MANILA - Malacañang on Thursday said President Rodrigo Duterte’s appointment of Iglesia Ni Cristo (INC) executive minister Eduardo Manalo as his special envoy for overseas Filipinos’ concerns was not payback for the church's support for his 2016 presidential bid.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said recent reports of abuses committed against overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) may have compelled the President to tap Manalo and his vast network abroad.
“Hindi iyan bayad politikal. Siguro itong mga nangyayari na nagiging biktima ng abuso ang OFWs eh naging udyok na matalaga itong si Mr. Manalo dahil nga sa kaniyang malawak na network at serbisyo,” Roque said in a news conference in Malacañang.
Roque also said Manalo’s appointment does not violate the principle of the separation of state and church under the Constitution.
“May nagtanong na rin sa akin kahapon kung naba-violate ba raw ang separation of church and state. Hindi po. Kasi ang separation of church and state dalawa po iyan: iyong kalayaan na magkaroon ng pananampalataya; at saka iyong kasiguraduhan na ang estado mismo ay hindi magi-endorso ng isang pananampalataya,” he said.
Manalo is the eldest son of the late INC executive minister Eraño Manalo. His grandfather, Felix Manalo, founded the influential religious group.
The INC, known for its bloc-voting practice, endorsed Duterte in the 2016 national elections.