MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – On the third night of Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) protests on EDSA Sunday, August 30, President Benigno Aquino III called for a meeting with senior Cabinet officials and police and military generals to tackle options on how to best deal with the situation.
One Cabinet Secretary has been in talks with INC representatives and their discussions were part of the agenda during Sunday night’s meeting at Bahay Pangarap, the President’s official residence in Malacañang, Rappler learned.
INC's representative in the talks is its politicial liaison officer, Erano “Erdz” Codera, according to another Palace source.
Among those in the meeting, which started at 8 pm and ended past 1 am, Monday, August 31, were Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, National Security Adviser Cesar Garcia, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, and National Police chief Director General Ricardo Marquez.
The sense is that “this could be settled amicably,” said one Palace official who attended the meeting.
But speeches Sunday evening did not indicate that the Iglesia members were backing down. The INC announced that thousands of its members are expected to hold similar protests in Bacolod and Davao cities Monday.
The INC is protesting alleged government interference in internal matters following a justice department probe into complaints lodged by an expelled Iglesia minister. But the investigation is in its early stages yet.
The complaint was triggered by allegations that INC leaders have been harassing some members who have been questioning certain policies and actions by the leadership. The public rift in July caused the worst crisis to hit the influential religious organization.
The protest began last Thursday, August 27, in front of the Department of Justice building in Manila. They moved to EDSA the following day, with the number of protesters swelling to about 13,000 Sunday, based on police estimates.
Waiting for Monday
The local government of Mandaluyong extended the deadline for the INC rally permit, allowing them to stay in the area up to Monday morning, which is a public holiday.
INC members are supposed to head to Manila Monday, where they were given a permit to hold rallies until Friday, September 4.
Weekend traffic came almost to a halt in the Pasig and Mandaluyong areas, triggering complaints from commuters and netizens.
Late Sunday afternoon, more members of the INC from nearby provinces arrived in EDSA to join the thousands already crowding the streets. Similar protests will be held in the cities of Cebu and Davao on Monday, August 31.
Sources said the INC asked for De Lima's resignation. The President reportedly rejected it.
But talks with Codera continue, according to a Palace source. – with a report from Glenda M. Gloria/Rappler.com