Iglesia ni Cristo executive in DOJ probe had sought rally permits

Members of the Iglesia ni Cristo camp out underneath the Metro Rail Transit’s Shaw Boulevard station yesterday as they called for the resignation of Justice Secretary Leila de Lima for allegedly meddling in the religious group’s internal affairs. INC members picketed the Department of Justice last week. MICHAEL VARCAS

MANILA, Philippines - It was one of the ranking ministers of the Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) accused of illegal detention and harassment by an expelled member who had sought permits for the street protests against Justice Secretary Leila de Lima last week.

Documents provided to The STAR by a sect insider showed that INC political affairs chief and minister Eraño Cordera made the separate requests last week.

Cordera is one of the respondents in the criminal complaint filed by expelled INC member Isaias Samson Jr. with the Department of Justice.

It was De Lima’s alleged singling out the case for immediate investigation that prompted the INC leadership to call for protest actions at several sites in Metro Manila, particularly EDSA.

The INC protesters decried what they considered to be De Lima’s bias against their religion.

Codera made his first request through an email sent to Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada on Aug. 24, three days before the protest outside the DOJ complex on Padre Faura street in Manila.

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The one-paragraph letter signed by Codera read: “We would like to ask your good office to issue on our favor a public assembly permit to be held in Pedro Gil, Padre Faura Street, U.N. Avenue, and different locations in your city to be held Aug. 27 onwards.”

The words “public assembly permit,” “different locations” and “onwards” were in bold letters.

Codera sought an extension of the protest duration until midnight of Aug.28.

The Manila City hall granted the request on Aug. 27.

On Aug. 28, a Friday, Codera again sought to extend the permit until Sept. 4, which Manila again granted.

Secretary to the mayor Ed Serapio and Fortune Mayuga of the Bureau of Permits and Licensing Office approved Codera’s request.

Before midnight of Aug. 28, INC members who were blocking DOJ’s gate marched to EDSA.

Mandaluyong Mayor Benhur Abalos was quoted as saying that the group did not have a permit to rally. But after talking to Codera at about 1 a.m. on Saturday, he decided to issue a permit.

Interior and Local Government Secretary Manuel Roxas II, for his part, said rumors of an impending arrest of INC executive minister Eduardo Manalo may have ignited the five-day protest actions of sect members.

“There were rumors of impending arrest of the INC leader but there’s no such thing,” Roxas said in an interview over radio dzMM.

Roxas denied the INC lifted its protest activities after reaching an agreement with the government.

Meanwhile, the National Capital Regional Police Office (NCRPO) hopes to get the INC’s cooperation in the investigation into the beating of an ABS-CBN cameraman allegedly by the group’s members near the EDSA Shrine.

NCRPO acting director Chief Supt. Joel Pagdilao said a complaint has been filed before the Quezon City Police District Station 12 by Melchor Pinlac against his unidentified assailants. – Cecille Suerte Felipe, Jaime Laude

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