MANILA, Philippines – The chief of staff of 2016 front runner Senator Grace Poe on Monday, August 31, defended her against alleged violation of anti-graft law for supporting the Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) while it was protesting government's investigation of its leaders.
Lawyer Nelson Victorino said Poe did not ask Justice Secretary Leila De Lima to stop the investigation. She was only recognizing INC's freedom of expression and right to peacefully assemble.
"Senator Poe did not persuade, induce, or influence Secretary De Lima to commit any violation of the law. In her statements, she did not even suggest that Secretary De Lima stop the investigation of the complaint against INC personalities. She acknowledges that it is her duty to investigate criminal complaints," Victorino said in a statement.
"But she also recognizes that the INC members enjoy certain freedom like freedom of expression and the right to peacefully assemble to express themselves within the bounds of the law," he added.
In an interview recorded on video – a transcript of which was released by Poe's camp – the senator said De Lima should explain to INC members the “merits” of the case. (WATCH: Full comment of Senator Grace Poe on INC issue)
But Victorino's statement was a response to lawyer Trixie Cruz-Angeles, who was earlier quoted saying Poe may be charged with violation of the anti-graft for her statements. She is the lawyer of expelled INC minister Isaias Samson Jr, who filed the the illegal detention case against the current members of the INC Sanggunian.
“It is an act of graft if someone asks the DOJ not to act on a criminal complaint,” Angeles was quoted in a report of the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
Poe, alongwith Vice President Jejomar Binay, received flak from netizens for statements supporting INC. (READ: INC, Grace Poe, and other graceless spectacles)