Thousands gather near mall in Ortigas
MANILA (2nd UPDATE) - Thousands of members of the Iglesia Ni Cristo (INC) converged along EDSA amid an alleged order from the INC leadership to continue the group's protest near the historic EDSA Shrine.
A report on ABS-CBN's TV Patrol said INC members started gathering near a mall in EDSA-Ortigas starting 3 p.m. Some INC members have also started parking their vehicles near the mall.
Quezon City Mayor Herbert Bautista said the Iglesia did not apply for a permit to rally. The Mandaluyong city government has also not received a request for a permit to rally from the INC.
INC members interviewed by ABS-CBN said they convened in the area to express their support for the INC leadership, which was being accused of corruption and alleged abduction of INC ministers.
Police forces were deployed in the area as INC members started to flock to EDSA starting Friday night.
The EDSA gathering came a day after some 3,000 members of the INC mounted a street demonstration outside the Department of Justice compound to protest the alleged meddling of the DOJ into the affairs of the INC.
INC members have accused De Lima of meddling into the INC's affairs, and of giving special attention to the criminal charges filed by former INC minister Isaias Samson Jr. against members of the INC Sanggunian.
De Lima denied the accusation and said she was merely doing her job.
Malacanang said government has the duty to implement law and does not intend to meddle in the affairs of the Iglesia.
It said it trusts the expressions of dissent will continue to be peaceful and orderly and not disruptive.
NO CALL FOR AQUINO DOWNFALL: LAWYER
In an interview, Atty. Ferdinand Topacio said the INC gathering is an exercise of the right to peaceful assembly. He denied that the gathering is a form of bullying, saying INC members were just exercising their rights.
"Very selective [ang DOJ]. Bakit ito [complaint vs INC leaders] lang? Bakit ang bilis? Inuna pa ito. Kumbaga sa pila, inuna pa ito ang dami pang nakapila...Doon kami naguguluhan at doon naghihimagsik ang aming kalooban. Parang personal pa siyang interesado na guluhin po ang aming kapatiran. Ito po ay internal lang po sa amin," he told ABS-CBN News.
He also denied the religious group will seek the downfall of the Aquino administration.
"Hindi po namin gagawin yun. Kahit kailan po, hindi kami nagpabagsak ng kahit anong pamahalaan. Wala po kaming sinasaktan dito. Hindi po kami nanggugulo. May kaayusan po ang aming pagtitipon. Hindi po kami bayolenteng mga tao," he said.
Bambi Purisima of the Manila Public Information Office (PIO) said the INC filed for an extension of its permit to rally from August 29 to September 4 on United Nations Avenue, Padre Faura Street and Pedro Gil Street.
The permit was granted. However, members of the INC have left the protest in Manila and moved to EDSA.
Orders from church leaders
Meanwhile, a "tagubilin" allegedly issued by the INC leadership said members of the religious sect were instructed to gather along EDSA after attending services on Saturday. Some 20,000 members allegedly from Bulacan were expected to gather along EDSA, according to the alleged INC order.
The INC order also instructed members to rally for separation of church and state, an investigation into the Mamasapano massacre, the Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines and the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).
No INC member was allowed to call for the downfall of the government, the order said.
Crowd goes rowdy
INC protesters have occupied most parts of the road, leaving the Shaw-Ortigas portion of EDSA inaccessible to motorists.
Meanwhile, an ABS-CBN cameraman was mauled while covering the INC rally on EDSA.
Melchor Pinlac, a cameraman for ABS-CBN News, was punched several times by three unidentified individuals during the protest.
It was not clear if the assailants were members of the INC.
The religious sect was embroiled in a leadership crisis after the mother and siblings of INC executive minister Eduardo Manalo accused the 12-man Sanggunian of corruption involving billions of pesos in church funds or collections.
INFOGRAPHIC: Fast facts on Iglesia ni Cristo