Roque tells De Lima: Respect INC’s freedom of religion

An aerial shot from the helicopter of the Metro Manila Development Authority shows the monstrous traffic jam at the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX) as vehicles bound for the 101st anniversary celebration of the Iglesia ni Cristo occupy almost the entire northbound portion of the expressway. (MNS photo)

An aerial shot from the helicopter of the Metro Manila Development Authority shows the monstrous traffic jam at the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX) as vehicles bound for the 101st anniversary celebration of the Iglesia ni Cristo occupy almost the entire northbound portion of the expressway. (MNS photo)

MANILA (Mabuhay) – Lawyer Harry Roque on Saturday called on Justice Secretary Leila de Lima to respect the freedom of religion of the Iglesia ni Cristo (INC), saying she should not meddle in the internal affairs of the religious sect.

“Unang-una, wala naman pong nangrereklamo, at pangalawa, ito po ay isang simbahan,” Roque said.

He stressed that the Constitution protects the right to freedom of religion, which guarantees freedom to believe and non-intervention of the state with church affairs.

“Hindi manghihimasok ang estado sa pananampalataya at hindi magbibigay ng pabor at hindi susupilin ang pagsamba. Pero pag tayo po ay nanghimasok sa gawain o sabihin na nating sa kontrobersiya sa isang simbahan eh malalabag po yan,” he said.

In a post in his blog Friday, Roque said De Lima’s “witch hunt” of the INC will only lead to a chilling effect on the exercise of freedom of belief.

“If there indeed was a crime committed, let the complaint be filed with the police, the fiscal’s office and eventually the court. Unless such a complaint is filed the Justice Secretary should leave the Iglesia ni Cristo alone,” the lawyer said.

De Lima has ordered the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to conduct a probe into the alleged abduction and threat by INC leaders against members of the group.

Felix Nathaniel “Angel” Manalo, brother of INC executive minister Eduardo Manalo, and some INC ministers have alleged rampant corruption in the religious sect.

The INC leadership, for its part, has denied the allegations, saying Angel just wants to interfere in the administration of INC affairs.(MNS)

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