MANILA, Philippines – More than 7 hours after the Iglesia Ni Cristo (INC) ended its days-long protest over the government’s supposed overreach into its internal affairs, Malacañang clarified that, contrary to speculation, there were no concessions given to appease the influential religious organization.
“There was no deal struck, as some insinuate,” Palace spokesperson Undersecretary Abigail Valte said in a text message to reporters on Monday, August 31.
Earlier on Monday, the INC announced that it would be ending its protest after talks between the INC leadership and the government. The announcement was made through its official spokesman onstage at their protest site along EDSA, an announcement taped by its general evangelist, and through its official news portals.
The INC’s general evangelist Bienvenido Santiago said in a video statement: “Nais po naming ipabatid sa inyong lahat na nagkausap na po ang panig ng Iglesia at panig ng pamahalaan at sa pag-uusap na ito ay nagkapaliwanagan na po ang dalawang panig. Kaya payapa na po ang lahat.” (We’d like to inform you all that both the Iglesia and the government have spoken to each other and clarified matters. So all is well.)
But it was a post from Eagle News, a news group owned by the INC, that sparked speculation that the government may have givin in to the demands of the church after it said that an “agreement” had been reached with government.
The INC, according to various informed sources from the Palace, wanted President Benigno Aquino III to sack Justice Secretary Leila de Lima. They also wanted the justice department to drop the serious illegal detention case filed by an expelled minister against the INC’s leaders.
Discussions between the government and the INC, through its political affairs chief and minister Erano “Erdz” Codera, lasted until Sunday evening, August 30. The same night, Aquino gathered most of his Cabinet and the chiefs of the military and police to discuss “developments” in the INC’s actions.
“The talks gave both sides an opportunity to clarify issues and concerns,” Valte said, echoing an earlier statement from the Palace.
INC spokesman Edwil Zabala, meanwhile said he was not privy to discussion when asked to expound to the so-called “agreement” between the government and the INC.
The INC is known to vote as a bloc, making them influential in local races and, sometimes, in tight national races.
Politicians are known to seek the favor of the INC. In turn, the 101-year-old church lobbies for its bets for top positions in different government bureaus, the police, and even the military. – Rappler.com