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Lawyer to De Lima: Don't meddle in INC affairs

Dennis Carcamo (Philstar.com) - August 14, 2015 - 2:14am

MANILA, Philippines — A law expert on Friday called on Justice Secretary Leila de Lima to respect the freedom of religion of the Iglesia ni Cristo (INC), refraining from intervening in the internal affairs of the group.

"Secretary De Lima should cease and desist from her witch hunt of Iglesia ni Cristo. In the absence of a complainant, she should not investigate the alleged intramurals within the Iglesia ni Cristo," law professor Harry Roque of the University of the Philippines said.

"To persist in investigating the local church would be to violate the constitutional right of freedom of religion which includes both a guarantee of freedom to believe and non-intervention with church affairs," he added.

Roque said Philippine jurisprudence has respected the INC's religious tenets including its right not to allow its members to join labor unions.

In another case, Roque said the Supreme Court upheld the attacks of the INC against the Catholic Church in a television program.

In that case, the high court ruled that "the bedrock of freedom of religion is freedom of expression. The antidote to bad theology is more theology," Roque cited.

Roque also expressed dismay that De Lima's witch hunt will 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," he said.

De Lima said on Thursday that she will not stop the ongoing probe by the National Bureau of Investigation into alleged illegal detention by INC leaders against members of the religious sect.

Earlier, the INC has reportedly been embroiled in a leadership crisis involving the family of Eduardo Manalo, executive minister of the group, and his siblings, as well as his mother.

Angel Manalo, Eduardo's brother, and their mother Cristina "Tenny" Villanueva Manalo, first accused the INC leadership of committing the abduction.

In a video, Angel and Tenny claimed that their lives and those of their church mates were in danger.

ANGEL AND TENNY ANGEL MANALO CATHOLIC CHURCH CRISTO DE LIMA EDUARDO MANALO HARRY ROQUE OF THE UNIVERSITY OF THE PHILIPPINES INC JUSTICE SECRETARY JUSTICE SECRETARY LEILA JUSTICE SECRETARY LEILA DE LIMA NATIONAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION QUOT
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