Palace says INC leader's appointment as special envoy not a political accomodation
Malacanang denied on Thursday the appointment of Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) executive minister Eduardo V. Manalo as President Rodrigo Dutete's special envoy for overseas Filipinos concerns was a political accommodation.
In a press briefing, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said there was no violation on the separation of church and state in appointing Manalo as he would not also receive any salary or allowance from the government.
"There are two (aspects in the) separation of church and state: the free exercise of worship and the state's assurance that it will not endorse any faith. Mr. Eduardo Manalo was appointed because he really has the network, especially to other Filipinos working in different countries," he said.
He said the INC has six million members and it has been connecting with the overseas Filipino workers.
Roque added Manalo's appointment was not a political accommodation. "It's not a political payment," he said.
The INC, known for voting in bloc, supported Duterte's presidential bid in 2016.
Asked how the government could ensure government funds could not be used by Manalo to propagate his religion, Roque said, "what I know is we don't have budget for special envoys. That's the truth."
Thus, he said the Duterte administration could benefit from Manalo's network without spending any amount.
In a text message, Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno said the salary or allowance of a special envoy "depends on the nature of appointment. Some do, some don't."
But he could not say who among the current special envoys receive salary or allowance.
In a statement, Edwil Zabala, public information officer of INC, said INC thanks Duterte for his trust to Manalo. He said the entire INC is committed to help the Filipinos abroad. Celerina Monte/DMS