Vice President Jejomar Binay has advised Justice Secretary Leila de Lima to refrain from giving “unwarranted statements” on the alleged kidnapping of ministers of the Iglesia ni Cristo (INC or Church of Christ).
In a letter to de Lima, Binay on Thursday said he felt compelled to “call your attention to the unwarranted statements you have been expressing in the mass media in your capacity as Secretary of the Department of Justice asserting that the alleged abduction of ministers of the [INC] is not yet a ‘closed’ case.”
He noted that de Lima’s statements contradicted findings of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) that had investigated the alleged kidnapping.
“It taxes credulity that you had to publicly contravene the findings of the NBI Anti-Organized Transnational Crimes Division, which itself conducted the investigation on the alleged abduction,” Binay said in a statement, addressing the Justice chief.
“According to your own people in the NBI, no such abduction took place, which finding is bolstered by the fact that there is no complainant who has come forward to attest to its commission. In short, there is apparently no crime committed or being committed,” he added.
Manuel Eduarte, a lawyer and chief of the NBI Anti-Organized Transnational Crime Division, declared as “case closed” the reported abduction after coordinating with the INC’s Legal Office and visiting the house of Felix Nathaniel “Angel” Manalo.
The estranged brother of executive minister Eduardo Manalo was expelled from the INC, together with their mother Cristina “Tenny” Villanueva Manalo, after they uploaded a YouTube video claiming that ministers were being abducted and their lives were in danger.
“By your actuations, you are promoting the image of disunity, discord and even corruption in the INC to its clear prejudice and detriment,” Binay said.
“As public officials, it is our duty to respect the internal affairs and concerns of the INC and allow them, without the unwarranted interference from government, to conduct their own business in accordance with their religious beliefs. No less than our Constitution guarantees this inviolable separation of church and state,” he added.
Binay also noted that de Lima’s attitude toward the INC issue appears similar to the “policy of demolition by perception that your office has been doing to my own person. “
“For the sake of upholding our Constitution, as well as protecting the integrity and good name of the INC as a religious community, I urge you to refrain from uttering baseless, if not reckless and irresponsible, statements that would tend to harm the religious institution of the INC,” he said.