Justice Secretary Leila De Lima on Wednesday said any religious bloc in the Philippines, including the powerful Iglesia ni Cristo (INC or Church of Christ), is not immune from prosecution or criminal suits.
De Lima made the statement in the context that President Benigno Aquino 3rd enjoys “immunity from suit” alone.
She, however, added that “religious leaders” are also covered by the prosecution arms of the government.
“No one else possesses this… immunity other than the President, neither high government leaders nor religious leaders [possess it],” de Lima said.
Last week, about 4,000 members of the INC rallied and protested in front of the Department of Justice (DOJ) seeking the ouster of de Lima for meddling in their internal affairs.
Isaias Samson, an ousted INC minister, has lodged charges of serious illegal detention against high ranking INC officials, namely, Glicerio Santos Jr., Radel Cortez, Bienvenido Santiago Sr., Mathusalem Pareja, Rolando Esguerra, Eraño Codera, Rodelio Cabrerra and Maximo Bularan.
Aside from the Samson patriarch, also named as complainants are his wife, Myrna Dionela Samson, and son, Isaiah Samson.
They alleged that they were prohibited from leaving their house in Quezon City in July after he was accused of being “Antonio Ebanghelista,” a blogger who has been writing against INC.
Isaias, former editor-in-chief of INC’s official publication Pasugo, denied the allegation.
De Lima, when she was texted by reporters, on the complaint against the INC ministers, said the INC case will not be accorded any shortcut but will undergo the same process similar to other cases filed before the DOJ.
The case “will go through the regular process,” she added.
“That means that [this case]will be assigned to a prosecutor or panel of prosecutors for preliminary investigation,” de Lima pointed out.
As of now, there is no prosecutor assigned to the case.
But DOJ sources say the National Prosecution Service is planning to put up a panel of prosecutors to determine if there is probable cause.