Brief inconvenience

DCOTT operation slightly paralyzed at INC protest in front of Hall of Justice
THE OPERATIONS of the Davao City Land Transport Terminal (DCOTT) were slightly paralyzed when the police-estimated 60,000 members of Iglesia ni Cristo massed up along Candelaria Street in front of Hall of Justice yesterday morning.

Alejendro Alilin, general manager of DCOTT, told TIMES that their operations started to get affected around 2 a.m., lasting for seven hours and 30 minutes.

“On normal days, the DCOTT would cater about 25 to 30,000 passengers and an average of 650 bus trips with about P60,000 collections daily,”Alilin sad.

The terminal manager also ordered to open gate 5 of the terminal where buses can enter and exit since the members of the INC congested gates 1 and 2 of the terminal.

Separation of state from church

During the rally, the INC members—who arrived in trucks and buses—questioned Justice Secretary Leila de Lima’s motive in taking over the case filed by expelled INC member Isaias Samson Jr., the former editor of Pasugo, the official publication of the INC, against eight members of the INC governing council.

Allan Ladera, INC member in-charge of Davao West, said that they are gathering to air their rights.

“What we are doing is to fight for our religion, the right to have our own faith and the right to and the principle of the separation of the church and state,” he said.

On the other hand, lawyer Caesar Europa, Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) governor of Eastern Mindanao Region, said that the separation of the church and state does not mean immunity from investigation by government if there is a complaint of criminal acts.

“It means that religious groups should be free from government interference in their affairs for as long as no laws are violated,” Europa added.

INC rally ends

The INC members ended their rally yesterday at 9:30 a.m. despite obtaining a permit for three days from the city government.

Bienvenido Santiago, INC general evangelist, in a video statement posted by INC-owned Eagle News, said officials of INC have agreed yesterday to stop their nationwide protest after government and church leaders have come to a “peaceful agreement.”

“We would like to inform you all that the side of the Iglesia and the side of the government have talked. Both sides have clarified matters, so all is alright now,” Santiago said.

The arrangement was not revealed, however.

Peace and order

Ground commander, Chief Insp. Alfredo Santillana, said that about 150 police personnel were deployed to the area to secure the INC members. The Traffic Group and the City Transportation and Traffic Management Office were also deployed to the area to avoid road gridlock.

“So far, no untoward incident was reported,” said Santillana adding that the flow of traffic was smooth.

Chief Insp. Milgrace Driz, spokesperson of the Davao City Police Office, assured that the DCPO is always ready for any emergency.

Driz added that police officers assigned in Marilog, Toril, Bunawan and Calinan who are also members of the INC joined the Task Force Davao to identify the INC members along the checkpoints who will enter the city.

Based on the report posted in Rappler, Mayor Rodrigo Duterte on Saturday ordered the police and the members of Task Force Davao to provide security to the members of the INC.

“No, no, no anti-riot police. They are not bad people. It is their right but we must make sure everyone has access to a public facility,” said Duterte.

Duterte also said he sympathizes with de Lima in light of the attacks by the INC members.

“What is being sought there is the intervention,” he said. “Of course! I sympathize with her although in the past we had an exchange of words. Those are days, work ‘yon. She has a duty. I have mine.”

But Duterte added that the case should have remained at the prosecution’s office instead of the DOJ taking over.

“It should have been handled by the fiscal,” the mayor’s statement said. “But if you give it too much importance, it seems like you are asking for attention. I am not saying that De Lima was asking for one.”