Iglesia ni Cristo members mass in front of DOJ
MANILA, Philippines (3rd UPDATE) – Members of the Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) massed up in front of the Department of Justice (DOJ) Thursday night, August 27, following instructions from their ministers to fight for their faith and doctrine.
Iglesia insiders told Rappler they received instructions after their regular church service Thursday to all go to the DOJ. If asked by the media why they are there, "our answer should be that we are fighting for our doctrine and our faith, pananampalataya at doktrina," said one Iglesia member.
By the evening, a stage had been set up along with speakers and an LCD screen. "Walang uuwi (no one goes home)," blared the speakers as rain began to fall.
The stage was decked with tarpaulins that bore messages relating to the freedom of religion.
"Freedom of religion. Church and state separation. Take this into consideration!" said one.
Another said, "Sa pag-unlad ng bayan, respeto ang kailangan." (Respect is needed for the progress of the nation.)
INC followers began to gather in front of the DOJ gates earlier in the afternoon supposedly to protest the bias of Justice Secretary Leila de Lima. Their rally against De Lima came after expelled INC minister Isaias Samson Jr filed an illegal detention case against INC leaders before the DOJ.
Those who had gathered at the DOJ booed when they saw photos of Samson and rejoiced when they saw images of Iglesia General Evangelist Bienvenido Santiago.
Up to 1.37 million of an estimated 52 million Filipino voters, or about 2.6% of the voting population, belong to the INC.
Earlier in the afternoon, those who were asked why they were at the DOJ said, "Nakiki-birthday lang (Just joining in the birthday celebration)."
The latest controversy involving the Iglesia comes after allegations of corruption and extravagance among the INC's Sanggunian or Council. No less than Angel Manalo, the younger brother of Executive Minister Eduardo Manalo, had said: "Nasira na ang doktrina ng Iglesia ni Cristo. Kung papaano ninyo hinangaan noon, nakita ninyo, napakarami nang anomalya. Napakarami nang tiwali na ginagawa sa Iglesia. Iyon po ang ayaw namin."
(The doctrine of the Iglesia ni Cristo is now damaged. In the same way that you looked up to us before, now you can see there are many anomalies. There are many acts of corruption in the Church. That's what we want to avoid.)
Iglesia spokesman Edwil Zabala had previously denied all allegations of corruption, signaling serious division within the 101-year old church. – with reports from Paterno Esmaquel/Rappler.com