THE allegations hurled against the Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) should be settled in a court of law and not before the bar of public opinion, a lawmaker cautioned yesterday.
Quezon City Rep. Jose Christopher “Kit” Belmonte on Tuesday called for “sobriety and circumspection” as he warned against the dangers of what he called “#ATM Law.”
“#ATM” is a hashtag that means “At The Moment,” and connotes events happening and posted on social media.
“Don’t get me wrong. The Internet is an amazing medium that has allowed for the sharing of information at a pace never before imagined. However, there are real dangers, and we see that now in how quick the public has come to judge and condemn individuals or groups accused of wrongdoing,” Belmonte said.
He cited the case of a motorist who was greatly criticized when his car was seen on video doing a counter-flow.
“People online condemned him for being abusive, until it came out that he was a doctor rushing to the hospital. But the judgment were fast and furious, because there was no context,” the lawmaker explained.
He said the use of media to air allegations of wrongdoing, or what he referred to as “prosecution by presscon,” threatened basic rights such as the presumption of innocence as well as the right to a fair trial.
“Take the accusations thrown by this former INC minister against his church’s leaders. He is saying that these ministers, who are supposed to be involved in saving souls, are now in the business of taking lives. These are serious allegations that are better tried in a court of law, not in the court of public opinion,” Belmonte said.
He was referring to former INC minister Lowell Menorca 2nd who accused INC officials of detaining and attempting to kill him.
“If you watch the video in which he details his alleged abduction, your initial instinct is to demand that his captors be jailed. But that is not how the law works. The accused are presumed innocent, the burden of proof is on the accuser. In a courtroom his allegations will be challenged, he will be asked to show evidence. He will have to prove their guilt beyond reasonable doubt,” he added.