POSTSCRIPT / September 3, 2015 / Thursday


Opinion Columnist

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Being exclusive, INC protest was doomed

BECAUSE the Iglesia ni Cristo did not reach out to non-Iglesia members, it failed to gain the mass support needed to bring the Aquino administration to its senses during the group’s four-day street protest last week.

Flaunting its presumed political influence, the Iglesia did not bother to connect to the wider community as it herded its docile followers for a street-level show of force versus the Aquino administration.

Its battle cry was religious freedom, but the thousands of stressed commuters caught in the resulting traffic standstill – and the millions monitoring developments on TV — could not relate to it. In fact, it infuriated most of them.

If anything, the INC protest rally gave religious freedom a bad name.

It was clear in the INC’s own public pronouncements that it was not really religious freedom that the 101-year-old Philippines-based religion was fighting for, but license to twist the law, trifle with due process and trample other people’s rights.

The Iglesia pays lip service to the principle of separation of Church and State enshrined in the Constitution, yet assiduously imbeds its members in key civil service posts to influence, sometimes dictate, government policies and decisions.

Even if it mustered a million warm bodies on EDSA in that weekend rally (the most generous estimate I have seen was 30,000), the exclusive all-INC protest could not have gained the support of non-members.

Until now, however, this observer is not convinced that there was no negotiated settlement between the Iglesia and the Aquino administration.

The two camps had no choice but to negotiate and settle—because they both have vulnerabilities that must remain hidden.

Bautista OK as Comelec head derailed

THE CONFIRMATION of Commission on Elections chair Andres Bautista by the bicameral Commission on Appointments was derailed yesterday by unanswered questions over the alleged missing election results involving 12 million votes in 2013.

Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile, rebounding from his one-year suspension, asked for the deferment of the confirmation of Bautista (and Commissioner Sheriff Abas) during the hearing of the CA’s committee on constitutional commissions.

Enrile asked Bautista if he knew about a letter of Henrietta de Villa, the national chair of the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting, about the results from the 18,486 precincts during the 2013 national elections.

When Bautista said No, Enrile told him to familiarize himself with the issue “because I will require you to submit a report to this commission before we confirm you.”

Enrile said the 18,486 precincts involve about 12 million votes whose status the senator wanted to know from the Comelec. He added that the PPCRV report must be made public and explained.

By this time, Bautista, former chair of the Presidential Commission on Good Government, must have gotten wind already of more questions awaiting him in the CA.

A formal opposition to his confirmation has been filed with the CA over what has been described as questionable disposition of shares and corporate funds of firms belonging to the so-called Philcomsat group, including the Philcomsat Holding Corp. that was never sequestered but was not spared from “looting” by PCGG agents.

There is also the alleged “dagdag-bawas” handling by Bautista of shares in the Bataan Shipyard and Engineering Co. Inc. (BASECO). The former PCGG chair was accused by ex-RAM member Proceso L. Maligalig of taking 1,000 shares in 2013 that he later reduced (dagdag-bawas-style) to one (qualifying) share when “caught” in 2014.

In retaliation to a plunder rap filed by the PCGG against Maligalig, the latter had filed a countersuit against Bautista for graft and corruption, violation of the codes of conduct and ethical standards for public officials, and falsification.

All these accusations Bautista will have to explain before the CA, where the objection of just one member can block a nominee’s confirmation.

City Hall permit for INC explained

WE GOT a call from Manila Mayor Erap Estrada, whom we had lumped together with Vice President Jojo Binay as among opposition leaders who seemed sympathetic to the Iglesia ni Cristo as political battle lines were being drawn during the Manila and EDSA rallies.

Estrada explained that he was not taking sides but had to issue the INC a rally permit for the Padre Faura area in recognition of citizens’ right to peaceably assemble to ventilate their grievances.

The granting of a conditional permit, he added, was not a special or political accommodation.

But Estrada could not help noting that Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, the object of the INC protest, had shown a selective disposition in handling the illegal detention complaint filed by a suspended INC minister against his superiors in the church.

There are older important cases – such as the criminal prosecution of the killers of the 44 members of the PNP Special Action Force massacred last January in Mamasapano, Maguindanao — that De Lima set aside in favor of rush action on the INC case.

We noted in an earlier Postscript that by her body language and statements, De Lima appeared to have cleared her actions with President Noynoy Aquino. In explaining that there was no settlement with the INC, Malacañang said that De Lima was not resigning as a result of the agreement with the INC. (But she will eventually leave her post, of course, when it is time for her to file her certificate of candidacy for the 2016 senatorial elections.)

(First published in the Philippine STAR of September 3, 2015)

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