MANILA, Philippines – On the 4th day of its mass protest, the Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) called out the media and police for supposedly lying about the number of people participating in the influential church’s show of force at a major Metro Manila highway.
As of Sunday evening, August 31, the Eastern Police District said that an estimated 13,000 INC members had gathered at the intersection of EDSA and Shaw Boulevard.
But INC spokesman Edwil Zabala brushed off what he considered too low an estimate. Earlier Sunday, August 30, the influential 101-year-old church said hundreds of its members from different provinces in Luzon were set to reinforce the thousands already massing up in Manila.
Addressing the crowd past 9 pm, Zabala said: “Do you want to hear a joke? The media and law enforcement authorities say we’re only 13,000.”
“Maling-mali! Kaming nandito, mga 100 lang! Kung gusto nila, bawasan pa, baka 25 lang tayo rito,” he added, drawing laughter and cheers from the crowd.
(That’s so wrong. We here are about 100. If they want to reduce the estimate, maybe 25 of us are here.)
The INC spokesperson implied that their critics were shying away from the truth.
“Mahirap sa kausap natin, ayaw humarap sa totoo. Ang mahirap, ang ayaw humarap sa totoo, lalong nababaon sa problema,” he told the crowd.
(The problem with the people we are talking to is they do not want to face the truth. All the more they are mired in problems.)
Thousands of INC members continued their days-long vigil at EDSA Shaw to protest the alleged meddling of the Department of Justice (DOJ) in what it considered as internal affairs of the group.
The vigil-protest began on Thursday, when they gathered outside the DOJ compound in Manila to vent their ire on Justice Secretary Leila de Lima.
The demonstrators later moved to EDSA on Friday night, causing major traffic jams after occupying the busy and congested intersection of EDSA and Shaw Boulevard in Mandaluyong City.
Crying religious persecution and slamming the DOJ’s alleged “selective justice,” the protesters hit De Lima for acting on the complaint filed last week by expelled minister Isaias Samson Jr against the senior members of the church.
Instead of meddling in the church’s affairs, they said the DOJ should instead focus on delivering justice to the 44 elite cops killed in the Mamasapano incident.
The INC leadership has denied Samson’s claims and other allegations of church ministers being kidnapped or held against their will, supposedly upon their orders.
De Lima, however, has said that the DOJ will continue investigating the allegations, even after the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) declared the case closed supposedly for lack of evidence.
Abalos allows INC to ‘stay the night’
The 4th day of the protest at EDSA Shaw is also the last day covered by the rally permit obtained by the INC from the Mandaluyong City government.
INC leaders earlier said they would seek an extension from the city governments.
Mandaluyong City Mayor Benhur Abalos appeared on the INC stage past 11 pm, and said he agreed for “humanitarian reasons” to allow the INC members to stay the night in his city.
Yet he said they will have to soon move to Manila, where former President and now Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada granted them a permit until Friday.
On Sunday afternoon, hosts at the rally in Manila encouraged the crowd to spill out over EDSA – beyond the area allowed in the rally permit – forcing the closure of portions of the busy highway.
They also announced similar protest movements in key cities in Visayas and Mindanao over the next two days.
Starting 11 am on Monday, August 31, until 12 pm of Tuesday, September 1, a rally will be held at Plaza Independencia in Cebu City. Meanwhile, a similar program is set to be held in Davao City starting Monday morning. – Rappler.com