On the INC-DOJ conflict

Law, politics and the INC
Philippine Daily Inquirer
By: Randy David, August 30th, 2015 01:01 AM

Sen. Francis Escudero was on broadcaster Anthony Taberna’s radio program last Thursday evening, echoing the Iglesia ni Cristo’s demand that it be left alone to solve its own problems. “Away pamilya ito (This is a family spat),” he said, breezily advising Justice Secretary Leila de Lima to back off from the illegal detention complaint filed by former INC minister Isaias Samson Jr. against the church’s governing advisory council.

Taberna asked Escudero what he thought Secretary De Lima stood to gain from doing what was supposed to be part of her work. I don’t know, Escudero giggled, adding that the secretary should instead attend to the Mamasapano cases.

What would De Lima gain? Nothing but the scorn of the Iglesia, and definitely nothing beneficial to her political career. But that’s exactly how we expect people in the justice system to behave. I’m sure it would have gladdened the hearts of the block-voting Iglesia had De Lima simply allowed Samson’s complaint to die unattended at the Department of Justice. They would have owed her big, and made sure she is remembered as a reliable friend on Election Day. But, perhaps she is not fully aware of what’s at stake here for the Iglesia.

I don’t know if it was just a coincidence, but, the other day, a gunman sprayed bullets on Taberna’s newly opened coffee shop in Quezon City. I learned later that the radio host, himself a member of the Iglesia, is a nephew of Samson’s.

Did some people think he was being biased? I didn’t think so, but maybe some INC members weren’t pleased with the neutral stance he seemed to be taking on the issue.

As I write this, hundreds of INC members are reported to be congregating along busy Edsa, which has been the site of past people power protests. They are there, they say, not to topple the government, but to demand that the authorities respect the constitutional guarantees of religious freedom and the separation of church and state. They want the justice department to dismiss the Samson complaint outright, and to let the church hierarchy deal with its recalcitrant members.

I find their interpretation of religious freedom and church-state separation disturbing. I can’t blame them for believing that their church is under threat. Maybe it is, but certainly not from the state. I am aghast that lawyers like Senator Escudero, Vice President Jejomar Binay, and Ferdinand Topacio view this matter as an issue of religious freedom. To say so, I think, is to pander to people’s emotions.

I am not a lawyer, and therefore my understanding of the Constitution could be limited. But, to me, religious freedom simply means the right to profess—or not to profess—a religious faith. It does not mean that actions taken in the name of one’s faith, or within the precincts of one’s church, are exempted from legal scrutiny or liability. Religious clerics who abuse their parishioners, particularly children, are answerable not only to the church but to the nation’s courts as well.

Church officials who are charged by their own members with committing crimes cannot expect the state to back off while they deal with these charges within their organization.

Church-state separation only means that the state is prohibited from establishing an official church or a state religion. Nothing in this doctrine says that these two domains—the church and the state—cannot peer into each other’s affairs.

Churches do it all the time, criticizing state policies, telling governments to shape up, and condemning public officials for corruption and oppression. So, why can’t the state investigate and prosecute erring church officials, especially when the complaints are coming from the members themselves?

Senator Escudero argues that the INC controversy, which first broke out in July, is away pamilya. Perhaps it is, and, I agree, to the extent possible, the family should be given every chance to solve its own problems its own way. But there are limits to what the head of a family can do. You can’t detain the other members against their wish. You are not allowed to use violence against a spouse, or any family member, particularly the children. When family squabbles get out of hand, the state cannot stand by and merely watch as individual rights are violated.

When the widow of the highly revered executive minister Eraño “Ka Erdy” Manalo, “Ka Tenny,” and her son Angel, posted a video last July claiming their lives were in danger and pleading for help from other INC members, what was the government supposed to do? I think if this were just another family, the police would not have hesitated to barge into their compound to investigate. Or if this were just another religious sect, and not the politically influential INC, someone would have called for a congressional inquiry in aid of legislation. Nothing like that has happened.

People in government were careful not to step on powerful toes in the Iglesia hierarchy. Events took a different turn only when Isaias Samson Jr. surfaced and spoke to media, telling a horrifying story of how he and his family had been detained on orders of the Iglesia’s advisory council. He said he was suspected of being the principal source of derogatory information about corruption in the Iglesia hierarchy, a charge he denies.

When Secretary De Lima gave Samson’s formal complaint due course, the Iglesia hierarchy took this action as an act of hostility. A thousand INC members trooped to De Lima’s office, blocking the road fronting the Department of Justice building on Padre Faura. She could have been lynched if she had tried to talk to them, as Sen. Grace Poe naively suggested.

Nothing is more explosive than the mixture of religion and politics.

On the escalating conflict between the INC and the DOJ, what clearer explanation can there be than what professor Randy David has said in his column in the Inquirer?

If many times the Catholic church of the Philippines had been the subject of legal investigations by our government's justice system for various allegations of law breaking, then what makes other religious denominations such as the INC exempted from any legal investigation by the DOJ for some allegations of law breaking? What the DOJ is doing in this case, which allegedly involves some members of the INC hierarchy, is well within the bounds of the DOJ's legal mandate and authority. Therefore instead, the DOJ must be fully supported by the government and more so by the people in general.

At sa dahil kilala ang INC sa kanilang bloc voting tradition, e ayon naki epal tuloy ang mga politiko para makuha nila ang simpatiya ng mga taga INC... at syempre ano pa... pati ang mga boto nila sa darating na eleksyon. Hanip naman mga politiko natin ah!

