PRESIDENT Benigno Aquino 3rd skipped the birthday party of Justice Secretary Leila de Lima at the Department of Justice (DOJ) on Thursday for fear of also becoming a target of a supposed hate campaign of the Iglesia ni Cristo (INC or Church of Christ) against de Lima.
Members of the Presidential Security Group (PSG) flocked the DOJ when around 100 members of the powerful INC trooped the DOJ in Padre Faura Street in Manila to rally against de Lima.
Aquino was a no-show, however, prompting the PSG to vacate the DOJ premises.
A high-ranking Justice official told The Manila Times that the President did not want to risk “irking” INC, which was said to be furious with de Lima giving “special treatment” to ousted INC Minister Isaias Samson.
The DOJ official said getting de Lima as a senatorial candidate in the 2016 elections is a “kiss of death.”
The INC is known for its block voting, its hierarchy telling millions of its members whom to pick during elections.
Samson has lodged criminal charges, including serious illegal detention, against high-ranking INC officials namely lawyer Glicerio Santos Jr., Radel Cortez, Bienvenido Santiago Sr., Mathusalem Pareja, Rolando Esguerra, Eraño Codera, Rodelio Cabrera and Maximo Bularan.
The other complainants are Samson’s wife, Myrna Dionela Samson, and son, Isaiah Samson.
They alleged that they were prohibited from leaving their house in Quezon City last July after he was accused of being “Antonio Ebanghelista,” a blogger who has been writing against the INC.
Isaias, former editor-in-chief of the INC’s official publication Pasugo, denied the allegation.
Some members of the INC, who talked with The Manila Times on condition of anonymity, said the rally against de Lima would last until Saturday with plans of overnight vigil and campout near the DOJ building.
During the INC’s Thursday worship, the source from the Justice department said, a circular was disseminated to the flock to go to the DOJ and protect the rights of the INC.
The INC has issued a statement, through Bienvenido Santiago Jr., criticizing de Lima for employing selective justice against the INC.
During de Lima’s birthday party speech at the DOJ grounds, she even asked the crowd for support in her next career move, apparently referring to her run for the Senate.
“From J to S, [are you with me]?” she asked the throng of employees, prosecutors, National Bureau of Investigation officials and several guests.
“J” refers to the Department of Justice and “S” refers to the Senate.
The INC members told this paper that with de Lima “irking” the INC, the religious sect would surely junk her in the May 2016 polls.