INC head appointed for wide network, not debt of gratitude: Palace

MANILA — Malacañang on Thursday defended the appointment of Iglesia ni Cristo Executive Minister Eduardo Villanueva Manalo as Special Envoy of the President for Overseas Filipinos Concerns noting that he was given the job because of his wide network of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) worldwide and not as payback for the minister’s support during President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s presidential bid.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque Jr. made this remark also assuring that Manalo’s appointment did not violate the separation of the church and state declared in the Constitution.

“Ang pagtatalaga kay Mr. Eduardo Manalo ay dahil meron naman talagang network si Mr. Manalo lalo na sa iba’t ibang mga Pilipino na nagta-trabaho sa iba’t ibang mga bansa (The appointment of Mr. Eduardo Manalo is because he really has network with Filipinos in different countries),” Roque said in a Palace briefing.

Roque said that reports of abuses of OFWs in Kuwait somehow “pushed” Duterte to give Manalo the job.“Hindi po ‘yan bayad politikal. Itong mga pangyayari ngayon na nagiging biktima ng pag-abuso ang ating mga OFWs ang naging udyok na maitalaga itong si Mr. Manalo (This is not political payback. The recent abuses encountered by our OFWs pushed Manalo’s appointment),” he added.

The INC, known for its bloc voting system, endorsed the candidacy of Duterte during the 2016 national elections.

Roque further said Manalo would not be appointed if he had not provenhis capability to provide service to OFWs.

“Yun ang nais natin ma-tap: ‘Yung network at napatunayan na kakayahan nila na pangalagahan yung kapakanan ng ating mga kababayan sa iba’t ibang mga bansa (That’s what we want to tap: The network and proof that he has proven his capability to ensure the welfare of our people in different countries),” Roque said.

He said that even before being appointed as special envoy, Manalo and the INC have been actively providing service to not just millions of its members worldwide, but brothers and sisters practicing other faiths as well.

Roque said that special envoys are not given budgetary allocation or salary because they spend for their own trips.

“Hindi natin siya popondahan sa kanyang trabaho. Kumbaga, ginagawa na nila ‘yun. Nire-recognize na natin ang kanilang ginagawa na boluntaryo (We won’t pay him for his services. He’s already doing them. We recognize that what he does is voluntary),” Roque said.

Ang alam ko walang salary ang mga special envoys (What I know is special envoys are not given salaries). They have a title but kung ‘di ako nagkakamali (if I’m not mistaken) they actually spend even on transportation,” he added.

However, Roque said that he has to verify whether Manalo would be shouldering the expense of his foreign trips or if government would be paying for them.

“I will verify if in this instance, kung aasahan natin na lahat ng travels niya s’ya magbabayad or magbabayad din ang gobyerno (he will pay for all his travels or if the government will pay for them),” Roque said.

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