Palace Unfazed By Iglesia Gathering

MANILA, Philippines - There is no reason for the Aquino administration to worry about the grand rally of the Iglesia Ni Cristo (INC) in Rizal Park in Manila Tuesday, even if some interpret it as a show of support for impeached Chief Justice Renato C. Corona.

Deputy Presidential Spokeswoman Abigail Valte said Sunday the Palace views the gathering of the Iglesia followers as a regular religious exercise.

''For us, it's really entirely a religious celebration and from what we understand, the activity on February 28 is part of their upcoming anniversary,'' Valte said in a radio interview.

''It is normal for them to have large gatherings. I am sure they have already coordinated with the local government unit in this case, the City of Manila for their security and peace and order arrangements,'' she said.

The INC announced the holding a ''grand Bible exposition'' which is expected to draw more than a million people.

There were reports that the group, which claims a membership of 3 million, will urge President Benigno S. Aquino III to respect the rule of law as it applies to the impeachment trial of Corona.

Other religious organizations are said to have been invited to the event. But El Shaddai, the Catholic charismatic movement, has said it will not attend.

''We are not joining,'' El Shaddai's spiritual adviser, retired Novaliches Bishop Teodoro Bacani, said in a recent interview.

Bacani made this statement after El Shaddai leader Mike Velarde reportedly agreed to attend the Iglesia event.

''I don't know if there are individual members of the El Shaddai that are joining but as an organization, we are not joining that rally,'' said Bacani.

Similar ''Bible Exposition'' rallies will be held simultaneously in other key cities and towns in the country.

El Shaddai and INC are considered two of the most influential religious groups in the country.