The good, the bad, and the ugly of the INC protests…

If this is what salvation is, then count me out. I’m having none of it. I’d rather burn in hell than be a mindless imbecile, following the orders of the higher ups. You cannot say no, you cannot opt yourself out. It’s as if the freedom of choice and the function to think was taken away from you. You just say “YES” and do it without even knowing why you are doing it or at the very least understand why you are asked to do it.

Yes, I was stuck in EDSA Shaw for 4 hours last Friday because members of Iglesia ni Cristo, driven by bravado and the need to showcase their power, decided to occupy EDSA starting from EDSA Shrine up to EDSA-Crossings area, harping on separation of Church and State and that the DOJ to leave them alone. I was tired from loads of work, hungry and in serious need of sleep but I had to endure since the jeepney I’m riding was literally inching its way going to Pasig coz INC protesters effectively clogged up that intersection in Shaw. This is not the first time I had a very, very unpleasant encounter with the INC. 2 years ago, back when I was still doing pro bono work for Philippine Rugby Football Union (PRFU) as Liaison officer assigned to assist teams visiting the country for IRB and ARFU official Rugby tournaments. I was assigned to liaise for United Arab Emirates (UAE) National Rugby Team at that time. Everything was arranged 2 weeks before the team arrives — hotel accommodations, food plans, transpo, training and game schedules. All games and training were held at the historic Rizal Memorial Stadium so needless to say, we have to file for permit to train and play to PSC months before the actual tournament will happen so we can “legally” and rightfully use RMS. PSC’s policy was “first come, first served” basis. We were granted the schedule for the venue 2 weeks before the UAE arrived. Imagine my surprise when me and the whole UAE team went to RMS Football field and we were denied entry to the pitch. I asked the guards why and showed them that we were booked for that specific day to train on the field. Still they refused us entry and one of the guards said, “Mam, nakareserba ho kasi ito para sa Sports Fest ng Iglesia Ni Cristo, hindi ho pwedeng gamitin.” I was shocked. Dumbfounded even coz as I said, we have it booked and PSC gave us the permission to use it. So why am I being denied entry and usage of the field? I was fuming and went straight to PSC’s office in RMS. I asked and demanded an explanation from the field custodian why we can’t use the field while we have it booked and reserved. The guy in the PSC office just said our reservation was cancelled out to give way for the INC Sports Fest. Unbelievable. I told him. Why are we being informed just now? Still fuming and almost at the point of whacking the field custodian’s face with a chair, I asked if we can use the adjacent baseball field instead. Thankfully he agreed. So we went and train on the baseball field, problematic with poor lights. The field was devoid of grass so injuries and bruises were not impossible to get. Left with no other choice (talaga pong nakakahiya sa national team ng UAE), my charges went on with their training. I chanced upon the baseball field custodian, Mang Gerry (I hope my memory served me well with the name). With a smile on his face, Mang Gerry calmly approached me (while fuming) and said “Mam, pasensya na ho sa abala ano. Alam ko ho eh na-hassle kayo at ang team nyo. Mangyari ho kasi ang amin hong boss ay miyembro ng INC. Natanggal ho yung reservation ninyo para mag-give way sa Sports Fest nila. Syempre ho sinusunod lang ho namin yung utos sa taas. Ako na po ang humihingi ng dispensa.” I don’t know what to feel really. The policy clearly says that whoever gets to book first, will get the venue. So ano ito, power tripping?!? Just coz you are the boss, you’ll prioritize you first at the expense of everyone else?!? O_O unbelievable. really. This is just the same with what is happening right now in EDSA-Shaw. A showcase of bravado and power. Just coz they have the numbers and they feel that they have all the rights to occupy a national highway and stage a protest, they’ll just do it without a care to everyone else. It is pretty much a reflection of their mentality of “Kami lang ang maliligtas, dahil kami lang ang kaanib ng Iglesia.” O sige, kayo lang kaya wala na kayong pakialam sa iba? Ganun? Ayan tayo eh, pagiisip na mali.

I’m all for equal rights, the right to practice whatever belief you may have, freedom of expression and all but, all these rights, it has an equivalent responsibility to it. You want to stage a protest, why not. This democratic constitution allows it. But to infringe and hamper other people’s right while exercising yours, that’s just the most selfish act any human being can commit. We execute and practice our rights but never to the expense of other people. Mabuti pa ang mga miyembro ng “Makabayan Bloc” our activists. The issues they are fighting for, it is precise, clear, and for the benefit of everyone including you guys in INC. That I can understand and can forgive. But your issues, separation of church and state, for DOJ to leave you alone and not meddle with your affairs, that we cannot understand. You ask for separation of church and state? How ironic coz you guys are the ones practicing block voting. Isn’t it that influencing the state by the church? You ask that the DOJ should leave you alone and why De Lima is paying a special attention to the cases filed against your higher ups? This I think is not the fault of DOJ. Blame your ministers who filed the case. It was them who opened that whole can of worms inside your church. It is under DOJ’s mandate to address each and every case filed by every resident of this state. It is quite clear in the constitution. Second, De Lima giving special attention the the cases filed against you? That or you are just scared that this whole investigation will bring every evil, nasty things inside your church to light? No one is above the law, no one is immune and no one is exempted, not even a religious sect like you.

I would admit that last Friday, I was in rage. But right now, all I feel for these INC people is pity. They are too brainwashed to see the truth. And because of that, I feel that they will not let up and vacate wherever place they are occupying for protest. Wala eh, they just don’t understand. Or they refuse to understand and see the bigger picture here. Pity.

I pity you to be honest. And I’ll pray that your eyes be opened and your hearts and mind be enlightened. Look around you, all the trash brought about your protests. All the people, left without a choice but to walk to get to their destinations, bus, taxi, and jeepney drivers who lost their days’ worth of income coz it’s way to traffic to ferry people to and from destinations. A day without income means a day of starving stomachs for their family. Students who missed school. patients who arrived DOA to hospitals just coz you are getting in their way. How long will you let this happen? Days? Weeks? Months? We are inter-related. Everything we do has or can have an effect to other people hence we cannot be selfish and do whatever we please because people around us will suffer the after-effect. Put your shoes to ours and let me know how you feel if you are forced to live with other people’s shit and selfishness? Does it feel good? Does it float your boat? Does it make you a good follower of your church? Are you really following the bible’s teaching when in fact it harps on being selfless, thinking of other people’s welfare as well. Think. This is the reason why God gave us brains, for us to think. Be not just a number used by someone for their own agenda. If you love your God and you follow his teachings by the book, ask yourself what exactly are you doing there, standing at the intersection of EDSA-Shaw and making other people’s lives miserable.

Again. Think.

And to all politicians, TRAPO, capitalizing on this event, let me remind you that you are now being judged by the public on whether you have the balls to stand by what is right, not giving in to potential number of votes you can get from INC. It always has to be for the good of the many over the few. It will do you good to remember that.

“We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark. The real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.”  – Plato

Yours in faith,

The Writer