Aquino woos INC

Published : Wednesday, March 14, 2012 00:00 Article Views : 3,644 Written by : Jomar Canlas, Reporter

IT was a cordial meeting capped by a hearty lunch that the visitor thought could save what was left of their alliance. In the end, all he got was a “lecture” on poverty alleviation and judicious land distribution.

This was how an insider described a recent meeting between President Benigno Aquino 3rd and Iglesia ni Cristo (INC or Church of Christ) spiritual leader Eduardo Manalo after the former paid an unannounced visit to the latter recently in a bid to win back the group’s waning support.

An unimpeachable source of The Manila Times said that Aquino was accompanied by his youngest sister Kris when he went to see Manalo at the Sentral, the group’s headquarters in Quezon City (Metro Manila).

The Aquinos received a warm welcome from the host and left only after they had lunch. Members of the Presidential Security Group tasked to secure the President were kept outside the meeting area since it was deemed highly confidential.

The Times’ source claimed that Aquino decided to try to make amends with the INC after the group organized a big rally in front of the Supreme Court on February 21 to show support for impeached Chief Justice Renato Corona.

On February 28, the group held a Bible exposition at the Quirino Grandstand in Manila that was attended by close to a million members.

Many saw the supposed evangelical mission as a message to the President and a show of force against Malacañang, which has been working for the conviction of Corona by the Senate sitting as an impeachment court.

Initially, the source said that Mr. Aquino congratulated Manalo on the success of the prayer rally at Luneta and thanked him for the INC’s support during his stint as representative of Tarlac province and senator, as well as when he ran for President.

Later, the Chief Executive brought up the issue on Corona’s impeachment, which the INC is opposing. He supposedly explained that he is pushing for the conviction of Corona only to pursue his principle of “daang matuwid [straight path].”

He told Manalo that he considers Corona as a stumbling block to his programs against corruption and good governance.

But the source claimed that Aquino’s explanations fell on deaf ears and got no positive response from the INC chief. Instead, Manalo stressed that Aquino should focus on improving the lives of poor Filipinos.

Manalo also urged Aquino to give his government a clear direction, arguing that the real problems right now are poverty and landlessness.

“Dapat siguro magkaroon ng direksiyon ang gobyerno para matugunan ang kahirapan. ‘Yan ang problema ngayon. Maraming walang lupa at maraming mahihirap [Maybe the right direction is for government to address poverty. That is the problem right now. Many are landless and many are poor],” the source quoted Manalo as telling Aquino.

The Aquinos are sensitive to the issue of land because they own the 6,000-hectare Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac that was recently ordered distributed to its tillers by the High Tribunal.

Corona, in recent interviews and speeches, pointed out that the reason why the President was very eager to have him replaced was because he supported the decision to distribute the sugar estate.

Aquino’s visit to INC headquarters, particularly to Manalo, was very significant following a perceived rift that was stirred by several controversies, including the impeachment of Corona and the sacking of INC members from the Aquino government.

Aquino, who was still a candidate for president in 2010, visited the Sentral along with his sisters to get the support of the group that commands the votes of some three million members.

The relationship became sour after Aquino won the presidency. He allegedly ignored the INC and the appointments in government of prominent INC members such as retired Justice Artemio Tuquero as Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) representative for the academe were junked.

Tuquero also gunned for the Office of the Ombudsman, but the post was instead given to retired High Court Justice Conchita Carpio-Morales.

Only recently, former police general Magtanggol Gatdula was relieved as chief of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI). Like Tuquero, Gatdula is an active INC member.

Mr. Aquino further drew the ire of the INC when he allegedly bragged that he could have easily won the presidency even without the group’s backing.

Gatdula was deemed to be the first casualty of war between Aquino and the INC since the impeachment of Corona, whose lead counsel is retired Justice Serafin Cuevas, also an active INC member.

The Times source pointed out that Gatdula earlier tendered his resignation to Aquino as a “graceful exit.” However, Gatdula was humiliated after Justice Secretary Leila de Lima held a press conference where she announced that Gatdula was sacked and that criminal and administrative charges were being readied against him in connection with the alleged extortion on Japanese woman Noriyo Ohara by NBI agents late last year.

The INC leadership was reportedly pressured by Malacañang to ask Cuevas to withdraw from the case but when he refused, Gatdula was sacked.

Controversial Presidential Adviser on Political Affairs Ronald Llamas allegedly approached a Spiritual Minister of the INC to talk to Cuevas to withdraw from his appearance as defense lawyer for Corona.

Llamas reportedly had a conversation with INC Minister Erano Codera to convince Cuevas to withdraw from the case. Codera is the chief liaison officer of the INC, replacing Resty Lazaro.

When Codera talked to Cuevas, the 83-year old lawyer refused by saying that he was already committed to defend Corona. He argued that as a lawyer, he should defend his client and not abandon him.

ginagapang na ulit ni ***** ang inc pak!
at mukhang walang nangyari chos!