THE Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) urged the faithful not to stoke the flames of dissension by issuing derogatory remarks against members of the Iglesia ni Cristo (INC or Church of Christ) who held a protest rally in Manila and Mandaluyong cities over the weekend.
The CBCP, through a statement issued by its president and Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas on Sunday, said Catholics should pray for a “just resolution” of the dispute.
“No Catholic should fan the flames of dissension by rumor-mongering and by inflammatory statements. Let us all be kind in disposition, respectful in speech and prudent in action,” Villegas added.
The prelate said members of the Catholic Church should “be charitable at all times.”
He called on politicians to refrain from abetting dissent just to gain the backing of the INC, which has been known to carry a command vote during elections.
“No politician should gain political ground by abetting or, worse, fostering disregard of the Constitution and the law. Neither is it morally correct for any political party to aim at gaining an advantage by controlling a religious sect known to propose to its members a chosen set of candidates,” Villegas said.
He added that Catholic lawyers, law professors and jurists can contribute to the discourse on the separation of Church and State in a constructive manner.
“We seek to be enlightened on what the fundamental law of the land provides, the boundaries of the freedom of religion and the rights and the prerogatives of State,” Villegas said.
Members of the INC continued their protest action along Shaw Boulevard in Mandaluyong on Sunday after ending their rally in front of the Department of Justice building on Padre Faura Street in Manila.
Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) Chairman Francis Tolentino said the religious group got a permit from the Mandaluyong city government to hold protest actions until Sunday.
Members of the group took to the streets to show their anger at Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, who was criticized for pursuing the investigation of INC leaders accused of detaining some members of the religious sect.
Sen. Aquilino Pimentel 3rd also on Sunday said INC members can hold rallies if they secured a permit but their reason for taking to the streets “seems to be off.
But the senator said he does not agree with the substance of the INC demand not to give priority to a complaint filed against leaders of the religious organization.
He was referring to illegal-detention charges filed by expelled INC minister Isaias Samson Jr. and his family against INC leaders at the Justice department.
INC spokesman Edwil Zabala said they would not have held the protest rallies “had the DOJ [Department of Justice] listened to them.”
“We do not know what will be the findings of the DOJ, it can dismiss the case filed against the officials of the organization,” Pimentel, chairman of the Senate Committee on Justice and Humans Rights, said.
The senator added that the DOJ should be allowed to look into the issue.
“I don’t think it [investigation]is against any church or the INC, it is against a person, and it is part of the job of the DOJ to accept the complaint, investigate and investigate it formally if it involves public crime,” Pimentel added.
WITH JEFFERSON ANTIPORDA