Felix Nathaniel “Angel” Manalo, younger brother of Iglesia Ni Cristo leader Eduardo Manalo, speaks to reporters from the gate of his house in Manila on July 24, two days after he and his mother alleged in a YouTube post that their lives were in danger and that some of the group’s ministers were being held against their will. The influential Christian group, which votes as a bloc, expelled the two relatives on July 22 and denied abducting the ministers.(MNS photo)

Felix Nathaniel “Angel” Manalo, younger brother of Iglesia Ni Cristo leader Eduardo Manalo, speaks to reporters from the gate of his house in Manila on July 24, two days after he and his mother alleged in a YouTube post that their lives were in danger and that some of the group’s ministers were being held against their will. The influential Christian group, which votes as a bloc, expelled the two relatives on July 22 and denied abducting the ministers.(MNS photo)

MANILA, Aug 17 (Mabuhay) – Vice President Jejomar Binay has come to the defense of the Iglesia ni Cristo and accused Malacanang of trying to control the religious organization.

In a statement, Binay urged Malacanang and the Department of Justice to respect the independence of the Iglesia ni Cristo as a religious institution.

“The issue that the Iglesia Ni Cristo (INC) is facing right now is internal. Malacañang and the Department of Justice (DOJ) should refrain from making any statements that impinge on the independence of a religious group. They should respect the institution’s religious freedom,” he said.

Binay criticized Malacañang for saying that the DOJ may continue to investigate the alleged abductions of INC ministers despite the statement of a National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) official that the case is “closed.”

“Why the persistence when an NBI team had already concluded there was no crime committed? The DoJ secretary’s actions and the Palace’s support for her demonstrate the administration’s obsession to control independent institutions like the INC, in violation of their freedom to worship. And if the administration cannot control, they harass and intimidate,” he said.

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

Isaias Samson Jr., the former editor-in-chief of the Iglesia’s official publication, also accused the group of detaining his family and abducting several ministers critical of the INC leadership.

The INC leadership has denied the allegations, saying there were no abductions and that Angel just wants to interfere in the administration of INC affairs.

The INC has already expelled Angel as well as his mother, Tenny Manalo, from the church.

The vice-president earlier wrote a letter to Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, advising her to stop issuing unwarranted statements on the Iglesia ni Cristo controversy.

This is after de Lima denied that the National Bureau of Investigation has already stopped its investigation on the alleged abductions of INC ministers.

“It taxes credulity that you had to publicly contravene the findings of the NBI Anti-Organized Transnational Crimes Division, which itself conducted the investigation on the alleged abduction,” he said.

“According to your own people in the NBI, no such abduction took place, which finding is bolstered by the fact that there is no complainant who has come forward to attest to its commission. In short, there is apparently no crime committed or being committed,” he added. (MNS)