MANILA, Philippines (1st UPDATE) - President Aquino is not attending the gathering of Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) to be held today saying that while he understood that the event is open to all, his presence might give the event a “political tinge.”
“Ang pagkasabi sa akin lahat imbitado dito dahil ito ay part of the evangelization work, but at the same time parang may pinarating na naman na my presence might give a political tinge to the whole affair, which detracts from the religious intention of this activity,” Aquino told reporters at the sidelines of the 4th National Congress of the Coordinating Council of Private Educational Associations (COCOPEA) held at the University of Santo Tomas.
Aquino is confident that the event will not be turned into a political rally, saying he was told by the INC that it would be purely a religious one.
“There are others who are saying that there is a political dimension here. Their official communication to us is this is part of their religious obligations and part of their faith. Like any other adherence of a particular faith, you would want to gain more and more adherence. This is your view of the truth and you would want to share that also. They want a very significant centennial celebration in two years’ time. And they have deemed it this necessary to lead to that,” Aquino said.
“‘Wag nating kalimutan, pinaalala rin sa atin, 2014 marks their centennial and...that would be a very major event in their calendar and these are activities geared towards maximizing ‘yung 2014 centennial celebration nila. These are the building actions towards that very grand event that they want,” he said.
Aquino is unperturbed that a number of INC members are perceived to be supportive of the Chief Justice. “How about the number who are supportive of our efforts?” he said.
But if he would have a message for the religious group, it would be to thank them for their support during the 2010 elections, his candidacy for the Senate in 2007 and his various initiatives.
“Nandun yung thank you. I’m sure they have been a partner like when I was still a congressman in Tarlac. Yung mga cleanliness drives, a lot of the warm bodies on the street actually performing it were members of their church. So for that, thank you rin,” Aquino said.
“Like any other Filipino, we are really endeavoring to provide each and everyone all the opportunity towards personal advancement, regardless of faith, regardless of political belief. Provision of this opportunity, I think, is the primary obligation and duty of the government,” he added.
INC spokesman Bienvenido Santiago yesterday said anyone, including President Aquino, is welcome to join the event. Aquino and the INC are reportedly at odds over some political decisions of the government.
Santiago said it is not the first time the INC will hold such an event.
“The INC has been holding such gatherings in various places on a regular basis since the time of its first Executive Minister, Brother Felix Y. Manalo, who established the INC’s first congregation in the Philippines in 1914,” he said.
“This religious activity is one of the means by which the Church propagates the teachings of God in the Bible that members of the INC believe to be essential for man’s salvation,” he added.
The Philippine National Police said it expects around two million to troop to the Quirino Grandstand. The event will start at 5:00 p.m.
Around 500 policemen have been tasked to secure the area.