Aquino critics deny ‘opportunism’ in INC rally

Paterno Esmaquel II
Aquino critics deny ‘opportunism’ in INC rally
‘Insulto po yan sa kapatiran ng Iglesia. Napakalaking simbahan po nito para manipulauhin ko o ni Mr Eid Kabalu,’ Pastor 'Boy' Saycon says

MANILA, Philippines – Critics of President Benigno Aquino III on Sunday, August 30, denied being “opportunist individuals” by joining the huge anti-government rally of the Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) along EDSA.  

In a media briefing, Pastor “Boy” Saycon slammed the Palace for supposedly claiming that opportunist individuals have taken advantage of the INC’s protest-vigil along the Philippines’ iconic EDSA highway.

“It is principled advocacy, not opportunism,” Saycon said.

Saycon joined other Aquino critics – such as the President’s uncle, Jose “Peping” Cojuangco, and former Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) spokesman Eid Kabalu – in the INC’s rally in EDSA-Shaw Boulevard on Saturday, August 29. 

In this days-long rally, INC members protest the “religious persecution” allegedly perpetrated by Justice Secretary Leila de Lima against their powerful church. (READ: Why De Lima is target of Iglesia ni Cristo’s anger

This comes after an expelled INC minister, Isaias Samson Jr, filed an illegal detention case against INC leaders before the Department of Justice (DOJ).

Aquino’s critics used this rally to bring up perennial issues against the government. 

Saycon, for one, showed a graphic video of the 44 elite cops killed in a clash with Muslim rebels in Mamasapano, Maguindanao. Blamed on the Muslim rebel group MILF, the bloodbath in Mamasapano triggered Aquino’s worst crisis. 

CBCP: No to opportunism 

In this rally, Kabalu added that Muslims in Mindanao can sympathize with the INC members because they also suffered persecution. 

To a cheering crowd, Kabalu said, “Kung ang kalaban ‘nyo ay injustice, kung ang kalaban ‘nyo ay DOJ…kalaban din namin!” (If your enemy is injustice, if your enemy is the DOJ…that is also our enemy!)

Uulitin ko po,” he said. “‘Yun pong kalaban ninyo ay kalaban namin!” (Let me repeat: Your enemy is our enemy!)

Twitter users hit Aquino’s critics for using the 44 slain members of the police Special Action Force (SAF), or SAF 44, to fuel the INC’s anger against the government. 

Referring to claims that he used the SAF 44, Saycon said: “Insulto po ‘yan sa kapatiran ng Iglesia. Napakalaking simbahan po nito para manipulahin ko o ni Mr Eid Kabalu.” (That’s an insult to the brethren in the Iglesia. It’s such a big church only to be manipulated by me or Mr Eid Kabalu.)

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), for its part, warned against “opportunism” during the INC rally. 

In a statement, CBCP president Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas said: “No politician should gain political ground by abetting dissension or, worse, fostering disregard of the Constitution and the law.”

Villegas added: “Neither is it morally correct for any political party to aim at gaining an advantage by controlling a religious sect known to propose to its members a chosen set of candidates.” – Rappler.com

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Paterno Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.