Palace asked: Reveal ‘agreement’ with Iglesia ni Cristo

Buena Bernal
Palace asked: Reveal ‘agreement’ with Iglesia ni Cristo
President Aquino led an emergency meeting convened Sunday night to discuss government response to the situation with the INC

MANILA, Philippines (Update 2) – Lawyers of expelled Iglesia ni Cristo minister Isaias Samson Jr called on Palace officials to reveal the details of its so-called “agreement” with Iglesia ni Cristo (INC).

“Tell us whether or not you’ve sold our client down the river or tell us if you haven’t. But you need to disclose this to us,” said lawyers Trixie Cruz-Angeles and Ahmed Paglinawan in a joint statement addressed to President Benigno Aquino III.

Former Akbayan Representative Waldon Bello made the same call. “To dispel any sort of rumors about what is happening, they [the Palace] really need to release it right away,” Bello told Rappler.

The powerful homegrown church on Monday, August 31, ended a 5-day mass action to protest government’s investigation of an illegal detention case filed by expelled Samson against current members of the church’s Sangguninan.

INC’s news program claimed that high-level talks in government with INC led to a “peaceful agreement,” heeding their request. No other details were provided.

 

Malacañang issued a statement but did not provide details. 

 

The INC launched on August 27 a street vigil in front of the Department of Justice (DOJ) complete with all the elements of a mass protest, which supposedly INC members are not allowed to join

The mass demonstration calls for the powerful church’s brand of separation of church and state, demanding that the DOJ take its hands off a criminal complaint filed by an expelled minister against INC leaders.

The Palace had been categorical in defending Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, saying she was merely doing her job.

‘Samson’s right to know’ 

Samson’s lawyers said their client has the right to know the details of the agreement.

“Whether you stood up to defend him, or sold him out, he had and has the right to know. Instead, you conducted it in secret, and now you have made your ability to deliver justice subject to a very real, very reasonable suspicion,” the lawyers said.

“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 added. 

Aquino and Roxas were part of the emergency meeting convened by the President late Sunday to discuss how to resolve the situation with the INC, with the religious group reportedly asking for De Lima’s resignation.

In their statement, Angeles and Paglinawan also wanted the government to guarantee a fair hearing for their client during the preliminary investigation.

“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,” the lawyers said.

DOJ’s job

Bello warned against whitewashing by government – “a situation where it extends for days, nobody knows what has happened, and then suddenly public interest is lost.”

“Even just bringing up to the highest authorities to settle is already a violation of the democratic liberal process. They should have just let this be resolved at the judicial level by normal judicial authorities,” he explained.

In his complaint, Samson claimed that he and his family were held against their will for 7 days starting July 16 in their Quezon City home.

The DOJ will determine if there is probable cause for the alleged crime that is punishable by reclusion perpetua. It is non-bailable. 

But DOJ’s preliminary investigation on the complaint has yet to begin, but the Iglesia started to mobilize its flock for the controversial mass demonstration.

Bello said the only way to know if a crime was committed is to investigate the matter “to the satisfaction of the justice department.”

The National Bureau of Investigation earlier declared the abductions of some INC ministers as “case closed” but Bello said it is still within the government’s duty to “really examine it carefully” given the nature of the alleged offense.

“Government has the obligation to investigate, provide judicial remedy, and offer protection to all citizens who feel their lives are threatened, whatever may be their economic, political, or religious affiliations,” he said. – Rappler.com

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