Overstepping the right to assemble

September 04,2015 - 10:48 AM

toon_4SEPT2015_FRIDAY_renelevera_IGLESIA'S PROTEST

Whether there was a deal or not between the national government and the Iglesia ni Cristo that ended the five-day picket at Edsa last Monday, one thing is crystal clear: the religious group won’t win any public support if it continues resorting to street protests that congest traffic and inconvenience  commuters and motorists.

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima was simply doing her job when she asked investigators to look into charges of illegal detention filed by one of the church leaders against the INC church hierarchy.

The INC leadership didn’t take kindly at  what it viewed as  government intrusion into its affairs and ordered its members to occupy parts of Edsa to ventilate their sentiments against  alleged government interference in their internal dispute.

As if to hammer home their displeasure, they also called on their members from across the country and even abroad to stage their own rallies as a show of force to the Aquino administration.

But while they may have shown to all and sundry their unity against  perceived government persecution, that wasn’t the case with the rest of the populace.

Thanks to social media, online posts flooded Facebook and Twitter accounts of Filipinos from practically all sectors denouncing the INC rally at Edsa which  displaced commuters and motorists for a few days.

The public outrage over fouled up traffic and transportation also coincided with mass-based support for the embattled justice secretary, including a statement from her most vocal critic Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte.

It had been speculated that De Lima may be the casualty of this INC controversy as she may find herself  jobless in the next few days or weeks. If that’s the case, then based on the outpouring of support, she may win some votes for her  senatorial bid though she certainly won’t win points from the vaunted INC bloc.

Regardless of her political future, the recent INC rally is a useful reminder for future administrations on how to handle rallies staged by influential religious or sectoral groups without inconveniencing the riding public.

The INC rally at Edsa was generally peaceful except for reports of confrontations  with some reporters and cameramen. In other parts of the country like Cebu City, they were peaceful non-events. Local INC leaders coordinated with city traffic officials on their rally plans which were thankfully cancelled due to the INC leadership’s decision.

The right to express one’s grievances is enshrined in the Constitution, but availing of this right comes with the responsibility to respect other people’s right to safety and comfort.

That simple rule was  conveniently overlooked or ignored by the INC members who gathered at Edsa last week, and the public backlash reminded them that they should not overstep the bounds of their right to assemble.

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TAGS: church, government, Iglesia ni Cristo, Inc., traffic

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