Court Acquits ADD “Eternal Life” Discussants from Libel Charge

By Jane Abao

Manila, Philippines (3/16//2015) – This court acquittal marks another victory for MCGI on the lot of libel cases filed by the Iglesia ni Cristo against the former’s ministers. A topic on “Eternal Life” led two panelists of the Ang Dating Daan TV program discussing news items mentioning Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) members as killers. Eternal life would not accommodate such people, they concluded.

Joselito Mallari and Wilfredo Santiago were commenting on three news items published in three local newspapers in their TV program. As a result the Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) represented by Bienvenido C. Santiago filed charges against them on March 31, 2004 for the crime of libel. The court, however, acquitted these Ang Dating Daan TV panelists recently.

In a 13-page decision penned by Presiding Judge Manuel B. Sta. Cruz, Jr. of the Regional Trial Court, NCJR, Branch 226 for Criminal Case No. QO4-126059, Joselito “Josel” Mallari and Wilfredo “Willy” Santiago are acquitted of the crime of Libel for failure of the prosecution to prove all the elements of the crime charged, thus failing to establish the guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt.Screen Shot 2015-03-28 at 21.48.57

To be able to successfully prosecute the crime of Libel, the court said the complainant must prove the existence of the following elements:

  • The allegation of a discreditable act or condition concerning another;
  • Publication of the charge;
  • Identity of the person defamed; and
  • Existence of malice.

In part, the court said –

The alleged libelous remarks were made by the accused as panelists in the TV program “Ang Dating Daan.” This court notes the remarks were made in the context of explaining the teachings of their religion on the popular topic of “eternal life.” Although it may be argued that some of the members of the Iglesia ni Cristo were offended by the remarks, especially when the news clippings of the murders allegedly committed by individual members of the INC members were shown on the screen, this court rules that this alone does not make the remarks of the accused actionable by itself.

The court further said –

As with all other members of the various religious faith, an individual member of the INC has a reputation that is personal, separate and distinct in the community and it is highly unlikely that one’s personal reputation will be affected by what is seen and heard or published about the other INC members. It is also improbable that the INC community’s reputation, as a whole, will be blemished by these isolated acts imputed to some of its members…

The judgment quoted the Supreme Court stressing in MVRS Publications, Inc. vs. Islamic Da’wah Council of the Philippines that “words which are merely insulting are not actionable as libel or slander per se, and mere words of general abuse, however opprobrious, ill-natured, or vexatious, whether written or spoken, do not constitute a basis for an action for defamation in the absence of an allegation for special damages.”

Screen Shot 2015-03-16 at 12.47.40

Ang Dating Daan (The Old Path) is the longest running religious program in the country hosted by Bro. Eli Soriano, the Presiding Minister to the Members Church of God, International (MCGI). It has won several local and international awards. At the time of the filing of the case, ADD and the Iglesia ni Cristo were having a running debate centered on their teachings wherein each side tries to defend their teachings. The remarks being contested in this case were allegedly made by the accused on or about April 22, 2003 during the program of Ang Dating Daan at SBN21.

The court said the news items the panelists discussed were: a) People’s Journal, “INC minister shoots farmer dead,” dated July 24, 1996; b) People’s Tonight, “3 Iglesia-Vigilantes nabbed for beheading, roasting 2 men,” and c) Abante, “Ministro Namaril.”

The remarks include, as translated in English, “Do you know of churches that kill? Do they have eternal life?”

“Aha, you see that? He already killed him yet roasted him! Ministro Namaril (Minister Killed Someone). Whatever church that is, those inflicted with that kind of malady, cannot be granted with eternal life. As long as you are a murderer …. my countrymen, do not believe that a murderer is of God and has eternal life.”

The complaint accused these panelists of “intending to convey malicious and offensive insinuations and imputations that are destructive and tends to destroy the name and reputation of the Iglesia ni Cristo with no good justifiable motive but solely for the purposes of maligning, besmirching the name, honor, character and reputation of said offended party and to expose them as in fact they were exposed to public hatred and ridicule to their damage and prejudice.”

