Bro. Eli Soriano wins Case Vs. Iglesia ni Cristo: “Killing Fields” and “Katayan” Comment not Libelous

The court took cognizance of the fact that the institution the complainants represented is a public figure wherein the public has legitimate interest in its doings.

By Jane Abao

Manila, Philippines (3/8/2014) – The court is not at all convinced that there exists a case for libel when making remarks from the reading of a Supreme Court Decision over a crime committed on a public figure’s grounds.

In a 15-page decision signed by Judge Jose G. Paneda of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 220 of the National Capital Judicial Region of Quezon City, Bro. Eliseo Soriano and his co-hosts at UNTV37 were acquitted of the crime of libel even when they were calling the chapel of the Iglesia ni Cristo, “killing fields” and “katayan.”

Comments are considered privileged communication when the subject in question is a public figure whose calling gives the public a legitimate interest in its doings, the decision said.

The decision signed on February 11, 2014 by Judge Paneda, said there is no finding as to the liability of the accused and as to the existence of the crime of libel for failure of the prosecution to prove their guilt beyond reasonable doubt, the court said.

Ramil T. Parba as representative of the Iglesia ni Cristo along with Marianito Cayao and Bernardo Santiago, accused Eliseo Soriano, Danilo Navales, Jocel Mallari, and Luzviminda Cruz, of libel in Criminal Case No. Q-05-136679 for a program aired on January 21, 2005.

The hosts of “Itanong mo kay Soriano” program at UNTV were accused of “conspiring together, confederating with and mutually helping one another with evident intent of exposing the Iglesia ni Cristo to public dishonor, discredit, contempt, and ridicule” and imputing crime on the complainants.

The court noted that the programs, Ang Dating Daan of Bro. Eli and Ang Tamang Daan of the Iglesia ni Cristo have a history of exchanging verbal tussles. And the latest was of the INC complainants making a false expose of allowing selling merchandise inside the four churches of Soriano.

Soriano and his co-hosts in UNTV denied in their program the INC allegation and said the selling was being done outside of the worship areas. The topic for the day in their program turned into which is more disrespectful: selling outside the church or killing in the basement of the chapel? They then discussed the Supreme Court decision in People vs. Abella, G.R. No.127803, August 28, 2000.

In part, the court decision said –

“The scene of the crime was within the compounds of the Iglesia ni Cristo in Sta. Ana and the basement thereof had been witness to the gruesome torture of victims who were eventually found floating in the murky rivers of Pasig.

“Private complainants took offense, more so hurt, when with the reading of the said case of Abella, accused depicted the House of Worship of the Iglesia ni Cristo as ‘katayan,’ the basement as killing fields, execution and torture, apparently in retaliation for the private complainant’s false expose.”

In sum, the court said the act of reading a Supreme Court decision is not libelous, and even with the comments and remarks of the accused, comments are considered privileged. The Case of People vs. Abella et al. where 5 PUP students were bludgeoned to death by INC members over a mere basketball game has since become a matter of public interest and therefore open to public scrutiny.

The court also took cognizance of the fact that the institution the complainants represented is a public figure wherein the public has legitimate interest in its doings.

Borrowing from the wisdom in Warren vs. Pulitzer Publishing Company, and also shared in Borjal vs. the Court of Appeals, the court said, “Every man has a right to discuss matters of interest. A clergyman with his flock, an admiral with his fleet, a general with his army, a judge with his jury. We are, all of us, the subject of public discussion….. It is only in despotism that one must speak sub rosa, or in whispers, with bated breath, around the corner, or in the dark on a subject touching the common welfare…”

The court also took note that when accused Eliseo Soriano peppered the members of the Iglesia ni Cristo with cases of libel in 2005 for calling him names like “Dayukdok,:  “Mandarambong, “Mongongotong, “Matakaw sa pera,” “Seaman-loloko,” among many other names through their program, Ang Tamang Daan, the cases were dismissed on the ground that they did not show any defamatory imputations and for lack of malice. The same was observed when the INC members distorted Soriano’s speeches and commentaries.

