Friday, August 28, 2015

INC protest rally before the DOJ: Turning into a political test case

Around 3,000 plus members of the Iglesia Ni Kristo are currently having a sit-down "rally" in front of the Department of Justice building at Padre Faura. The reason? It was the knee-jerk reaction of these Church members over the apparent statement made by a high Church official accusing Justice secretary Leila de Lima of prioritizing a case filed against high INC officials by a former INC official.  " Why not attend to filing cases against those who brutally killed SAF members instead of prioritizing  or giving preferential treatment to this case filed against our Church leadership," thundered Bien Santiago, the foremost evangelist of the INK.

If you remember, Isaias Samson, former INK minister filed a case of illegal detention against members of the so-called INK Council. Samson has accused his fellow Church members of prohibiting his movement and of his wife and daughter. Samson filed the case before the DOJ-NBI.

Now, several people found this rally by INK as something unacceptable because for some, this is some sort of pressuring the DOJ not to attend to this illegal detention case filed by a former Church member. Why is it that the INK church leadership found this rather odd?

For one, the case was not filed before any court or before the sala of a prosecutor. It was filed before the DOJ. Under normal circumstances, such cases are usually filed before the Fiscal's office. Why? To allow space and time for a settlement between the parties. Certain cases can be resolved right there and then since Samson is not at all being treated differently by his former Church members. Likewise, if one of the parties does not like the decision of the Fiscal, they can very well elevate this case before the DOJ. In this case, it seems, the aggrieved party wanted to expedite the case since, for him, this is a very serious offense done against his person.

But, then, again, Samson was formerly a highly respected minister and not just a mere member of the Church. He has been treated as an elder brother. And those whom he accused of violating the law are themselves high officials of the church. Why deprive them of the chance to settle this thing amicably? As they say, when you're an INC member, you are literally treated like a blood brother by your co-Church member. It is the custom of the Filipino to settle things in a peaceful manner.

Of course, we don't know the real motive of Samson. Maybe he knows too much and that created in him the fear of dire consequences, and that led him to decide to file it before the NBI instead of the regular courts. There is nothing wrong with his move, procedurally.

What the church leadership fears is the possible arrest and detention of its church leaders if the prosecutor finds prima facie evidence of the crime. One cannot invoke the argument of the separation of the church and state because the issue is not about civil rights but about a human right violated and one of the crimes specifically stated in the Revised Penal Code violated.

Of course, the duty of the justice department is to ensure that justice is served to those who seek it. However, being an office under the Executive department, any decision pertaining to this case, whether for or against the INK leadership will surely be interpreted in a political manner. The most prudent thing that De Lima should have done is to throw this case to the lap of the Manila RTC or to the place where the alleged crime was committed. That way, she avoids the trap of having this case politicized.