Iglesia Ni Cristo (INC) has been a trending topic now for several hours since yesterday. The picture that Top Gear Philippines posted on social media says all the reasons why it is trending. Motorists and commuters are steamed by the rally INC has decided to hold in front EDSA Shrine, and at the nearby intersection of EDSA and Shaw Blvd, without prior notice to the public — a warning could have allowed motorists to avoid the area. The rally has put EDSA, the major circumferential road of Metro Manila, into a virtual standstill.
Asked by media reporters why they chose the Shrine for their demonstration, the rally participants replied that the place is a symbolism of freedom, and they are now fighting for freedom from government oppression. That may be, but a text message has been going around urging INC members to converge at the rally site since it was time to mess up the traffic. Top Gear Philippines, which got hold of this text, is still verifying its authenticity. Authentic or not, it is not hard to conclude that the intention of the rally is to snarl traffic since INC did not give the public any prior notice.
The government oppression that INC is referring to is the move by Department of Justice (DOJ) to entertain the case of a minister whom INC just expelled and who claims he was detained by INC against his will for several days. INC claims that by entertaining this minister with the view of assisting him in filing a case against INC, DOJ Secretary Leila de Lima is meddling in what is supposed to be an internal affair of a religious organization, never mind if it was the minister who approached DOJ for help. Illegal detention is a serious crime, but INC can’t understand why Sec de Lima seems to have given this minister undue priority when there are more cases of national import pending in her desk. But it is simple to understand. Sec de Lima used to be a human rights lawyer. It has to be that this is something intuitive with the Secretary when she sees a case against human rights, as that of above mentioned minister, is as equally important as all the other cases pending at the DOJ.
INC is known to vote en bloc, and they make no effort to hide that they are a monolithic organization. They even encourage the news that it is their voting ways that has put into office Joseph Estrada and Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. This is the reason why candidates court the support of their leadership during elections. It would be interesting to note in the coming days to see if the administration of President Benigno Simeon Aquino III (PNoy) will give in to the pressure of this group that tries hard to be the top kingmaker in Philippine politics. It is interesting to see if the administration of PNoy has principles, or operates based on vague political expediencies.
However the decision of the PNoy administration will end up, INC has already shown that they will brook no dissent whether it is internal or external. They will go to extent of snarling a traffic in a major part of the capital city of a country, if only to prove their point. Never mind if there are people trying to catch a flight. Never mind if there are ambulances on emergency calls that could mean life and death. Never mind if there are millions of people just trying to get home from a long, tiring day of work. Never mind if there are thousands of trucks that urgently need to deliver goods on time so that there is smooth commerce. Maybe, it is a way INC wants to tell the public that traffic could be fatal in order to prove DOTC Sec Abaya wrong when he said that traffic is not fatal.
If INC has shown that they don’t care about public safety and health, two of the persons aspiring to be a President of the Republic have also shown their true color. With the case of the minister still being clarified and no case has yet been filed, these two presumptive presidential candidates have already decided that the DOJ is wrong. Can we please ask them the basis for their decision? Grace Poe and Jojo Binay said that government should not be meddling with something internal to INC. Never mind Binay who everybody knows is a TraPo (traditional politician), but a neophyte like Poe? What is with INC that could transform a seemingly untainted newcomer into TraPo, already protecting vested interests like she was a veteran of it? How do Poe and Binay know the government is meddling; have they listened to aggrieved party who appears now as being scared of his life?
Our understanding is that religion is supposed to bring out the best in people. Well, in less than 48 hours, they have managed to transform motorists and commuters into beasts. Just look at what these people have been posting in social media. But let us set that aside because we want to know how they are impacting our leaders. Just recently, Bureau of Customs (BOC) Chief John Sevilla resigned because he could not give in to the lobby INC was pushing regarding an critical appointment in the agency. That hurt us because the new BOC Chief now wants to mess with balikbayan boxes. That is just one example of their meddling with government and is the most recent, but they have been meddling since the beginning. And, they accuse the government of meddling? Will Sec de Lima also resign now just because of them? That is not bringing out the best from our people and our leaders, does it?
We are all for Freedom of Expression, as well as Freedom of Religion, but when they do such things to us who are not part of their religion, can we at least ask if they are a religion when they are acting like they are not a religious organization, but a political one? Worse, they are acting like a business corporation?
The trouble they are inflicting on the public seems to be a result of their internal troubles. They are a very secretive society, but from the bits and pieces that are leaking, it appears that there is an on-going strife among their leaders. One faction is questioning what is the need of their leader buying a Php 1 billion worth of property in Forbes Park and a private plane which all seem to be just for the private use of the leader. They are also questioning why they had to build so large a venue, the Philippine Arena, which seems to have more of a secular character to it. There are also accusations of corruption among the management group that they call Sanggunian. While we don’t care whether they are growing or squandering their money, and for heaven’s sake, we really don’t, and shouldn’t care, is it too much to ask that they keep their fights among themselves without say, snarling a traffic? It is very hard to imagine that if there was a squabble among stockholders in say, Philippine Airlines or Philex Mining, that the public be made to suffer only because the companies have internal fights.
They are acting like they are not a religion because it is likely that, indeed, they are not a religion. They call themselves Iglesia ni Cristo, or Church of Christ, and consider themselves as Christians. We can therefore assume that they are referring to the same Jesus Christ whom all other Christians believe in. Unlike other Christians, however, INC insists that Jesus is just a man. If Jesus is just a man, then it can be said that their group can be called the Church of a Man. And yet, we always thought that religion had something to do with something divine. So, could they consider themselves a religion if they are just a church of a man. There is another religion that follows a man, and they call themselves ISIS. This group is trying to get to heaven by letting other people in Iraq and Syria suffer. Is this the reason why when INC is pursuing something they see to it that the public suffers?
Stephen Colbert, of Comedy Central fame, in a recent interview, quoted J R R Tolkien (author of Lord of the Rings): “What punishments of God are not gifts?”. Colbert was talking of a time when his father and brother died, and he said he had learned not only to accept what had happened but actually to rejoice in it. Flummoxed, the interlocutor had to ask again, and that is when Colbert quoted Tolkien. Of course, the interlocutor, and for that matter non-Christians, still didn’t understand. But, suffering takes a meaning only Christians understand, and that is why when the first Christians were being persecuted by the Roman Empire, they bear their suffering quietly. Imagine even a comedian, who happens to be a Christian, understood this. For sure, the first Christians didn’t stop the traffic of horses, carts and cattles in any part of the Empire.
If INC call themselves Christian and they insist that theirs is a church of a man and don’t understand suffering as even Colbert understands it, but understand it the way ISIS understands it, what does that make of INC. Shouldn’t we suspect them of deceit and prevarication?
In any event, we really don’t care what they believe. And, we have to emphasize this, we don’t care. For all we know, they might be worshipping the moon and the stars, or just the money and power they appear to be obsessed with, who cares?!?!. All we ask is please do not disturb us, so we won’t disturb you.