Outspoken human rights advocate and constitutional law expert Harry Roque on Thursday said that the cases being filed against officials of the Iglesia ni Cristo should not lead “to bigotry and the oppression of the church and its members” considering the INC’s contribution to the country’s history and culture.
Roque, a former full-time professor of international and constitutional law at the University of the Philippines’ College of Law and now Kabayan Party-list first nominee, said that he was alarmed at how “unproven cases have sparked bigotry against INC members that reflects religious intolerance that had hitherto been virtually non-existent among our countrymen.”
“Some INC members have called this bigotry and it’s hard not to agree with them given the comments of some netizens online. Many forget that the accused officials are Filipino citizens and are entitled to the same rights you and I enjoy, including the presumption of innocence,” explained Roque.
“Their being part of a religious minority does not mean they deserve less in law; on the contrary, because they’re a minority the more they deserve its full protection,” said the UP-trained lawyer.
“Don’t get me wrong. Justice should be served. However, we should not be quick to condemn the church and its flock based on some TV interviews. What is tragic here is that allegations of wrongdoing are now damaging an institution that is part of Philippine history and culture,” Roque added.
“The INC is a homegrown Filipino church that has started from humble beginnings to attract millions, including non-Filipinos, into its fold all over the world. Wherever it goes, it spreads not only its religious teachings but our language and our culture as well,” stressed Roque.
According to Roque, the INC also promotes “good morality and civic values among its faithful—something the country badly needs now.”
INC officials are facing serious illegal detention charges at the Department of Justice after ex-minister Isaias Samson Jr. alleged that he and his family were harassed and detained upon their orders. Another former minister, Lowell Menorca II, has made similar accusations.