If the Iglesia ni Cristo (INC), as a religious organization, is not an important factor in the political equation of electing presidents, vice presidents and other government officials in this country, I don’t think there will be more inconveniences adding to the already chaotic traffic problem in Manila.
As it is, the preferential treatment given them, in the form of permit, to stage a rally against what its leaders claim as an interference by government’s Justice Secretary Leila de Lima in its internal affairs is ridiculous at best that surely undermines the interest of the greater number of Filipinos outside the religious sect.
I always believe in the constitutionally guaranteed separation of Church and the State, which the INC has strongly invoked, but is de Lima really meddling in the sect’s religious affairs or is she just concerned and challenged that a crime is being perpetrated inside the INC church and it is her sworn duty to probe it?
Note that the Department of Justice (DOJ) is simply reacting to the appeal of a former INC minister, Isaias Samson Jr., who has filed an illegal detention case against the religious sect’s Sanggunian, or more aptly described as the highest administrative council, for alleged illegal detention, harassment, threats and coercion following an internal dispute.
What makes Samson’s complaint credible, and the reason perhaps why de Lima is moving expeditiously on it, is because not only is Samson a former minister, but he has been a minister for over 40 years who used to be a member of the Sanggunian in charge of foreign mission and editor-in-chief of the INC official organ, Pasugo.
So, for someone credible, seeking justice as a citizen of the country and not as a member of church ought to be assisted, considering especially that one’s civil rights has been violated with impunity after being subjected by a nonbailable offense.
One can rightly say, therefore, that de Lima’s action is not about prying into INC’s religious affairs, but rather coming to the rescue of one who has gone out feeling abused and persecuted and, thus, seeking redress and protection from the government.
As if the mass transportation problem is not enough horror on the streets to the riding public in Manila, now comes the ugly side of local governments giving permits to the INC protest allowing them to bully further the public using their sheer membership number as a force to reckon with.
But what is even frustrating and revolting is the fact that politicians eyeing for the highest positions, both in the local and national levels, in the 2016 elections are expressing their favorable sentiments and supporting what the INC membership is doing instead of condemning it. All is done for political expediency and no one seems to emphathize or put themselves in the situation of the hapless public.
I also believe in the constitutionally guaranteed freedom of assembly by any group of individuals or entities, but when it starts congregating, not so much as to show disgruntlement over certain action by government, but rather more on threatening politicians what INC’s sheer membership number, reportedly to be 4-million strong, can do to their political ambitions, then it is time for every enlightened and forward-looking Filipinos to ponder who among our political leaders striving to lead the country has the political will not to kowtow to the whims and caprices if the INC leadership.
The INC is a respectable religious sect, but what they are doing is simply unreasonable, as it is immoral, and deserves to be criticized.