By: Author | | August 17, 2015

MANILA - Vice President Jejomar Binay on Monday reiterated his appeal to Malacanang and the justice department to respect the independence of the Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) as a religious institution.

Binay made the statement a day after Malacañang said the Department of Justice (DOJ) may continue to investigate the alleged abductions of INC ministers even after National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) authorities had declared the case “closed.”

“The issue that Iglesia is facing right now is internal. Malacañang and the Department of Justice (DOJ) should refrain from making any statements and respect INC’s religious freedom,” Binay said in a news release.

“Instead of meddling with Iglesia’s affairs, government should focus more on pressing matters such as poverty alleviation and addressing the MRT problem. It would do well for the Palace and justice officials to deal with what’s on their plate first before they interfere with others,” he added.

“Why the persistence when an NBI team had already concluded there was no crime committed? The DoJ secretary's actions and the Palace's support for her demonstrate the administration’s obsession to control independent institutions like the INC, in violation of their freedom to worship. And if the administration cannot control, they harass and intimidate,” Binay said.


‘Case closed’

Earlier, the Vice President wrote Justice Secretary Leila De Lima, advising her to refrain from giving “unwarranted statements” on the INC issue.

He said he felt compelled to “call your attention to the unwarranted statements you have been expressing in the mass media in your capacity as Secretary of the Department of Justice asserting that the alleged abduction of ministers of the Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) is not yet a ‘closed’ case.”

Binay noted that De Lima’s statements contradicted the findings of NBI authorities who conducted the investigation.

“It taxes credulity that you had to publicly contravene the findings of the NBI Anti-Organized Transnational Crimes Division, which itself conducted the investigation on the alleged abduction,” he said.

“According to your own people in the NBI, no such abduction took place, which finding is bolstered by the fact that there is no complainant who has come forward to attest to its commission. In short, there is apparently no crime committed or being committed,” he added.

Atty. Manuel Eduarte, chief of the NBI Anti-Organized Transnational Crime Division, declared as “case closed” the reported abduction after coordinating with the INC’s Legal Office and visiting the house of Felix Nathaniel “Angel” Manalo.

The estranged brother of executive minister Eduardo Manalo was expelled from INC, together with their mother Cristina “Tenny” Villanueva Manalo, after they uploaded a YouTube video claiming that ministers were being abducted and that their lives were in danger. 

“By your actuations, you are promoting the image of disunity, discord, and even corruption in the INC to its clear prejudice and detriment,” Binay said.

“As public officials, it is our duty to respect the internal affairs and concerns of the INC and allow them, without the unwarranted interference from government, to conduct their own business in accordance with their religious beliefs. No less than our Constitution guarantees this inviolable separation of church and state,” he added.

The Vice President noted that De Lima’s attitude toward the INC issue appear similar to the “policy of demolition by perception that your office has been doing to my own person. “

“For the sake of upholding our Constitution, as well as protecting the integrity and good name of the INC as a religious community, I urge you to refrain from uttering baseless, if not reckless and irresponsible, statements that would tend to harm the religious institution of the INC,” Binay said.