BLAH BLAH BLOGS: Iglesia Y Estado

We all know that recently, the INC (Iglesia Ni Cristo) is getting into a lot of controversy lately. First with the alleged abduction and illegal detention of ministers and family members linked to the Manalos, the founding family that started the religion back in 1914. 

It was just last year that they celebrated their centenary with the unveiling of Ciudad De Victoria that boasts of the Philippine Arena (the largest indoor venue in the world), Philippine Stadium (world-class stadium built for athletic events), and other future plans that made a mark with history as well. 

But things don't go well with INC on its 101st year, there was the controversy of the Korean contractors of the Philippines which is still unresolved. They also has a legal issue with the party of singer Chris Brown for failing to perform for the New Year's Eve concert, which left Chris to be quarantined in the country for several days. Now in a very rare event, INC members went to the streets to protest Justice Secretary Laila De Lima for her "meddling" with the internal problems of the church.

With accusations of illegal detention and abduction still unclear, the tension erupted with a call to do a "vigil" in front of the Department of Justice in Padre Faura st., Numbers came with some bringing placards protesting the separation of Church and State as stated in the constitution. Though, it was not legally unclear where the boundaries of faith and the department was jeopardized.

When the department was not swayed with the crowd outside, there was now another call, to bring the protest over to EDSA... on a payday weekend, traffic-burdened, and rush hour Friday. And it was not long that members flocked from all directions initially to the direction of Ortigas-Robinsons where EDSA Shrine is located. However the shrine has is a Catholic shrine dedicated to the divine intervention for the peaceful EDSA People Power 1, and later EDSA dos which was spearheaded by bishops. The shrine later barred staging protests as it desecrates the shrine to be a political melting pot used my politicians.

The protesters, knowing that it is Catholic territory, were gathered under the flyovers as they await further instructions. Then by around 7PM, it was decided that the venue of gathering would be in Crossing (Shaw Boulevard -EDSA), it is the most strategic place for member to convene. Within a few hours, INC member from all directions, with some dressed with church activity clothing (outreach programs, locale shirts, pins, etc) filled the intersection also bringing their banners of the call of church-state separation, but also added banners that pertain to De Lima such as "De Lima Pakialamera", one sign I saw while traversing the crowd.

Yes, I was there unfortunately due to a family dinner in Shangri La, and was just informed about the movement of the crowd to EDSA but did not expect them to appear at this crossroads. I am no stranger with gatherings like this, political and religious alike. However, I do not like that sudden events like this causes heavy traffic, and with all the factors, it was a commuter's nightmare, it was also my nightmare.

I immediately took photos of the crowd, which I do with moments like this. But since I am not a member, my goal is to go home as rain would fall soon. But looking at the situation, it was hopeless to get a ride, or if I ever do, I will not move. Of course there is the media, CNN Philippines office meters away, TV5 two blocks away were the first to get there, but Eagle Broadcasting (Net 25) came first being the church-owned media. 

Along with the sentiments regarding De Lima, the regular commuters in cars, taxis, FX and buses are in a standstill. I decided to stay at the usual milk tea house to pass some time and also upload some of my shots. And already felt the impact of the gathering, I chose to pass time since I already had my experience of heavy traffic en route to Mandaluyong from Makati. The only thing moving is the unreliable MRT which did a better job versus all the vehicles below and above.

And from there, it was all over the place. Rants of passengers, trapped commuters (like me), social media raged netizens, and lost income and man hours due to a gathering that has no guarantee of affecting the justice secretary, rumored to run for a Senate seat next year, which is even not in EDSA. Though the intention was to show power in numbers.

I got home by 1:30 AM by monitoring the development via the internet. I did not notice the rainfall which somehow dispersed some of the numbers. The gathering is still on going as of this writing and still a dreaded path for all vehicles. They were given permit by the local government until Sunday. However, the secretary is still in her position, despite calls for resignation. Politicians and presidential candidates dipped into the opinion sauce, most of them with a safe answer to ensure support in the coming elections, not to further add damage to religious feelings. 

It was a tiring day to all, I understand some members brought the whole family and friends from their locale, but the commuters were also tired and hungry as well. In the end what did it accomplish? Is EDSA the proper venue to vent these sentiments? Well it did worked with the first two people power revolutions, but I think beyond that it has moved on to be a highway for the public. The offices that they want to heed their pleas are on the other side of the metropolitan. We have to admit that INC is a powerful sector with bloc voting assures election seats. 

The issue of separation of Church and State has so many grey areas, and this is true to all religions, the Catholic influence via bishops, the Islamic influence with territory control, etc. However, that is why we have the Legislative and Judiciary which intervenes if there are flaws in implementation and interpretation. I think there is an overreaction in the part of INC, they can settle these matters legally but chose to bring it to the streets, a contradiction to the identity of the church known never having unions or social protests.

Though the issue would involve the member of the founding family, it seems unfair to members to involve themselves in family issues, and link it to oppression of faith, discrimination etc. Now, the church is getting flak with the action, some even at a personal level. The church was able to get the attention, however they also expose their vulnerable points which leads into more conflicts and criticism.

I only have one thing to do regarding about this, praying that the leaders of the church make better actions and instructions that will eventually lead to resolution to internal church issues, maintain member welfare, and to return to what the church is meant to be, a community striving to uphold values without offending and causing trouble to fellow men.


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