HOUSE Minority Leader Ronaldo Zamora came to the defense of the Iglesia Ni Cristo (INC) whose leaders were recently accused of harassment and illegal detention by former members.
“The persistent persecution of the INC exposes the intention of the government to destroy all other institutions that can challenge its parlous grip on truth and morality,” Zamora, who claims to be a practicing Catholic, said in a statement.
He was referring to the illegal detention complaint filed by former INC ministers Isaias Samson and Lowell Menorca against the INC leadership. These charges are pending before the Department of Justice and the Court of Appeals.
In August, when Samson took the INC leaders to court, INC members surrounded the office of Justice Secretary Leila de Lima in Manila and later blocked the corner of EDSA-Shaw, choking the metropolis’ major thoroughfare.
It was Angel Manalo, brother of INC executive minister Eduardo Manalo, and their mother Cristina “Tenny” Villanueva Manalo who first accused the INC leadership of abduction.
But Zamora noted that the religious fervor of INC members should be respected and that the government should be tolerant and not encourage the persecution of the INC faithful.
“What the Catholic Church was able to pull off — just once at EDSA and never again — which is to say, a communion of action in accord with Christ’s teachings — the INC does every day in the lives of its adherents and in the role of the INC in politics,” the lawmaker said.
“More than other Christians since the Puritans, the kapatid (brothers and sisters) of the INC live Christian lives by the book, so much so that when we speak of freedom of religion as it pertains to the INC, it extends from their weekly service to every action they take individually or undertake in communion and community,” he added.
Zamora said the government has persecuted the INC time and again.
“Accusation is not proof; and persistence in malicious prosecution is not sincerity but itself a legal cause of action against the government,” he added.
Harry Roque, who is eyeing a seat at the House of Representatives, also warned that the controversies surrounding the INC may lead to bigotry.
“These sentiments should not degenerate into outright bigotry and bias against what’s essentially a proud, homegrown and worldwide Filipino church. The INC may have its own way of exercising its religious beliefs and organizing its flock. We just need to accord it the needed tolerance and understanding, as with any other minority religious group in the country,” Roque said.
“Religious bias and bigotry have absolutely no place in any civilized society, especially ours,” he added.