Political Tidbits is the prestigious column of Belinda Olivares-Cunanan that ran for 25 continuous years in the op-ed page of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the newspaper that she helped put up with its multi-awarded founder, the legendary Eugenia Duran-Apostol, in December 1985, just two months before the EDSA Revolution.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

De Lima gains pogi points from what seems a determined pursuit of the law in expelled INC Minister's complaint vs.church top brass. Would this get her into list of winning senatorial candidates? INC in steely test of wills with administration, but this sect much sought after by politicos for 'command vote' will never be the same again. FVR cites near-civil war in two People Power uprisings, but bats for parliamentary system as more orderly way to change leaders. I agree.

Last Friday night, hearing that the Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) crowds had abandoned the Department of Justice premises and massed at the corner of EDSA and Shaw Blvd. in Pasig,  a few friends and I trooped there, braving the Friday night traffic. We got there a little after 9pm.and saw big groups heading in the same direction. I had no idea what would turn out that night as some commentators were already raising the possibility of another EDSA people power.  Being a veteran of  two previous EDSA uprisings, I didn’t want to miss being at the ringside of a potential one. 

What I saw was already formidable that night: thick crowds sitting on the street in mats while many more continued to pour in a continued stream from all directions. One thing with the INC that one cannot help but admire is their ability to weather various conditions: fatigue, hunger, cold and even rain. Many were young and able-bodied and there was a buoyant atmosphere among them, spirits high. 

I walked around, talking to people, and a middle-aged man explained in reply that they were fighting for their common belief, by now well-articulated in the media:  that they were defending the separation of church and state and that the administration, represented by Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, should respect this principle. “Huwag nila kaming pakialaman,” he said adamantly. To this my friends and I managed to diplomatically keep our mouths shut.

Looking at the vast humanity assembled at Edsa-Shaw Blvd. that night, I remembered Albert Camus' admonition: "Let us put ourselves at the service not of those who MAKE history but of those who SUFFER it" (emphasis BOC's).


I must confess that at that point I had not been following the INC issue all that assiduously and that night I just listened to various uniform views among the crowds. Later at home I read back issues of newspapers and updated myself in the internet and I readily saw that Secretary De Lima had a basic point.

I was never a fan of hers, and in fact on many occasions I took strong issue with her on her selective justice on the DAP issue, the way she twisted up the commander-in-chief principle in the Mamasapano case, just to exculpate her boss from guilt and responsibility, and other issues. But on the issue of giving due course to the formal illegal detention complaint filed against leaders of the church with the DOJ by expelled INC minister Isaias Samson Jr. who was earlier fired from his job, I found myself agreeing with De Lima. Samson's complaint has to be given due process, as provided by law, and no one can be above it. 


But there's the counter-criticism by INC leaders that De Lima was just TOO OVER-EAGER to pay attention to the ex-minister’s complaint against church top guns. I can see that too---and here De Lima is entirely to blame. She has dragged her foot on so many more critical issues, such as bringing to justice not just the opposition leaders in the DAP issue, but many allied with the Aquino administration. 

Suddenly, "Dilemma" appears to be fast-tracking on ex-INC minister Samson’s complaint.  Kataka-takaka nga naman given her usual lackadaisical style. The INC is particularly incensed about the lack of justice for the Fallen 44 SAF members in the Mamasapano case, as two of those heroes came from the INC's ranks.


For one thing, it seems impolitic for her to push this complaint.  In nine months, unless there is Divine Intervention in the form of a successful parliamentary shift,  general elections will be held. Knowing that the P-Noy administration wants rather desperately to get its line-up elected,  most especially the possible successor of P-Noy,  it would not have been surprising if De Lima sat on the ex-minister’s complaint and played ball with the INC top brass. 

But the INC leadership’s perception is that she’s pushing the resolutuion of the expelled minister's complaint too darned hard; to be fair to De Lima, her eagerness to resolve the complaint is laudable.  Suddenly many who hate this feisty woman's guts suddenly turned admirers of her seeming pursuit of the law. Would this usher her into the winning senatorial list? Too early to tell at this point---she'll sink or swim with the P-Noy administration.  


But I also look at this incident as indicative that our politicians are recognizing a most unusual phenomenon in our midst: the beginning of the end of the cohesiveness of the Iglesia ni Cristo. Unlike other churches, most prominent among them the Catholic Church, which are not solid in their political activities and inclinations, the INC for decades has commanded a solid vote. This has made this sect the prize object for politicians  most specially at the local level, and in close  congressional races where a couple of thousand votes would matter. 

This command vote phenomenon has also given the INC the clout to be able to corner appointments in various levels of government high and low.

In recent months, however,  the nation has witnessed startling divisions in its ranks, resulting in schism in its leadership, such as the expulsion of the mother and brother of current Supremo, Ka Eduardo Manalo, and the outspokenness of many adherents on issues such as the alleged corruption, extravagance and high living among the church top brass. Just how deep and irreparable that schism is in this once-monolithic church is hard to tell at this point. 

But one thing clear: we are indeed witnessing a socio-religious phenomenon in our midst, that behavioral and political scientists will be studying in future years. This early it’s easy to see that the INC, like Humpty Dumpty after the fall, would never be the same again.


Former President Fidel Ramos was the guest at the monthly forum of the Philippine Constitutional Association (Philconsa) in Makati a few days ago, but as I noted in Facebook, it was not his formal speech but the open forum  afterwards that held the audience in rapt attention for two hours. Suffice it to say that FVR had been sorely missed all these recent years of nondescript leadership.

Let me just cite a few points from that Philconsa session.  FVR opined that the Filipino nation “risked civil war on two occasions in recent years: in the Edsa People Power Revolution of 1986 (where he and former Defense Secretary Juan Ponce Enrile were the major participants) and 2001 when a second People Power Revolution ousted a sitting president and ushered in a new one. 

FVR pointed out that the 1986 People Power triggered so much reaction around the world, so that by 1989, when President Cory conferred the conference of new democracies, there were 14 newly-restored democracies. Nevertheless, those two big "civil war risks of ours," said FVR, illustrated “the violent ways of changing our leadership,” when to his mind, the parliamentary system is far better as it’s orderly and avoids the “wrenching traumas” even of (presidential) elections. FVR cites as a model of coalition government that of Germany under Chancellor Angela Merkel, which has brought that country to unprecedented heights of prosperity and peace. 

More FVR discussions in next blog. 

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