Law and religion; state and church; sect and religion; and cult and religion. These were the issues that came out last week when Iglesia ni Cristo or INC went to the streets specifically to EDSA to denounce Secretary Leila de Lima. About 15,000 INC members marched to EDSA after holding one-day rally infront of the Department of Justice (DOJ) in Padre Faura street, Manila to ask for De Lima’s resignation over the latter’s alleged meddling in their internal affairs.
My personal opinion on this matter that involved INC and the government has NOTHING to do with my Catholic faith. But it has something to do with my being a FILIPINO.
Here it goes:
First, Sec. De Lima has not meddled in the internal affairs of INC. A case was filed by INC expelled minister Isaias Samson Jr. before DOJ against eight (8) leaders of INC’s Sanggunian (highest council). In the rule of law, DOJ is mandated to investigate this case. Had the case filed against the 8 members for corruption in the INC, no government office can investigate on that because that is internal affairs of INC. On the other hand, illegal detention, grave threats, etc. are blatantly crimes which should be investigated. DOJ did that in the case of Benhur and Napoles.
Second, INC should be happy if they believe there is so much attention given by DOJ on the case filed against their 8 leaders. It is not singling out. It is a case of selective (biased) judiciary system on INC’s favor. And they should rejoice over that. Not every case filed before DOJ is given attention or immediate attention. Their leaders will be given immediate (not due) time in court to explain their side because no one is above the law.
Third, it was wrong for the INC to claim in their rally the separation of church and state. Philippine government has never meddled in the affairs of the different churches (religions). Catholic Church for one would sometimes meddle in Philippine governance as issues will arise like RH Bill, divorce, same sex marriage, and the like but never the government takes it against church authorities. The issue raised by the INC in their 4-day rally is neither about separation of church and state nor of the Fallen 44 not even on PDAF; the rally was about INC’s fear of the rule of law. The rally was offensive in nature; to offend the public and not De Lima or President Noynoy.
And finally, the protest rally was a show of force. Rightful force or wrongful force, it is for the public to decide. The INC leaders wanted to show to the Philippine government that they are a force to reckon with. And they can only do that by staging a political rally in EDSA. EDSA is not a place for assembly because it is worst in traffic. But it is a place to paralyze motorists thereby offending the public.
As a citizen of this Philippine Republic, I would like to claim that INC has erred in choosing EDSA as their venue of protest. Whether it is a religious or political rally, EDSA should not be the venue if the rally means well. But since the INC political rally was ugly in nature (and very offensive at that), they have to conduct it in EDSA to disrupt the life of the Filipino people. I join street protests; I even organize street protests. But I always see to it that the protest is legitimate and the cause is relevant and it should be a prayer rally in nature and not a political rally.
What did INC gain in their 4-day political rally? NOTHING, except that the public gets to know INC better – as a cult or as a sect. The rally did not reach any agreement as what INC leaders claim but it has reached understanding on the rule of law. The rally did not change what has been done in the past. The case filed against the 8 INC leaders will proceed in accordance of the rule of law. There is another case filed by a certain Lito Fruto (another expelled INC member) against INC leaders. DOJ will act on it as what the rule of law says. The rally did not intimidate the government. And most importantly, Sec. Leila De Lima is not resigning.
Iglesia ni Cristo members should know that they are not exempted in the rule of law. They can lambast all religions; they can swindle away the donations of their members; they can continue selecting the highest bidder for block-voting; and expel everyone who opposes their teachings BUT they should NOT kill expelled members, detain illegally defiant members, threats anybody in INC or they will face the rule of law if complaints will be submitted to the courts.
There is no separation of church and state when it comes to crimes.