(Eagle News) — Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said that the Philippine government would want to “tap the network” of the Iglesia Ni Cristo (INC) or Church of Christ which has around 6,000 congregations worldwide in addressing the concerns of Filipinos across the globe.
This he said was the reason why President Rodrigo Duterte appointed INC Executive Minister Brother Eduardo V. Manalo as special envoy for overseas Filipinos’ concerns.
“Meron po talagang network si Mr. Eduardo Manalo sa iba’t ibang Pilipino na nagtatrabaho sa iba’t ibang mga bansa (Mr. Eduardo Manalo has a network of various Filipinos working in different countries),” Roque said in a press conference in Malacanang while citing the 6,000 congregations of the INC spread across the globe.
“At matagal na po sila na gumagalaw sa hanay ng mga overseas Filipino workers (And they have long been helping and performing acts in service to overseas Filipino workers),” he said.
Roque said that it is this vast network of the INC across the globe through its members spread in 142 countries worldwide that the Philippine government wanted to make use of, particularly at this time that there were many reports of abuses suffered by OFWs, especially domestic helpers, in the hands of their foreign employers.
He explained that the Church and its members had also proven their capability in helping their countrymen in various regions across the globe. The INC has been engaged in community and socio-civic projects, including the “Kabayan Ko, Kapatid Ko” or “My Countrymen, My Brethren” and various “Aid for Humanity” or Lingap sa Mamamayan” programs.
“So yun po ang ating nais ma-tap—yung network at yung napatunayan nang kakayahan nila ng kanilang organisasyon na pangalagaan ang kapakanan ng ating mga kababayan sa iba’t ibang mga bansa (So that really is what we want to tap — that network and the proven capability of their organization to care for the interest of our countrymen in various countries),” Roque said while noting that these INC projects also help those who are non-members of the Church.
“Yun po ang dahilan kung bakit siya naitalaga (That is the reason why he was appointed),” he added.
The Palace spokesperson also explained there was no violation of the separation of the Church and State doctrine in the appointment of the INC Executive Minister as special envoy for overseas Filipinos’ concerns, and that there is no honorarium or any budgetary allocation for the position of a special envoy.
“Ang alam ko po wala tayong budget for special envoy, yan po ang katotohanan. So kaya nga po tayo ang makikinabang sa kanyang network. Hindi naman po natin siya popondohan yung kanyang trabaho (What I know is that there is no budget for special envoy, that is the truth. So that is why we are going to benefit from his network. We will not give him funds in his work),” Roque told reporters in Malacanang.
He said that the INC had long been extending help to those in need overseas, whatever faith they belong to. He said the appointment was simply the government’s recognition of this fact.
“Kumbaga ginagawa na nila yun. Sa pagtatalaga sa kanya, siguro nire-recognize na rin natin yung kanilang ginagawa sa mga nakalipas na taon (In effect, they have long been doing this. So with this appointment, we most likely recognize what they have been doing in the past years,” Roque said.
“At pinapaigting pa natin na sana ay maging mas malawak pa ang kanilang tulong na ibinibigay sa ating mga OFWs (And we will strengthen this further, that hopefully this will be wider in scope — the help that they are extending to our OFWs),” he said.
He also defended the appointment amid allegations by detractors that it was merely a “political accommodation.”
“Hindi po yan bayad pulitika (This is not a political payback),” the Presidential spokesperson said.
“Siguro po itong mga pangyayari ngayon — na nagiging biktima ng pang-aabuso ang ating mga OFWs — ang naging udyok na matalaga itong si Mr. Manalo dahil nga sa kanyang — gaya ng sinabi ko po kanina – malawak na network at serbisyo sa ating mga kababayan (Most likely, because of what is happening now — that our OFWs are becoming victims of abuse — this prompted us to appoint Mr. Manalo because of his — like what I said earlier — wide network and service to our countrymen),” he noted.
– Addressing Overseas Filipinos’ concerns
Roque said that President Duterte also believes in the competency of Brother Eduardo Manalo which is why he appointed him as his special envoy for Overseas Filipinos’ concerns.
“Siempre po, di naman siya itatalaga kung wala siyang napatunayang serbisyo sa ating mga kababayan na nakatira sa ibat ibang bansa (Surely, he will not be appointed absent proof of previous service to our countrymen who are living in different countries),” he said in answer to questions on this during the press conference.
He said the President has faith in Brother Eduardo and that his appointment would further the government’s aim to strengthen the provision of services and help to OFWs.
“Siguro po ang naging marching order sa pagtatalaga sa kanya sa panahon na nangyari nga itong mga pag-abuso sa mga kababayan natin ay mas paigtingin pa ang paninilbihan sa ating mga OFWs (Most likely, the marching order in his appointment were the recent circumstances of and incidents of abuse of our countrymen and the need to further service our OFWs),” he said.
Meanwhile, the Iglesia Ni Cristo through a statement released by its Public Information Office (INC-PIO) on Thursday, February 15, thanked the President for the trust that he placed on the INC leader.
“Nagpapasalamat po tayo sa Mahal na Pangulong Rodrigo Roa Duterte sa kanilang pagtitiwala po sa Kapatid na Eduardo V. Manalo,” said Brother Edwil Zabala of the INC Public Information Office.
INC minister Zabala said that the whole of the INC membership is united with Brother Eduardo in extending assistance for the welfare of fellow Filipinos.
“Ang buong kapatiran ng Iglesia Ni Cristo po ay kaisa ng Ka Eduardo na tutulong sa mga kababayan po natin nasaan man po para sa kanilang kapakanan. Kagaya po ng inilunsad na programa po ng Ka Eduardo noon pa, ang ‘Kabayan Ko, Kapatid Ko’–sa abot ng ating makakaya ay lilingap po tayo sa mga kababayan natin nasaan man po sila.”
(with a release from INC-PIO)