By Perseus Echeminada (The Philippine Star)
Leaders of the Iglesia ni Cristo are seeking to stop the publication of a book which they claim contains “outright blasphemy” towards the religious sect’s late founder Felix Manalo by likening the INC to a criminal syndicate.
In asking for a temporary restraining order, INC lawyer Abraham Espejo told Judge Ofelia Marquez of Quezon City regional trial court Branch 216 that the 186-page book, “Power and the Glory: The Cult of Manalo,” by Baguio-based writer Ross Tipon is a direct assault on freedom of religion and seeks to destroy the image of the INC.
“The publication of the criminal manuscript will trigger social unrest,” he said. “Millions of people may come out in the streets and this may lead to violence.”
The book contains allegations based on hearsay and insinuations against the INC that could trigger protest among millions of church members nationwide, he added.
However, Tipon, represented by lawyer Fervyn Pinzon, said stopping the book’s publication would violate his constitutionally protected right to freedom of expression.
“It’s a violation of the constitutional rights on the freedom of expression,” he said.
The book must be judged in its totality, not on a piecemeal basis, he added.
Tipon, who described himself as a freelance writer and free thinker, told The STAR after the hearing that the INC was trying to stop the publication of a manuscript that had not yet been published.
“I am invoking my freedom of expression,” he said.
Tipon said “Power and the Glory: The Cult of Manalo” was a product of painstaking research, and that the allegations raised by INC lawyers were based on speculation and hearsay.
“We will print thousands of copies of the book depending on the demand,” he said.
He was surprised that the INC got hold of copies of his manuscript which were scheduled to be submitted to a publisher for printing, Tipon said.
The INC is seeking P1 million in damages from Tipon and the book’s publisher, which had not been identified.