INC ends protest; De Lima mum on ‘deal’

MANILA — Justice Secretary Leila de Lima remained mum on the demands made by the Iglesia ni Cristo and the alleged agreement that the sect’s leaders reportedly reached with Malacañang on Monday.

She was seen in a photo provided by Malacañang attending a meeting with President Aquino and other Cabinet members on Sunday night.

The Secretary used to answer reporters’ queries or comments through text messages during weekends but she did not reply to any over the weekend. Her last known reply was “Thank you,” to a television reporter who informed her Friday night that she has become a trending topic in social media.

Prosecutor General Claro Arellano said on Monday that no prosecutor has been assigned yet to the cases filed by expelled INC minister Isaias Samson Jr. and his family against members of the Sanggunian, the sect’s highest administrative body.

Aside from Samson, a former member, Lito Fruto, also lodged last Wednesday a complaint against the INC council members for allegedly ordering his arrest on a false charge when he tried to help members of the Manalo family who were ordered expelled by the INC leadership.

Expressing fears of a whitewash, Samson’s lawyers Trixie Cruz-Angeles and Ahmed Paglinawan, in a statement, called on President Aquino and Interior Secretary Mar Roxas to disclose the alleged agreement to the public.

“What is the nature of this agreement? What are its conditions and terms? It is our client who had unintentionally set off these events by filing his case, yet somehow we have not been included in this so-called agreement. Assuming of course there is one,” they said.

“There are two things you need to do, sirs, speaking as part of the body you call your bosses. First is to be transparent with your agreement. Tell us whether or not you’ve sold our client down the river or tell us if you haven’t. But you need to disclose this to us. 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 added.

The two lawyers also said they wanted the government to assure Samson and his family that their complaint would be given due process and treated fairly.

“[Y]ou must guarantee our client a fair hearing at preliminary investigation. 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,” they said.

The lawyers warned that the non-disclosure of the alleged agreement and the secret talks that led to it might also hurt the government’s credibility in resolving the cases filed by Samson.

“[Y]ou would not have raised so many doubts had you been transparent with these proceedings, had you included our client. Whether you stood up to defend him, or sold him out, he had and has the right to know. Instead, you conducted it in secret, and now you have made your ability to deliver justice subject to a very real, very reasonable suspicion,” they said.

Angeles and Paglinawan also said they were not surprised that INC leaders were very vocal about the understanding reached with the government.

“The idea is to make the public feel that they had flexed their muscle and the government has responded in a manner favorable to them. The idea is to make us feel that in relation to whatever it is they were rallying for (or against), the government has capitulated. And sadly that capitulation may involve trampling on the rights of our client,” they said.