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Iglesia ni Cristo crowd blocks portion of road despite lack of permit

MANILA, Philippines – Members of powerful homegrown church Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) gathered in an apparent street demonstration in front of Robinsons Galleria on Friday night, August 28, despite the lack of a permit to rally in the area. 

The crowd blocked the northbound service road in front of Robinsons, forcing motorists to use the EDSA-Ortigas northbound flyover.

The shopping center is within the territory of Quezon City, whose chief executive had not granted any rally permit to INC.

In a text message as of closing time of government offices on Friday, Quezon City Mayor Herbert Bautista said the century-old religious denomination did not even apply to "hold a rally in any place" in the city.

Here now along EDSA, a bus of Iglesia Ni Cristo members is parked. Members mum on plan tonight #Rappler pic.twitter.com/76lMUjJdWJ — Buena Bernal (@buenabernal) August 28, 2015

Other INC members were gathered in other areas outside Quezon City but still along the famous Epifanio Delos Santos Avenue (EDSA), where the historic 1986 People Power Revolution that toppled the Marcos dictator was held.

Among the vigil areas is the intersection of Shaw Boulevard and EDSA, which is where members from the Manila crowd were headed Friday late afternoon.

A fourth of the northbound road in front of SM Megamall is also occupied by INC members. 

INC crowd here in EDSA marches forward for a time (northbound), occupy 1/4 of road in front of SM Megamall #Rappler pic.twitter.com/b5OvtnQYiq — Buena Bernal (@buenabernal) August 28, 2015

Chants, banners

At minute intervals, the crowd in front of both SM Megamall in Mandaluyong City and Robinsons Galleria in Quezon City chants: "Hustisya, hustisya (Justice, justice)" and "INC, INC."

All elements of a street demonstration including banners are present in the INC mass action which started Thursday evening, August 27, in front of the Department of Justice (DOJ) in downtown Manila.

Banners held up by members read: "Freedom of religion, church and state separation. Take this into consideration!"

The INC members are calling government to keep its hands off religious matters, referring to an illegal detention complaint before the DOJ against INC leaders, among others. (READ: Iglesia ni Cristo members prepared for days-long street vigil)

They have also raised other issues such as the acceptance of an INC minister into the DOJ Witness Protection Program despite his denial of being detained, an old government spending program which prioritized its fast-disbursing projects, programs, and activities, as well as the government's poor handling of a covert counterterrorism operation which claimed the lives of dozens of elite policemen and rebels.

Iglesia ni Cristo crowd here near EDSA shrine also chant "hustisya, hustisya (justice, justice) #Rappler pic.twitter.com/T95uZygl0d — Buena Bernal (@buenabernal) August 28, 2015

Many of the church-born members have never experienced joining any such mass action on the streets before Thursday. (READ: Iglesia ni Cristo Members brave street action for 'salvation'

Roads blocked

As of 9pm Friday, the northbound road below the EDSA-Ortigas flyover was no longer passable for being occupied by the religious crowd.  

The southbound road going to Makati City is not affected both in front of SM Megamall and Robinsons Galleria.

EDSA-Shaw service roads both northbound and southbound are no longer passable as of 9:05 pm, according to authorities. – with reports from Katerina Francisco/Rappler.com