The cost of Iglesia Ni Cristo's protest actions

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — When thousands of Iglesia Ni Cristo (INC) members held a four-day vigil, which began on Friday night (August 28) and ended on Monday (August 31), at the intersection of EDSA and Shaw Boulevard, they crippled traffic in all directions and halted businesses along the area.

Traffic worsened when roads leading to EDSA-Shaw Boulevard were completely blocked. The gridlock extended to parts of Quezon City, Pasig, San Juan, and Makati. Thousands were forced to walk for hours waiting to get a ride.

A transport group estimated about half of the total number of public utility vehicles (PUVs) crossing this area opted not to ply their routes last weekend.

PUV drivers bore the brunt of the monster traffic jam.

Jeepney drivers Edwin Batang and Ronelo Rubia said on Tuesday (September 1) that their income was affected because of the intense traffic.

"Napakaliit ng kinita. Supposed to be, kikita ka ng isang libo mahigit, pero almost 700 lang ang kinita ko sa magdamag na biyahe," Batang said.

[Translation: "Instead of earning over a thousand pesos overnight, I just took home P700."]

Mandaluyong City officials said the INC assembly caught them by surprise.

As in past street protests, the business sector was among the biggest losers, as vehicle traffic and economic activities were disrupted.

Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) President Atty. Nikki Vega also said Tuesday that the intense traffic caused delay in deliveries, cancellation of meetings, and other business matters.

She added, more importantly, employees had a difficult time going to work or going home to their respective families.

Mandaluyong's business chamber said it suffered something worse than financial losses.

"Mas delikado iyong hindi naka-quantify na epekto kaysa sa financial kasi ang pera kayang kitain, pero ang oras hindi pwedeng ibalik," Vega said.

[Translation: "Money lost can be earned again, but time lost can never be regained."] 

Business owners wish the government had acted more swiftly in addressing INC's concerns and had not allowed the disruption to drag on for days.

Some transport operators, however, were more considerate to the protestors.

Stop and Go Transport's Jun Magno said it is not every day that the INC holds their vigil.

"Nirerespeto namin iyong ginawa ng INC dahil karapatan nila iyon," he said.

[Translation: We respect the INC's actions because it is their right.]

INC members protested because they want authorities to observe the separation of church and state as mandated by the Constitution and for the Department of Justice not to meddle over the internal affairs of their church.