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Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque made the statement in a Palace news briefing on Thursday, in response to questions about the appointment of the religious leader as President Rodrigo Duterte's Special Envoy for Overseas Filipino Concerns.
On whether there is a violation of the principle of separation of church and state, he said, "None, because there are two elements to separation of church and state: the freedom to practice your religion and certainty that government will not endorse any religion."
He also denied that Manalo's appointment was "political accommodation" owing to the political influence of the INC, a religious denomination known to vote as a bloc during elections. (READ: How potent is the INC's vote delivery system?)
The religious leader, said Roque, was appointed because of the INC's "established network" with OFWs.
"They have an established network and they have projects where OFWs benefit – not just their members but other Filipinos," Roque said in Filipino.
Manalo will also not be paid a government salary for his work as a special envoy, said Duterte's spokesman.
"We will benefit from his network, we won't be paying him for his work," said Roque.
Manalo is the first INC Executive Minister to be appointed to a government post. He became the third INC head in September 2009, taking over from his father, the late Eraño Manalo. – Rappler.com
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at email@example.com.