MANILA (Mabuhay) -– Interior Secretary Mar Roxas on Tuesday said rumors of an impending arrest of Iglesia Ni Cristo (INC) Executive Minister Eduardo Manalo may have ignited the 5-day protest actions of members of the indigenous Christian group.
Roxas said the meeting between government officials and the INC leadership sought to clarify issues that triggered the protests.
”Ang nangyari nagkaroon ng paliwanagan at nilinaw ng pamahalan na hindi pinupuntirya ang Iglesia Ni Cristo. Hindi special treatment for or against; na dumadaan lang ito sa proseso,” Roxas said.
Roxas said one of the possible reasons that sparked the outcry among INC faithful was the rumor that Manalo would be arrested over an illegal detention case filed by expelled minister Isaias Samson Jr.
”May kumakalat kasi na aarestuhin ang pangkalahatang tagapangasiwang Ka Edaurdo Manalo. Wala pong ganon. Ipinaliwanag na walang ganoon,” he said.
Roxas also denied that the government and the INC leadership struck a ”deal”, which was questioned by Samson’s counsels who fear of a whitewash in the case.
”The fear now is that given the so-called agreement, a finding of ‘no probable cause’ to make this nightmare go away for the INC’s Sanggunian is a very real possibility. And your silence is not helping,” Samson’s lawyers said in a statement addressed to President Aquino and Roxas.
Samson’s lawyers called for transparency from government with respect to the so-called agreement.
”A criminal case is not a political pawn. The law provides that it cannot be compromised. The president can grant pardons and issue clemency and amnesty. But you do not have the power to refuse prosecution,” they said.
Roxas said there is no truth to allegations that the INC demanded for the resignation of Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, who was accused by INC of giving “extraordinary attention” to the case filed by Samson and his family.
De Lima has hinted that she will run for the Senate in 2016. She is thus required to quit her post once she files her certificate of candidacy.
The internal squabble in the INC spilled into the streets after Samson and his family filed their complaint before the Department of Justice (DOJ).
INC members started massing up in front of the DOJ compound on Thursday, calling on de Lima to stop her alleged meddling in the group’s affairs, invoking the separation of church and state.
INC spokesperson Edwil Zabala accused de Lima of making ”shortcuts” in dealing with the case filed by Samson, even as observers noted that the DOJ has not yet even acted on the case except for the procedural action of accepting it.
The protest shifted to EDSA on Friday, causing massive traffic jams along the busy thoroughfare. Police estimated that the number of protesters swelled to about 18,000 on Monday.
Samson, also a former editor-in-chief of INC’s official publication Pasugo, accused INC leaders of restraining his and his family’s movement. He said he was accused of being behind the blog of a certain Antonio Ebangelista which exposed the alleged corrupt practices of INC leaders.
The respondents in the illegal detention case are the eight members of INC’s Sanggunian, the Christian group’s highest administrative council. They are Glicero Santos Jr., Radel Cortez, Bienvenido Santiago, Mathusalem Pareja, Rolando Esguerra, Eraño Codera, Rodelio Cabrera and Maximo Bularan. (MNS)