MANILA, Philippines – Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said President Rodrigo Duterte named Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) leader Eduardo V Manalo as special envoy for overseas Filipino concerns because of INC's "very organized" system of coordinating with government.
"That system will benefit Filipinos," Cayetano said in a press conference on Friday, February 16.
Explaining why Duterte appointed Manalo, Cayetano said in a mix of English and Filipino: "One reason is that they have churches in several countries around the world, and Ka Eduardo is actually visiting many of them, and anyone of you here who have dealt with the Iglesia ni Cristo church in the localities, if you can see it, it's very organized, whether it's a member or non-member who will complain."
"Then they have a system wherein their administrators in each place of worship has a liaison with the government leaders," he said.
Cayetano said it was the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) that recommended Manalo to Duterte. The INC, which votes as a bloc, endorsed Duterte in the 2016 elections.
The DFA has its own Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers' Affairs, but Cayetano said Manalo's mandate "includes overseas Filipinos" and not only "overseas Filipino workers."
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque earlier defended Manalo's appointment, saying it does not violate the separation of church and state.
Manalo was the first INC executive minister to get a government post. – Rappler.com
Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior reporter leading Rappler’s coverage of religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.