PRESIDENT Benigno Aquino 3rd on Tuesday maintained that a mutual understanding between the government and the Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) led to the conclusion of the influential religious sect’s five-day protest last week.
In a media forum aired on state-run People’s Television, Aquino said that while he had not been able to meet with INC Executive Minister Eduardo Manalo, liaisons from the government and the church were able to thresh out issues.
He said he sent Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa to share the government’s position on INC’s peaceful assembly and to “assure that everybody’s rights will be protected.”
“I haven’t had the opportunity to talk to Ka Eduardo personally. We have liaisons that go back and forth between us. I did send the executive secretary to clearly state what the government’s positions were, that everybody’s rights will be protected,” Aquino said.
“‘Nagkaunawaan [There was an understanding]’ I think represents clearly what was achieved,” he added.
The protest actions started on August 27, when hundreds of INC members mounted a demonstration outside the compound of the Department of Justice along Padre Faura in Manila. The next day, thousands of INC members started converging along EDSA.
The INC was protesting Justice Secretary Leila de Lima’s alleged meddling into the church’s internal affairs, accusing her of giving special attention to the criminal charges filed by former INC minister Isaias Samson Jr. against eight members of the Sanggunian.
Samson alleged that he and his family were held captive inside their home after he was accused of writing a blog about alleged corrupt practices and other irregularities inside the church.
INC members insisted that the government respect the separation of powers between the state and church, as well as their freedom of religion.
De Lima, for her part, denied the accusations and said she was merely doing her job.
According to Aquino, the case filed by Samson should “stand or fall on its merits” and that it is the accuser who “has the burden of proof.”
“Under our system of laws, the accuser has the burden of proof. So you accuse somebody of doing something, you have to prove,” he said.