MCGI Minister Mallari, one of the accused, is now based outside the country. Defense witness Emilio T. Magdaraog then issued a judicial affidavit. He said the purpose of airing Ang Dating Daan and its related programs like Itanong mo kay Soriano (Ask Soriano, the Bible will Answer) is to spread the word of God according to what is written in the Bible and to have people lead a new life. As translated, he added, “This includes exposing and castigating religions that do evil but introduce themselves as they alone are of God and it is they alone that will be saved.”

Magdaraog is also a Minister for MCGI. Speaking for Mallari, he said in his judicial affidavit that Mallari was speaking in general terms. He was referring to “any religion that agrees and gives consent to killing their members but declares to the public that they alone are the ones who are of God and they alone are the only ones to be saved.” Speaking still in the vernacular, Magdaraog said, “It is clear that the Bible teaches that there is no salvation for killers or murderers. As ministers we are taught to speak the truth, no matter if some will be happy or angry at us.”

This is not the first time libel cases were filed by Bienvenido Santiago as private complainant or representative of the Iglesia ni Cristo against panelists of Ang Dating Daan TV. Fortunately, the courts have acquitted the accused in several libel cases in the years ahead for lack of evidence.

Meanwhile, Wilfredo Santiago, who was Bro. Eli’s Bible Reader, was separated from MCGI in 2009 (five years after the filing of this case) after a frustrated ambition to become minister. Willy had put up his own church group trying to mimic doctrines he learned while at MCGI and infusing them with his own understanding. Failing to muster even a hundred members, he still called his group “worldwide” in an effort to mimic MCGI and be another “Bro. Eli.” Unfortunately for him, those he had taken away have been sending feelers for wanting to return to MCGI.

In this Libel case, filed in 2004 and finally judged this February 15, 2015, Willy was represented by a Public Affairs Office (PAO) lawyer. His co-accused, Mallari, had another counsel representing him.

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Eli Soriano Not Fugitive from Justice: Two Courts Deny Motions

By Jane Abao

Manila, Philippines (10/22/2014) – Two courts refused to declare an international evangelist a “fugitive from justice” as sought by his enemies, particularly those he had been criticizing for their false beliefs and practices. This means the preacher is still far advanced over his enemies trying hard to see him dead.

BRO. ELI SORIANO. Keeping quiet when he sees something wrong is not his cup of tea. Photo by Sweetwasabe.

As court records would show, Bro. Eliseo Soriano was accused of libel twice for which complainants sought the courts to declare him fugitive from justice but failed to get a favorable ruling.

The preacher who is referred to simply as “Bro. Eli” by his constituents, is the Presiding Minister of the Members Church of God International (MCGI) or Ang Dating Daan as known by the public for its flagship radio-TV program.  By practice, the preacher readily exposes false practices in his effort to preach truth from the Bible. He does this particularly through his Bible Expositions or in his preaching to the congregation. The result is sometimes vehement reaction from those who prefer to remain as they are, in terms of filing court cases aside from libel.

The preacher left the country sometime in December 2005 after a series of attacks from the Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) in the form of court cases and a raid of the ADD Convention Center in Apalit, Pampanga, north of Manila where Bro. Eli held office.

The complainants in Criminal Case 5957 (For Libel) at the Regional Trial Court, Fourth Judicial Region, Branch 76 of San Mateo Rizal, Philippines sought a motion to declare accused Eliseo Soriano a fugitive from justice and to issue a hold departure against him.

However, in a decision signed by Judge Josephine Zarate Fernandez on August 31, 2007, the motion was denied. Soriano’s counsel had underscored that his client is under intense persecution by the INC, explaining his failure to return to the country.

Despite a court denial, in 2007, two years later, the complainants in Criminal Case 06-248365 (For Libel) at the Regional Trial Court, National Capital Region, Branch 8, Manila also sought a motion to declare accused Eliseo Soriano a fugitive from justice. The court this time took pains to explain the meaning of “fugitive from justice” as one already “convicted by final judgment.” Until proven guilty, an accused is considered innocent.