Documentary exhibits submitted by the defense consisted mostly of video tapes and DVDs to prove consistent patterns of mangling of tapes by the Iglesia ni Cristo on statements made by Soriano. An example was when Soriano was asking for 3.6 million on January 10, 2004; the mangled tape was shown in Ang Tamang Daan aired over Net 25 on March 29, 2004 that Soriano was asking for 6 trillion.

Incidentally, private complainants Bernardo Santiago and Marianito Cayao were excommunicated by Bro. Eli Soriano from Ang Dating Daan congregation, after which they joined the Iglesia ni Cristo.

An earlier Criminal Case Nos. 2002-4236-MK for attempted murder accusing Eliseo Soriano et al. was also dismissed by Judge Geraldine C. Fiel-Macaraig of the National Capital Judicial Region, Branch 192 of Marikina City for insufficiency of evidence. This was signed four years earlier on February 11, 2010. The private complainant was Bernardo Santiago, one of the complainants in this recently dismissed libel case.

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Much Maligned Preacher Wins Over Distinguished Author in International Open Web Awards

A victim of religious persecution and disinformation, the preacher exiles himself to continue preaching in South America. Deprived of his own home country, he started blogging to aid his preaching. His truth blog makes a mark among the counted in Mashable International – one that did not pay attention to disinformation that scattered all over the Internet.

By Jake Astudillo

Manila, Philippines, (01/18/2010) – If things are played fair, we can always win. These were the words of the man for whom justice had long been elusive.

Bro. Eliseo Soriano, Filipino preacher on exile, felt vindicated by an award given him by an international social media site that did not pay attention to disinformation about him scattered all over the Internet.

Soriano easily beat Paulo Coelho, the Portuguese famous author in the 3rd Mashable Open web awards competition of 2009.

Pete Cashmore, CEO of Mashable.com, in an e-mail to Ang Dating Daan or The Old Path, the congregation lead by Soriano said, http://www.esoriano.wordpress.com takes its place among the top 50 websites and services of the year, having won the ‘Most Educational to Follow’ category in the Open Web Awards 2009.

Cashmore said the Mashable team, dealt with over 440,000 nominations with over 70,000 nominees and over 780,000 votes for the recent Open Web Awards. Mashable.com, an international social media site, partnered with Motorola this year to bring the 3rd Annual Open Web Awards: Social Media Edition. Reports show that past winners of this international competition include YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Digg, and iGoogle, to name a few.

In terms of written works, and literary reputation, Soriano is no match to Paulo Coelho.

Coelho began blogging in 2003, four years ahead of Soriano. Coelho could write as much as 186 in a month. It was in 2007 that that he jacked up his batting average, the same time that Bro. Soriano just opened his blog. By competition time, Coelho had written 3, 224. He also had forums on the spiritual or biblical just like the preacher. Coelho had 219,056 followers and 5,743 were listed. Soriano did not reflect his number of followers.

Apparently, it was not quantity of posts that mattered in the competition. Bro. Soriano posted a measly number: 117 posts from April 2007 to December 2009. The most that he could write in a month was 26 in July 2007 since his work involved traveling to the untamed regions of South America to preach. His blog, however, is pregnant with interaction, mostly on issues of truth.

Coelho’s forums included questions like the following: Do you think man is intrinsically bad? Do you think sex is dominating the human civilization? Do you think you’re following your personal legend? How do you interpret Adam’s experience? What do you think about reincarnation? Why are we born if we have to die? These were some of his forums.

Meanwhile, the posts of Preacher Soriano include: Will God Contradict Himself? Not everything is Possible with God. God is Not Everywhere. Perfect Justice in God’s Perfect Time. Karl Marx’s Unwise Definition of Religion. The Covenant on the Fleshy Tables of the Heart. The Imprudent Freedom to Question Free Will.

