MANILA – The Palace on Monday dismissed insinuations that the government reached a questionable deal with the Iglesia Ni Cristo (INC) in exchange for the voluntary dispersal of the group's protesting members along EDSA.
''There was no deal struck, as some insinuate. The talks gave both sides an opportunity to clarify issues and concerns,'' said deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte.
Valte's statement echoes the one earlier given by Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, who said the government and the leaders of the politically influential religious group had talks that gave the two sides the chance to "clarify issues."
In a statement, Roxas said the government and the INC were able to clarify the issue. He, however, did not elaborate on what the government and the INC discussed.
''Noong mga nakaraang araw ay tahimik na nakipag-ugnayan ang pamahalaan sa mga lider ng INC. Naging pagkakataon ito upang magkaroon ng paglilinaw ukol sa mga isyu,'' Roxas said.
The Manila and EDSA protests of INC were triggered by the illegal detention complaint filed by expelled INC minister Isaias Samson Jr. against eight members of the INC's Sanggunian before the DOJ.
INC members branded the DOJ's move to accept the complaint as selective justice and demanded that the government respect the separation of state and church, even as law experts note that this was a ministerial function and a duty of the department, headed by Secretary Leila de Lima.
The DOJ has not taken action yet on the complaint. It has only been filed and has not yet been assigned to a prosecutor or panel of prosecutors, which is the first step in the preliminary investigation.
INC general evangelist Bienvenido Santiago announced Monday that the church leadership has decided to end the protests, citing an ''agreement'' reached between the INC and the government.
Samson's lawyers, Trixie Angeles and Ahmed Paglinawan, however, said the agreement could be detrimental to the case filed by the expelled INC minister.
''The fear now is that given the so-called agreement, a finding of 'no probable cause' to make this nightmare go away for the INC's Sanggunian is a very real possibility. And your silence is not helping,'' the lawyers said in a statement addressed to President Aquino and Roxas.
Samson's lawyers called for transparency from government with respect to the so-called agreement.
''A criminal case is not a political pawn. The law provides that it cannot be compromised. The president can grant pardons and issue clemency and amnesty. But you do not have the power to refuse prosecution,'' they said. -- report from Willard Cheng, ABS-CBN News
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