This INC-DOJ "conflict" situation seems to be a blessing in disguise in the sense that it somehow, in a way, serves to highlight what "principled stuff" the politicians are really made of. This situation made the public see whether their supposed favored candidate has already leveled up into a principled leader or is a promising politician but yet succumbing to opportunistic epal ways. Many voting citizens now have their eyes opened by this situation.

If the electorate is really serious about good governance based on right principles or "matuwid na daan", then this situation has strengthened the reason as to why particular politician(s) aspiring for the highest position still and should need to have more actual experiences on how to take stands based on right principles and shun opportunism.

Kababayans, let this situation be one of our guides in choosing for our next leaders.


Carrying on the challenge


In his way, he did it in his generation. Like the Good Master, he gave his life for the sake of others. Now it's our turn to carry on the challenge! We may not do it exactly the way he did, but in our collective ["little"] ways and with the means that our generation has provided, there is something significant we can do to carry on the challenge. We need each one of us to answer the call. So rise up kababayans and let's do our part!


Pray for discernment, answer, & humility of heart


If Mar Roxas really believed that Grace Poe is the right person he could fully trust to be in his side as the next vice president of the country, then he should simply ask her freely in person without promises or conditions and without any other persons around. Let it be a heart to heart talk between two leaders answering a call to serve the Lord by means of serving His people.

Let the Holy Spirit be their only witness. Let them openly speak their hearts out to each other in peace and humility as according to the leading of the Holy Spirit. And before the end of their private meeting, for one last time, let Mar ask Grace if she is willing to sacrifice and let go of her intention to run as president and instead help him move the nation forward by running as vice president. If she will ask that she be given ample time before she will give her final answer, then give her the time. To both Mar and Grace: As according to your hearts, when you say yes, let your yes be yes, and when you say no, let your no be no -- for other than from your hearts, it's from the devil.

If Grace Poe will find it in her heart to trust Mar and is willing to entrust the nation to his leadership and without condition she is freely willing to help Mar by running as his vice president, then let them commit their ways and their camps together to the Lord as one.

But on the other hand, if after Grace Poe's thorough consideration she still finds it in her heart to rather run for president, instead of doing a sacrifice by running as vice president, then Mar Roxas should just let things be. Let them shake the political dusts off their political sandals and let them part political ways in peace.


"Daang Matuwid" should be a way of life, not just a mere political reform agenda

Daang matuwid needs 20 years

The Philippine Star |

Malacañang yesterday stressed that the ruling Liberal Party (LP) would need to be in power for 18 years or even two decades before the good governance reforms of President Aquino bear substantial fruit.

“You can be assured that it will get better if we follow daang matuwid (straight path). That is the reason why the President has been very firm in pushing for continuation,” presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda told journalists.

By the 18th year the good governance reforms “should have taken root,” Lacierda, a close friend and ally of LP standard-bearer Mar Roxas, said.

He insinuated that the groundwork for good governance has been laid down.

“We are putting out here good governance and it’s up to the people to choose every six years. This 2016 is the first referendum, the first re-election of daang matuwid,” Lacierda added.

The Palace is endorsing Roxas for president and is hoping that neophyte Sen. Grace Poe would give in to their request to be LP’s vice presidential candidate, because both are committed to good governance as well.

He also took a jab at Vice President Jejomar Binay, who he accused of campaigning in his recent provincial sorties instead of working for the country’s good.

“What has he done for the past five years? I would just like to remind him,” the spokesman said.

Statesman vs politician

Malacañang said Aquino should not be compared to Marcos when they talk of the 20-year period that the LP has to rule in order to solidify the changes made under the good governance agenda.

Aquino’s statesmanship, according to Lacierda, has become the distinguishing mark between him and Binay, titular head of the opposition United Nationalist Alliance.

“A statesman thinks of the next generation. The politician thinks of the next election. President Aquino is that statesman who thinks of this generation and the next,” he said.

“That’s why you’ve got six years of governance under President Aquino that will end in 2016. If we have Secretary Roxas as our president from 2016 to 2022, that’s more than 10 years. Then, you extend it (and) you have practically 20 years,” Lacierda added.

He urged Binay to stop comparing Aquino with the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, who controlled all three branches of government.

Binay said he had earlier cautioned Aquino from having former Supreme Court chief justice Renato Corona impeached.

Corona was appointed as chief justice by ex-President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in March 2010 – an act described by many as a midnight appointment. Although it was upheld by the high court twice, Aquino refused to honor it and called on his congressional allies for the impeachment.

“It’s kind of ludicrous for Binay to compare Aquino to Marcos. The (Aquino) family suffered greatly under the Marcos regime – the father being a victim of martial law,” Lacierda said.

"...the ruling Liberal Party (LP) would need to be in power for 18 years or even two decades before the good governance reforms of President Aquino bear substantial fruit." --Malacañang

The true spirit of "Daang Matuwid" is never and should never be about political party rulership. It is and should be about the nation and its people coming to their real senses and finally having the resolve to emancipate themselves from the long years of slavery and poverty brought about by various forms of corruption in our country -- in the government, in the church, and in private institutions.

The Liberal Party may be the one who coined the words "Daang Matuwid", but it would be arrogantly prideful for the Liberal Party to claim sole authority or authorship of the true spirit and essence of the nation's fight against corruption.

No good governance is a monopoly of a politcal party. PNoy (who simply happens to belong to the Liberal Party), like many other past and present leaders from different political groups, also have responded to the call to help our nation in its continuing struggle for true reform. But what the nation really needs is for everyone of us to do our part, because truly, it will take generations of honest, dedicated, and ever vigilant successors and people to sustain and maintain generations of a corruption-free society -- because fighting evil is a perpetual war.

"Daang Matuwid" should become our way of living, and not just a mere political reform agenda.

"Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it." (Matthew 7:14)