MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – “Will I be here if I’m resigning? I’m back at work.”
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima made the statement on Tuesday, September 1, as she dispelled speculations that she had resigned as part of an alleged government “deal” with the Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) to end its mass action in major thoroughfare EDSA.
In an interview with reporters, De Lima reiterated the government’s position that it did not enter into any agreement with the INC in relation to its prayer rally that had paralyzed traffic in parts of Metro Manila starting Friday night, August 28.
“There’s a lot of work to do after the holidays. I’m here to work,” De Lima said.
Early Monday, August 31, the INC announced it was ending its protest following talks between its leadership and the government. It also claimed “victory” over its enemies, further fueling speculation that Malacañang had made certain concessions to the INC.
The INC had protested what it called government “meddling” in its internal affairs, after the Department of Justice announced its investigation of the illegal detention complaint filed by former INC minister Isaias Samson Jr. The religious group also demanded De Lima’s resignation.
Malacañang had denied any trade-off. Sources privy to talks between the government and INC leaders told Rappler the only agreement reached was for the INC to end the rally – a “graceful exit” for the religious group. (READ: INSIDE STORY: The end of the Iglesia ni Cristo protest)
‘No such thing’
De Lima reiterated the government’s position. “There is no such thing,” she said, referring to the alleged deal, but did not elaborate.
Responding to questions, she said that she will resign at the proper time. De Lima, who announced her senatorial bid last week, had earlier said she will resign from the Cabinet once she files her certificate of candidacy, or in mid-October.
Speculations on a trade-off prompted Samson’s camp to express fears about the outcome of his case. Samson’s lawyer, Trixie Cruz-Angeles, urged the government to disclose or clarify what is in the “agreement” and to guarantee her client a fair process.
Samson had filed before the DOJ harassment, illegal detention, coercion, and grave threat charges against members of the Sanggunian, the INC’s highest administrative body. Illegal detention is a non-bailable offense.
The respondents are Glicerio Santos Jr, Radel Cortez, Bienvenido Santiago Sr, Mathusalem Pareja, Rolando Esguerra, Erano Codera, Rodelio Cabrera and Maximo Bularan Jr.
Samson his wife, Myrna, and their son, Isaiah, were allegedly illegally detained in their own home located inside the INC Central Compound in Quezon City for 9 days, until they were able to bluff their way out of the compound on July 23.
‘Truth will set us free’
In Malacañang, Palace Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr said in a news briefing that “nothing has changed” after the INC rally as far as De Lima and Samson’s complaint are concerned.
“We continue to uphold the rule of law. May nakahaing information o complaint, merong proseso para diyan. ‘Yung mga naghain niyan ay malayang makapaghahain ng impormasyon at ebidensiya (There’s a process for complaints. The petitioners are free to present information and evidence) and let the truth set us free,” Coloma said.
He reiterated this when asked to address the concerns of Samson’s camp: “Due process and the rule of law is being observed….The law applies to everyone. The truth will set us free.”
On the INC’s claimed “victory” in its mass action, Coloma said that “anyone in a democracy like ours is free to make such proclamations for as long as they do not violate our existing laws.” – Rappler.com