its rally following a meeting with government representatives.
Doctrine of obedience
The number represents just one percent of the estimated two-million INC membership, who are strictly schooled in the doctrine of obedience, Samson said.
The INC rallies began on Thursday night, two days after Samson, his wife and son filed charges of illegal detention, harassment, threats and coercion against members of the Sanggunian at the DOJ.
The charges stemmed from the Samson family’s alleged “house arrest” last month by Sanggunian members who had suspected the ex-minister of writing online articles against church leaders under the name Antonio Ebangelista.
The INC denied that the Samsons had been detained.
Invoking the separation of church and state, the INC complained that Justice Secretary Leila De Lima was giving undue attention to Samson’s complaint and was meddling with the internal affairs of the church. Samson’s complaint has yet to be assigned to an investigating prosecutor.
“Can you imagine? They ordered all district ministries in far-flung provinces to bring their members or constituents to Manila,” Samson said in an interview in one of his hiding places. “They didn’t need to do that if the members in Manila were listening to them,” he added.
80,000 to 100,000
Samson noted that Quezon City alone had between 80,000 to 100,000 INC members.
“(But) only a few came, and that was despite the threat by the (Sanggunian members) that if they didn’t come, that would mean they are not one with INC Executive Minister Eduardo Manalo (and) the church administration. And that could mean expulsion,” Samson said.
He added that the low turnout at the rally even prompted the INC Sanggunian to invite “outsiders” as speakers at the Edsa event, among them losing senatorial candidates Greco Belgica and Margarita “Tingting” Cojuangco, President Aquino’s aunt, and lawyer Harry Roque, who was known to be seeking a party-list seat in Congress.
“If (these) ministers were respected by members of the Church of Christ, their words would have been enough. Because that’s how members have been trained,” said Samson.—Tarra Quismundo
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