INC lawyer Cuevas hits De Lima bias

MANILA, Philippines – Justice Secretary Leila de Lima's political aspiration became the target of known Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) lawyer Serafin Cuevas Jr in an interview over the religious denomination's television channel Saturday, August 29.

The interview was streamed live over multiple screens during the gathering of INC members Saturday.

The street action calls for De Lima to take her hands off a criminal complaint filed before the Department of Justice (DOJ) against INC leaders.

Cuevas said that by prioritizing the illegal detention complaint, it appeared that De Lima was asking the politically influential homegrown church for something related to the 2016 national elections.

Ngayon kung ano ang dahilan, kung meron siyang motibo, kung meron siyang agenda, sa atin ay hindi natin matatarok kaagad. Pero sa circumstances na ‘yun, parang lumilitaw meron siyang nais na hingin sa Iglesia,” Cuevas explained.

(Now, whatever her reason is, if she has any motive, if she has an agenda, that would be hard to ascertain. But based on the circumstances, it seems she wants something from INC.)

Dahil sa nabalitaan ko balak niyang, may political aspiration siya… Hindi niya na itinago ‘yun noong birthday niya na sabi niya from Point J to Point  S,” he added.

(Because from what I learned from the news she intends, she has a political aspiration.. She didn’t hide this during her birthday when she said from Point J to Point S.)

The INC lawyer was referring to the statement of De Lima supposedly referring to “J” as Justice Secretary and “S” as Senator.

Cuevas is the dean of the New Era University College of Law. He is the son of the late Former Supreme Court Associate Justice Serafin Cuevas.

INC's mass action was on its third day, with a lively crowd at the intersection of the historic Epifanio Delos Santos Avenue (EDSA) and Shaw Boulevard.

The street vigil started Thursday, August 27, in front of the DOJ in downtown Manila.

At EDSA-Shaw, Iglesia ni Cristo mass action continues with church TV channel streamed live #Rappler pic.twitter.com/GDhl5B6g9p — Buena Bernal (@buenabernal) August 29, 2015

Bias?

Cuevas spoke to NET 25 about the scope of the justice secretary's responsibilities in relation to the criminal complaint against INC leaders.

"Yung lang na nakita siya sa press coverage. Siya ang personally tumanggap nung reklamo? Bakit naman?" Cuevas questioned in a calm tone.

(That she even appeared in the press coverage [of the filing of the complaint]. She personally accepted the complaint. Why was it that way?)

Expelled INC minister Isaias Samson Jr, former editor-in-chief of their official publication Pasugo, earlier filed the serious illegal detention complaint. He alleged his family was barred from leaving their townhouse in Tandang Sora, Quezon City from July 16 until the early morning of July 23, lasting for about 7 days.

During the filing, De Lima personally appeared to the Samson family in an encounter reported on national television.

"Bakit siya bukod tangi? Eh ito namang paghain at pag-receive ng criminal complaint ng isang tao eh magagawa naman sa harap nung piskal... O kaya iri-receive lang sa docketing, pagkatapos dadalhin sa isang prosecutor na on duty para panumpaan 'yung reklamo na 'yun," he explained.

(Why is this complaint special? The filing and receiving of a criminal complaint of a person can be done before a prosecutor… Or it can simply be received at the docket and be brought later to a prosecutor on duty for the swearing in.)

“Putting all these circumstances together, there is a semblance already of partiality, bias, and prejudice against the church, more particularly against the respondents here,” he said.

Eagle News (Iglesia ni Cristo news program) anchor Ka Dante calls DOJ the Department of Selective Justice #Rappler pic.twitter.com/RvqoEynl2T — Buena Bernal (@buenabernal) August 29, 2015

Not the first time

This is not the first time in recent years that De Lima very publicly and personally entertained and spoke of the importance of a complaint filed before the DOJ in interviews.

The National Bureau of Investigation at the time officially released footage supporting Navarro's complaint.

At the height of the issue, then Customs Chief John "Sunny" Sevilla commented that a celebrity's extortion case should not take center stage.

Filing of counter-affidavit

During Saturday’s INC mass action, a video explainer was shown to the church’s flock which focused on bashing De Lima’s alleged intrusion. It also emphasized the importance of unity within the church.

It also explained the expulsion of certain INC ministers from the church: "Dalhin sa labas 'yung mga nanggugulo at naghahasik ng pagkakabahagi-bahagi (Take out the people who are causing chaos and spreading division in the church)."

Recently, an apparent church division allegedly driven by corruption within the century-old INC saw the expulsion of the mother and brother of Iglesia executive minister Eduardo Manalo. Younger brother Angel Manalo appealed for help in a video posted on YouTube, saying their lives were in danger.

A breakaway of the Roman Catholic Church in the Philippines, the INC has kept its operations largely secret. 

If elements outlined under Article 267 of the Revised Penal Code for serious illegal detention are present – among them, detention lasting more than 5 days – the alleged detention of Samson is a crime in the Philippines, regardless of the religious standing of the person or people who committed it.

The filing of the complaint, however, does not indicate automatic indictment.

Respondents are given a chance to file counteraffidavits during the preliminary investigation at the DOJ, before any finding of probable cause can be resolved.

A finding of probable cause will result in a court case. The actual hearings on the criminal complaint against the INC leaders have not even commenced. – Rappler.com