Roamer's Roundup

From Padre Faura to EDSA: The Iglesia Ni Cristo Mobilizes

The past few days have been quite crazy to say the least. And I’m sure “crazy” is an understatement as to what we are witnessing at this moment.

It all began last July when religious group Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) was rocked with an internal crisis as some members, including relatives of the current executive minister of the group Eduardo Manalo, came forth and exposed the corruption going on there.

Iglesia Ni Cristo’s Executive Minister Eduardo Manalo

It would seem this is all an internal matter for the INC to deal with. That was, until allegations of abductions and serious illegal detention were raised by one of its members.

This prompted an investigation initiated by the Department of Justice (DOJ) under Secretary Leila de Lima. Something the INC did not like on the basis of meddling of the INC’s internal affairs (whatever that means) and the fear of bias the DOJ will have against them.

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima

Thus, last Thursday, August 27, which happens to be the birthday of Sec. de Lima, hundreds to an estimated thousands of INC members decided to celebrate her birthday by staging a protest in front of the DOJ Building along Padre Faura Street in Ermita, Manila against the DOJ’s violation of the principle of “separation of church and state.” Again, whatever that means.

the INC protesters at Padre Faura and their birthday greeting to Sec. de Lima (courtesy of GMA News Online)

Unlike protests made by militant groups which are readily dispersed by anti-riot police, in the case of the protesting INC members, the police are giving them “maximum tolerance,” though maybe more maximum than the level of “maximum tolerance” the police usually gives to the militants.

(courtesy of Jun Ryan Aranas/Manila Bulletin)

Another thing to note was that the Manila City Government gave them a permit to assemble all the way up to September 4, despite the fact that the protesters did not apply for one beforehand. All of this may be moot now because of what happened the following day, Friday, August 28.

(courtesy of Alecs Ongcal/Rappler)

That Friday evening, protesters were beginning to mobilize along EDSA in the area of Ortigas Center, particular around EDSA Shrine. The Padre Faura protesters then promptly left and joined the group there. For some, it reminded them of the EDSA movements especially during 2000-2001 as there were concerns they may be looking at toppling the present government. However, the INC denies this, as they only call for “fair justice” in light of these events.

(courtesy of Manny Llanes/Manila Bulletin)

The protesters assembled themselves at the area at the intersection of EDSA and Shaw Boulevard where they have been holding their protest activity since then. As in the case of Manila, the Mandaluyong City government promptly gave them a permit to assemble there until Monday even though again, they didn’t apply beforehand.

(courtesy of Eagle News, AKA the INC-affiliated media network)
(courtesy of Eagle News)

The events that have happened since Thursday have brought upon, among others, a heavier than usual traffic situation, especially in the case of the EDSA movement that happened Friday night. Add in the elements that it’s a payday weekend and a long weekend for that matter and you get thousands of pissed off commuters and motorists raising hell on this inconvenience of a situation.

buses going through the protesting crowds along EDSA (courtesy of Manny Llanes/Manila Bulletin)

On a deeper perspective, these events have been a cause for concern among many on what they see as the unwieldy power the Iglesia Ni Cristo seems to have that makes politicians wary of them. Then again, these concerns have been simmering for some time with the criticisms the INC gets over the years over their bloc-voting practice and their “influence peddling” ways. Only now, it is seen in a manner that these longstanding issues may blow over in proportions anyone would be unable to control.

In the end, we can only hope that these activities of the INC would not cause greater disruption that would be enough to shake an already fragile country as it is.

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UPDATE (8/31)

After 4 days of protests that went from Padre Faura to EDSA, the Iglesia Ni Cristo protestors decided to end their “activity” today, citing they have reached an “understanding” with the government.

The government side however tells a different story, as reported on Rappler.

As to what will happen to the case involved some of the INC people for forced abduction? I guess we’ll have to see what comes next.

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