While Coelho’s posts remained pondering over many things, Soriano was assertive – just with the Bible as his reference.

There are bizarre similarities between Soriano and Coelho. Both of them were born in the same year. Paulo Coelho was born August 24, 1947 (1947-08-24) (age 62) while Eliseo Soriano was born April 7, 1947 (age 62). Both of them are from the same place in the same continent – South America to be exact. They dealt closely about the same topics.

The difference, however, between them is great. Coelho is a distinguished author. Soriano is unschooled formally. Though fearless, the preacher is much maligned and persecuted. To this day, he had exiled himself in order to continue preaching worldwide. Justice in the Philippines to him was scant and not within reach. Moreover, many bad things were written about Soriano.

The preacher’s bio in Wikipedia appears more as a list of accusations than a description of the man. They were the result of his work as preacher where he had to do the things no one wants to do: tell the truth and nothing but. None had the guts to expose false teachings and defend truth as Soriano does. Called the most sensible preacher of our time, his audience had evolved from just the Filipinos to include other nationalities.

Coelho therefore was made famous for his literary works. Soriano on his part was popularized by vicious media out to get his neck for things he had said against powerful groups. They were able to attach “rape” to his name, as is the practice of some bent on destroying a personality.

Reports on Coelho show that he radically wrote from the other side of truth. His first book was Hell Archives. In 1985, he contributed to the Practical Manual of Vampirism and the following year, he wrote The Pilgrimage. In 1987, he wrote The Alchemist. This is the book that got Coelho famous. It was translated in 68 languages, and published in 150 countries, winning the Guinness World Record for most translated book by a living author. The novel exploited the theme of looking for one’s dream in other lands only to find it in one’s home.

The backpage of the novel, “The winner stands alone” written by Coelho says Coelho was named United Nations Messenger of Peace in 2007.

In contrast, Soriano was not schooled by the universities of men. He studied by himself with just the bible as his book. He grew up to be a principled preacher and the most learned man when it comes to biblical matters. In debates, no one could beat him.

For 45 years preaching the word of God, he had become an expert on matters of Christian living and salvation that his preaching had changed many lives. Known as the nemesis of false preachers, he had attracted many enemies far and wide. One by one, anyone claiming to be appointed by God to prophesy, much more to be the son of God, Soriano would challenge and expose. Later on, he would reap many cases filed in court due to his mouth. Nevertheless, he feared no one as long as truth was involved, no matter that people tore him to pieces. He remained as “appointed messenger of God” to millions of those who believed in his preaching due to his unequalled understanding of biblical truth, reaping another moniker, “Truthcaster.” Today, he maintains a program by that name.

A book review on The Alchemist, Coelho’s famous book, said, “Perhaps this is the secret of Coelho’s success: that he tells people what they want to hear, or rather that he tells them what they wish for but never thought possible could even be probable.” In contrast, Soriano is about telling the truth, no matter how bitter.

Preacher Soriano had disappeared from his own country in 2005 but like a turtle thrown to the water, he appears through satellite systems still preaching to the world. Religious persecution forced him to use as much technology as possible. He continued on with his work of preaching to the consternation of his enemies. They declared to the public that his congregation had dissolved while he, in turn, ran away from crimes – all of which were lies peddled by the Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) members led by Rizalino L. Arrabis, a retired US Navy man based in Guam.

Bro. Eli as he is called, had difficulties then in residence. In 2007, he started his blog, using it to further his preaching purposes and to reach out to those asking questions. It is this blog, http://www.esoriano.wordpress.com that had won as the most educational to follow in the 3rd Mashable Open web awards competition of 2009.

Soriano was fair game to Philippine media with connections to those whose interests were being risked. He was humiliated by them who were able to post his bio in the Interpol’s wanted list. Soriano had excommunicated a self-confessed rapist, Daniel “Puto” Veridiano, from his congregation but the rapist joined the forces of the powerful INC. In the end, the tables were turned: Soriano is being accused as the rapist (“sex crimes”) while the rapist turns the complainant with all the support of the INC in tow.

