Right of peaceful assembly
Published by the Visayan Daily Star
Editor-in-Chief & President
Bureau Chief, Dumaguete
MAJA P. DELY
|CARLOS ANTONIO L. LEONARDIA
The Iglesia ni Cristo is getting a lot of flak from people in Metro Manila for the inconvenience that the rallies of the church had caused. Metro Manila's traffic, without the assembly is already a pandemonium and has caused a lot of irritants.
The INC assembly should be seen as an exercise of the right to peacefully assemble for redress of grievance. Assemblies as large as those of the INC necessarily involve disruptions of people's routine. The INC assembly and rally is no different from those of militant groups and all sorts of demonstrators to express their grievance against the government.
One does not need to agree to their cause but each citizen must respect the right of people even of disruptive assembly, provided the law is followed.
The INC has never been known to express their political activism in a public rally as what happened in Metro Manila. This shows that they have reached a level of political crusading, a departure from their well-known distancing from public political struggle. They prefer to express their political preferences in the elections.
The issue raised by the INC demonstrators involves their perception that the Department of Justice is interfering in their internal problems. It does not seem to them a government concern that some of their leaders have sought the county's judicial system to seek what the complainants considered a threat to the lives and their liberties.
The aggrieved members of the INC brought their concerns to the public domain and the Department of Justice is left without a choice but to act in accordance with law and its mandate. To refuse to act would indict the DOJ of criminal negligence.
The issues are no longer matters of religious beliefs that should be left to the internal grievance system of the INC but of criminal complaint that is beyond the competence of any religious organization.
The government must respect and protect the INC in its exercise of a constitutional right to express dismay over perceived bias of the DOJ as it does with other legitimate protests against government perceived ineptitude or persecution.
There should be balance in the exercise of freedom and enforcement of the law. Unless each respects the other, the nation sinks into chaos.*