WATCH: Full comment of Grace Poe on INC issue

NUEVA ECIJA, Philippines – Amid criticisms hurled at religious group Iglesia Ni Cristo, Senator Grace Poe said INC members have the right to defend their beliefs.

Poe, front runner in presidential preference surveys, said Justice Secretary Leila De Lima should explain to INC members the “merits” of the case.

De Lima is now the subject of INC’s anger after ex-minister Isaias Samson filed an illegal detention case against INC leaders before the DOJ.

While Poe admitted she is not privy to the INC case, she said there are other cases like the SAF 44 that should be given importance.

“Siyempre magtataka ka rin bakit ang tutok doon, samantalang, halimbawa yung ibang mga kaso ng gobyerno wala naman silang witnesses pa, na naka-hold. Halimbawa, tinatanong ko, 'Mayroon na ba kayong nakuha doon sa Mamasapano massacre?' Mayroon na raw mga inimbestigahan pero wala pa namang naka-witness protection at least, sa pagkakaalam ko,” Poe said on Friday, August 28 after her speaking engagement in Nueva Ecija.

(Of course, you'll also wonder why the focus is on that while, for example, other cases of the government don't have witnesses yet and are put on hold. For example, I've asked them, 'Do you already have information on the Mamasapano massacre?' They said they are already investigating some people but there are still no one under the witness protection [program], as far as I know.)

INC, which has up to 1.37 million Filipino voters, or 2.6% of the voting population, practices bloc voting, prompting many politicians to court them during election season.

Poe said religious freedom should not be taken lightly. After all, it is a Constitutional right. 

“'Wag din natin maliitin ang importansya ng relihiyon. Ang mga tao na 'yan, ang dinedepensahan nila ay ang kanilang paniniwala. Nirerespeto natin 'yan at kailangan pangalagaan din ang kanilang karapatan,” Poe said. 

(Let’s not belittle the importance of religion. Those people are only defending their faith. We respect that, and we should also respect their rights.) – Rappler.com