With malice or not, the Interpol posting did more to introduce Bro. Eli to the world, thanks to the influence of his enemies in the Philippine government. It is public knowledge that the INC practiced bloc voting and had the power to make and unmake kings. As a result, while persecuting the preacher, they had ironically given him avenues to become an international evangelist in the real sense. That Interpol posting was blunted to the core. Positive media competed with disinformation and the public had more chances to evaluate who is telling the truth. That the preacher remains free to this day despite the lot of disinformation created by the INC is something truth has to answer.

In South America, many preachers had been converted to the congregation that Soriano led – the Ang Dating Daan (The Old Path). More and more lives are being converted as a result of this work. Learning of the dangers that the preacher faced, some military men promised to take care of the evangelist while he preached openly. The INC may be powerful in the Philippines but not in other countries.

Unlike Coelho, Soriano defended God and the bible, truly interpreting his role as commissioner for biblical truth. He taught the bible from cover to cover and unlocked many mysteries like one can drink from an ever-flowing spring. The preacher is an educator of a different breed that many come to his blog to ask questions of all kinds. With just the bible as his reference, Soriano is one educator unequalled of all time. Until today, there is no program in the world that equals his “Ask Soriano, the bible answers.”

In tracking Mashable awards, records show that Eli Soriano was not even in the list of 500 top nominated individuals, tools, and organizations as posted by Sharon Feder. Feder said, “With just two days left in the nominations period we thought it would be appropriate to take a look at 500 of the current leaders in the competition’s 50 categories each selected by you, our readers. Add your voice to this list by nominating your favorites…”

Evan as Ben Parr of Mashable announced the short list of 10 nominees to each category, Soriano’s name was not there. On the other hand, Paulo Coelho was nominated in two categories: “Most Educational to Follow” and “Most Inspiring to Follow.”

By the time Pete Cashmore, CEO of Mashable, announced the full list of finalists (the short list of 5), Esoriano.wordpress.com made it to the category of “Most Educational to Follow” while @Paulocoelho made it to “Most Inspiring to Follow.” Coelho had failed to make it in the first category.

On December 16, 2009, Pete Cashmore announced the winners and Eliseo Soriano was the only name found under the category, “Most Educational to Follow.” Meanwhile, for “Most Inspiring to Follow,” Paulo Coelho lost to LoraAndLayton. In the end, Coelho didn’t make it to either of the two categories.

A check on the site of LoraAndLayton shows that it is about “A Young Family Beating the Odds.” Meanwhile, on Soriano’s blog banner is written: “Celebrating 45 years of serving THE ALMIGHTY.” In contrast, nothing is written in the banner of Coelho except, “Paulo Coelho’s Blog.”

Mashable was reported to have carefully monitored situations and discounted all votes made from “fake” or “new” Twitter accounts, especially the ones that only had references to their voting.

It was not the first time Eliseo Soriano won an award for his truth blog. On February 2009, his blog was the People’s choice awardee in the 2009 Philippine Web Awards in the blog category. Moreover, that blog was the awardee for that year for the most popular website, besting all others in all categories.

If Philippine media preferred to keep distance from the preacher, it was mostly because of much ignorance about his true personality. Soriano was not concerned about what people thought of him more than he cared for his work. Media greatly ignored his existence but wrote about him in negatives. That Soriano is offering assistance to dependents of fallen journalists suddenly made great news though.

Up until now, the UNTV host maintained a dawn-to-dawn preaching with his Ang Dating Daan (The Old Path) program that managed to gather more converts to his campaign to true Christianity. It is the first thing that early risers watched; it is also the last program that insomniacs watched. Outside the country, he had begun buying time from foreign stations to repeat the Philippine experience. In all, he stood as one from whom people kept asking questions from dawn to dawn. He only had one reference – the word of God.

First published in Quazen (Biography) on January 19, 2010