The Iglesia Ni Kristo and the separation between the state and the church
WHAT MATTERS MOST - Atty. Josephus B. Jimenez (The Freeman) - January 26, 2016 - 9:00am

The Iglesia Ni Cristo is in the headlines again. This is the sect that is widely known to have active interests and participation in Philippine politics. The Philippine Constitution, particularly Article II, the Declaration of Principles and State Policies, particularly, Section 6 provides in very clear and categorical terms that "The separation of Church and State shall be inviolable." Under the Bill of Rights, article III, Section 5, it is explicitly provided:" no law shall be made respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. The free exercise and enjoyment of religious profession and worship, without discrimination or preference shall forever be allowed. No religious test shall be required for the exercise of civil or political rights." But with the INC, or even the Catholic Church, are these principles not violated ?

These principles are again being brought to fore by the recent intramurals within one of the most powerful religious groups in the country, the highly influential Iglesia Ni Kristo. It is common knowledge among all of us that this religious sect openly endorses candidates for the presidency, the vice presidency, the senate race, and in all other electoral contests even down to the barangay and the SK levels. The candidates being endorsed, when they win and would assume offices of great powers and influence, would naturally be beholden to the INC, and their decisions, plans and actions would most probably favor the Iglesia. The INC also recommends their members and friends to certain juicy positions for appointment. Are these not violations of the principle of separation between the state and the church?

It is also generally being whispered around that the INC strongly recommends the appointments of justices, judges, prosecutors, police directors and police superintendents. And, in fact, there are a number of police generals and police colonels who are not only card-bearing members of the Iglesia, but were also appointed, promoted, or transferred to choice posts due to the highly powerful endorsements of the INC. The problem is when these INC members who are police officials are also the ones being assigned to serve warrants of arrests against ''enemies'' of the Iglesia. The general belief among the people is that such a case is a violation of the principle of separation. We are tempted to concur. But is the Catholic Church not guilty too, albeit to a lesser extent, if at all?

The current controversy is the case filed by Lowell Menorca Jr. against the INC and vice versa. It is our view that what the police official did was not above board. It would be a clear conflict of interests. That cannot be justified by the mere presumption of regularity of official functions The principle of separation of state and church should remain inviolable. The manner of effecting the arrests which was seen via national television was also way beyond the bounds of propriety and proper protocol. The police officers who served the warrant were not in uniform. There was reportedly excessive force being used and the case of resisting arrest filed against Menorca was allegedly dismissed immediately by the prosecutor. But an avalanche of more cases are reportedly being filed against Menorca from Marawi to Manila and Pasay. When it rains, it shall flood and inundate the INC renegade.

We are not interested on the details of the'' intra-union'' disputes within the Iglesia. We do not care if the leadership of the INC are even having conflicts with Cristina Manalo, the mother of Iglesia's Executive Minister, Eduardo Manalo, and also with Felix Nathaniel "Angel" Manalo, Eduardo's own brother. What we are concerned about is the violation of the constitutional principles supposedly because of undue influence being allegedly brought to bear on government agencies, including, but not limited to, police forces, prosecution service and even the judiciary. This influence has come about because of politicians' propensity to rely on the INC for endorsement and support. It is not just the fault of the Iglesia. The politicians are guilty too. It takes two or more to tango.

This is an election year, and again, politicians are going to knock at the doors of the INC to solicit the Iglesia blessings and anointment. What would be the deal all about? Wouldn't these traditional politicians use the powers and resources of their offices to return the favors to the Iglesia? This kind of nefarious institutional influence-peddling would be disastrous to the integrity of official functions. These malpractices would make public offices and government officials virtual captives of a church institution. This is destructive of public interests. And what is worst is that the government would be virtually controlled by one religion. And that is the evil that the Constitution seeks to avoid. The on-going Eucharistic Congress may have to touch this in relation to its own secular policies in relation to Catholic dogma. That, my friends, is what matters most.

josephusbjimenez@gmail.com.

CATHOLIC CHURCH CHURCH AND STATE CRISTINA MANALO DECLARATION OF PRINCIPLES AND STATE POLICIES EDUARDO MANALO EUCHARISTIC CONGRESS EXECUTIVE MINISTER IGLESIA INC POLICE QUOT
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