Monday, August 31, 2015

The INC argument: Explaining the Separation of Church and State

The INC leadership has used the argument of the "separation of the church and state" as one of the reasons why they called their brethren to go to EDSA to take part in the "peaceful rally." What is their understanding of this basic principle in the 1987 Constitution?

This principle is one of the distinguishing characteristics of a democratic society. It actually derives its spirit from the Bill of Rights. The bill recognizes several rights, and one of them, the right to believe in one thing without being prosecuted because of it. Simply, if this right is being universally recognized as part of "democracy", then, more of the right to practice religion, which is a belief system itself.

Now, the provision of the separation of church and state recognizes the equality of both organizational creations. The church is recognized as the leader or head that satisfies one's belief in the Afterlife while the state's main concern is the temporal matters.

Since this equality is recognized, then, the belief of the INC is that they can operate an organization that behaves like government. For them, and rightly so, as interpreted from the Bible, religion is not just a set of beliefs--it likewise prescribes a system of governance.

The Catholic church is a recognized state--that explains why there is a Vatican diplomatic post in the Philippines. Islam also prescribes its own governance system. The only religion without any concerns over governance is Buddhism.

However, unlike the State which exercises general jurisdiction of all persons residing within its territory, the Church's jurisdiction is limited to its members. Hence, if you accede and become a member of the Iglesia Ni Cristo,  you allow yourself to follow not just the set of religious beliefs--you also follow the "laws" of the Church.

Now, these laws are explained the minute you allow yourself to be indoctrinated by senior Church officials. If you agree with these laws, then, you allow yourself to behave and act according to these laws. These "laws" are actually behavioral, meaning, they are some sort of Code of Ethics which you follow if you are a member of the Church.

Of course, "laws" are not just substantive but corrective. By corrective, I mean penal. Violate one law and you get the corresponding correction. The correction is based on the severity or gravity of the offense. The gravest corrective measure is expulsion from the church.

Expulsion is the same as excommunication by the Catholic church. However, unlike the Catholic church which depends on Papal dispensation, "going back to the fold" means proving to one and all that you are a "follower" rather than a miscreant. Deviant behavior is simply not tolerated because hey, this is God's church and the path to one's salvation depends on one's obedience to God's rules.

Question--is the State allowed to interfere with the affairs of the Church? No, because it violates the separation of church and state. Does the State have the right to question these laws? Again, no. For as long as these regulations do not pose harm upon the state, or borders on the insane or violates public policy and morals, then, these laws cover those Filipinos who believe and have allowed themselves to be administered by the church.

Now, going back to our initial discussion--why is it that the INC thinks that the Government is interfering with the affairs of the church?

Isaias Samson was a former Minister of the church. Samson is not merely a member--he was a very important and once powerful member of the Church leadership. Meaning, Samson is expected to be more knowledgeable and more obedient to the church's teachings and laws compared with an average or ordinary church member.

What Samson is now alleging is that his right to free movement was violated when he, together with his daughter and wife, was reportedly "detained" for a few days. Samson has just accused the church leadership of masterminding and allegedly planning and committing an act which is described by the Revised Penal Code (RPC) as an act of illegal detention.

Bear in mind that this "act" was committed during the time that Samson was still a member of the Church. Being a Minister of the church, Samson is supposed to follow church teachings, especially the "laws" of the INC. The fact is, the expectation is of extraordinary character, because Samson is not just a member--he is part of the Leadership, a Minister extraordinaire, who once occupied the seat near the Seat of Power. 

Samson knows that every act which he does as a Minister of the church is dependent upon church teachings and the church code of ethics. Simply, as part of management, Samson is supposed to obey every decision of the Church leadership for as long as the act does not border on the criminal. Meaning, if an act being asked about does not violate the laws of the State, an example of which, Samson is not directed to kill someone or rob someone or inflict harm upon another, then, it is well within the rights of the Church to assume jurisdiction over him and his person. 

Now, this is the CORE of this issue--whether or not the act of the Church leadership to deny Samson his right to freely move constitutes an act termed in the Revised Penal Code (RPC) as illegal detention?

I answer in the negative. Why? I argue that the law which Samson was expected to follow at that time was the law of the church, not of the state. Therefore, when the Church leadership asked him to stay put in his house, and for the Church leadership to be "assured" of this, they got his passport and the passports of his, and his wife and kid, was an act well within the rights and jurisdiction of the Church.

Remember that at that time, Samson was expected to follow the church leadership in an extraordinary way, being a Minister and a part of the leadership. When  Samson was ordinated as a Minister or Pastor of the INC, he agreed to follow the rules and subsume his person over the Church, then, the very act of keeping him in house does not constitute illegal detention.

Besides, if this is factually true, then, how was it that Samson was able to wrest free from his "captors"? It was clear in his affidavit that he was able to "extricate" himself from his "captors" when he asked them permission to leave the house to "attend church." Meaning, actually, Samson was not being constricted or confined--he can leave the house without force or intimidation and that was precisely what he did. And when he did it, that shattered his allegation that he was being illegally detained, because the main requisite for an act to qualify as an act of illegal detention is the application of force or intimidation that is sufficient to create fear or even the impression that leaving the premises could

Likewise, Samson knows that he is being investigated during that time. The Church Leadership does not intend to detain him for an indefinite period; rather, he was asked to stay in his house during the time when this issue against him was being investigated. Again, if this act was undertaken with a basis in the Code of Ethics or the laws of the church, then, the very act itself does not constitute the crime of illegal detention. Again, because the church was exercising its jurisdiction over the person of Samson, who was at that time, a Minister of the Church, someone who was holding a very sensitive post in the leadership hierarchy.

Besides--that is the expected behavior even of organizations or companies, when they are investigating a person who is a part of management and they suspect him of violating the regulations of the company--they ask the person not to leave the premises during the pendency of the probe. Or, at the very least, do not leave the country while the issue is being investigated.

Now, the problem began when the Government, thru the Justice department, acted on this criminal complaint without understanding it completely. Besides, the National Bureau of Investigation or NBI, the investigating arm of the Department, had already closed the case, cognizant of the fact that no act of illegal detention was committed.

The issue was when the complainant elevated it to the desk of the Justice secretary which, probably due to propriety, assumed jurisdiction of the case. I understand where Justice secretary Leila de Lima is coming from--inaction means political accommodation. Meaning, like Caesar, her hands were tied. De Lim