THE protest action of the Iglesia ni Cristo has mercifully ended without an untoward incident and heartbreak. This transpired because both the government and the church group kept their heads before braggarts could turn the protest into something dangerous.
How the situation was defused bears lessons on how government should handle equally testy situations in the future, and how protesting groups ought to behave in order to settle issues amicably.
Thinking the situation through
One clear lesson is that it pays to let each side think the situation through, instead of their hurrying to regale the media and publicize demands.
After a thorough and thoughtful assessment of the situation, the INC leadership reached its decision to ask their protesting members to end the mass action and go home. It did not insist on its demand that Justice Secretary Leila De Lima should resign her post.
The government for its part adopted a more conciliatory stance after President Aquino called for an emergency meeting with top Cabinet officials and advisers on Sunday evening to discuss the INC protest.
During the meeting, the consensus emerged that it would be best for the government to meet with the INC leaders to discuss their issues. It came out of the discussion that INC’s main grievance – that De Lima had taken an inordinate interest in the complaint filed by one dismissed INC minister – may have no basis, because the DOJ may not file charges.
It is apparent that there was a substantial meeting of minds for INC to call off the protest action and ask their members to go home, and for the government to desist from putting pressure on the church group.
Was there a quid pro quo?
One thorny point to examine is why De Lima was personally in the frontline in handling the alleged complaint. Why was the justice secretary herself handling the matter. Why was it not given to a DOJ prosecutor for proper handling?
Surely this is not how de Lima acts on every complaint filed at the DOJ, including things that are routinary and inconsequential. What induced De lima to get involved is plainly the politics of the situation. INC is a church group with a lot of clout in our elections because of its policy of bloc voting. De Lima plans to run for the Senate, and LP standard bearer Mar Roxas desperately wants the INC’s endorsement.
Was there a deal between INC and the LP/Aquino/Malacañang – no charges in return for INC support for Roxas and De Lima?
INC: Leave us alone
This is proper because in the same way that Secretary De Lima insists that she was just doing her job, INC is also insisting that it is firmly in the right.
Massive negative propaganda was mounted against INC by administration allies, crony media and social media in a concerted effort to damage the public standing of the church group.
The Iglesia’s response through its spokesman came out strong and clear when he asked the public for understanding on behalf of the church. He declared:
“We are appealing to you for understanding. We won’t stay here permanently. This will also end.”
The spokesman then explained that they were only forced to rally because their request for a fair process under the law was not granted.
“There wouldn’t have been a gathering in Padre Faura if we were given a fair process of the law and it was not manipulated.” he said.
He also had one final message to the authorities: “ We want to ask the authorities to leave us alone…We are not causing any problem to them. So, please leave us alone.”
Strong words. The request to be left alone should be heeded, and should not be mocked by demagoguery, which falsifies everything.