Members of the Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) gathered at Quirino Grandstand at Luneta Park in Manila Tuesday (February 28) in what the congregation called a grand evangelical mission but what many believed was a statement to the present administration.
Police estimated the crowd at around 600,000 but many believe it was more because of the heavy traffic around the metropolis.
While the event started at around 5 p.m., heavy traffic was monitored as early as noon. Traffic leading to the Quirino Grandstand was snarled. The end of traffic for Roxas Boulevard has reached Coastal/Aguinaldo Highway and Northbay Boulevard all the way to C3 in Navotas.
Heavy traffic was also reported along Taft Avenue, Quirino Avenue. The approach to Nagtahan via Lacson reached SM San Lazaro. From Ramon Magsaysay, the tail end of traffic reached the old Magnolia plant near Hemady. Traffic along Osmena Highway from the South likewise reached Bicutan.
Many of the public utility buses, as well as jeepneys and vans plying the roads of Metro Manila were leased by the INC, causing many commuters to get stranded on their way home.
Police said simultaneous rallies were also held, including in Tarlac and Cebu. Philippine National Police (PNP) spokesperson Agrimero Cruz was quoted as saying that at least 400,000 people gathered in the Central Luzon province while 7,000 gathered in Cebu City.
Church officials have maintained that the rally was purely a religious one. But media noted the sect’s previously strong ties with President Aquino have ‘soured’ since Supreme Court chief justice Renato Corona was impeached in December.
Aquino also fired INC member Magtanggol Gatdula as National Bureau of Investigation chief last month after the official was accused of covering up the abduction of a Japanese woman by his aides.
While not officially political in nature, there were political figures that attended the event. Seen at the rally were Gatdula, Supreme Court spokesman Midas Marquez, Pangasinan Rep. Gina de Venecia, Navotas Rep. Tobias Tiangco, Quezon City Mayor Herbert Bautista, Pasay Mayor Antonio Calixto, former Sen. Miguel Zubiri and Rizal Gov. Jun Ynares.