MANILA - Vice-President Jejomar Binay on Wednesday said he was not pandering to the interest of the politically influential Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) when he defended the religious sect's protest actions that snarled traffic along EDSA.
Speaking to reporters at the Amoranto Complex in Quezon City, Binay said his defense of the INC was just a "normal reaction" from a human rights lawyer.
He said the members of the INC had the right to peaceful assembly, even if it caused inconvenience to other people.
"Alam ninyo, hindi ko isinaalang-alang 'yong aking pagkakandidato. Ito ho ay normal na reaction lang ng isang, di mo naman maitatanggi, human rights lawyer. Kasi sinasabi, 'Bakit sila nasa kalye?' Pinapaliwanag at pinagdidiinan ko, sang-ayon sa Saligang Batas, meron kang freedom of speech, at 'yong pagpo-protesta is part of the freedom of speech," Binay said.
"Kung may inconvenience, sabi po ng Korte Suprema, ay consequence 'yan ng freedom of speech. But that must have to be accepted, the inconvenience caused, pero meron naman pong constitutional right," he added.
Thousands of Iglesia ni Cristo members trooped to the Department of Justice and then EDSA last August 27 to 31 to protest the justice chief's alleged meddling in the church's internal affairs. The protest came after former INC minister Isaias Samson Jr. filed illegal detention charges against 8 members of the INC Sanggunian.
(IN PHOTOS: Iglesia ni Cristo members gather at EDSA)
On Monday, INC general evangelist Bienvenido Santiago said talks with the government had ironed out problems and the protest was over, though he did not go into details.
"The INC and the government have met and in this discussion, the two parties have explained their sides and so it is all peaceful now," Santiago said.
The Iglesia ni Cristo (Church of Christ), or INC, has 2 million members, most in the provinces, who usually vote according to their leaders' advice, so it is courted by politicians and has influence on government appointments. With Reuters
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