In a decision penned by Presiding Judge Felixberto T. Olalia, Jr. on December 15, 2009, in the absence of evidences to support accusations, the court said the accused cannot be declared a “fugitive from justice,” thereby the motion was denied. Among others, the decision said the prosecution admitted that the accused left the country before the filing of the case (September 5, 2006), therefore the intent to evade prosecution is not present.

Incidentally, the first Libel case (Criminal Case 5957) was dismissed seven years after it was filed. In an eight-page decision penned by Josephine Zarate Fernandez, Presiding Judge of the Regional Trial Court, Fourth Judicial Region, Branch 76 of San Mateo Rizal, TV Broadcaster Eliseo F. Soriano was acquitted of the charge of libel. The order signed on January 14, 2014 said that malice was not proven beyond reasonable doubt.

According to Law, malice is one of the four elements of libel that must be sufficiently satisfied for the case to succeed. The three others include: the allegation of a discreditable act or condition concerning another, publication of the charge, identity of the person defamed, and existence of malice. The absence of anyone of these elements will not make the case prosper.

The private complainant was a Dr. Nancy Pascua represented by her counsels Atty. Abraham Espejo and Atty. Rodel Morta. Pascua was found vilifying Bro. Eli to her peer doctors who happened to be members of the MCGI that Bro. Eli led. The decision records that at that moment, Pascua was with Bernardo Santiago and his wife, both excommunicated members of the MCGI who were admitted to the INC. For background, Santiago’s wife Yolanda, legally belonged to another MCGI brother for which reason (adultery) Santiago was expelled. Bernardo Santiago is now an INC minister.

Bro. Eli reportedly reacted to the attempt at disinformation: “Baka quack doctor yon kaya galit sa akin,” (She may be a quack and that is why she’s mad at me). It was on this basis that Pascua filed a libel case. The preacher’s statement, however, was reportedly meant to underscore that a true doctor does not inflict pain on people – be it physical, mental or psychological. This case was dismissed including the earlier attempt to declare Bro. Eli a fugitive from justice.

The other case (Criminal Case 06-248365 – For Libel) that failed to get its motion to declare the preacher as fugitive from justice, was archived. According to the camp of Bro. Eli, INC Ministers named Michael Sandoval and Ramil Parba incited Muslim suicide bombers to run after Soriano to avenge the criticisms of the preacher about their beliefs and raid the ADD Convention Center. Here’s an excerpt from their exchanges on television:

Ramil Parba: Hindi ako papayag niyan! Kung ako ngayon ay miyembro ng Abu Sayaff? Miyembro ako ng MILF? Halimbawa, miyembro ako ng Suicide Bombers? Naku! Hindi ako papayag na basta ganun lang yan!  (I would not allow that! If I were a member now of the Abu Sayaff? Member of the MILF? For example, I were a member of the Suicide Bombers? Oh, no! I would not take things just like that!

Michael Sandoval: Lulusob ako sa Apalit. (I would raid Apalit).

The ministers openly did this through Net25 in their program, Ang Tamang Daan.

This went with the filing of a libel case by Muslims against the preacher in 2006 but which was archived after all these years.

These court cases relieving Bro. Eli were not publicized earlier by the MCGI such that enemies capitalized on rumors being perpetuated by his enemies that he is running away from the strong arm of the law. Recently, a disinformer went as far as writing to the editor of a publication in the United Kingdom  named Planet demanding to know why a ‘fugitive from justice” is allowed to advertise his activities instead of being reported to authorities. The MCGI thought it is high time the public should know about these two court decisions.

To Bro. Eli’s camp, the only group that is gaining from this syndrome inflicting injuries on the preacher is the Iglesia ni Cristo. Soriano happens to be the most severe critic of this group.

The “INC Syndrome” to the MCGI is actually a package that includes the following: 1) Excommunication in the MCGI means the person is not anymore acceptable due to filthy living and/or continuing violations of doctrine. But Church members excommunicated from MCGI are readily admitted into the INC after which they are made complainants or witnesses in court cases filed against Bro. Eli; 2) Court cases rain on Bro. Eli running the gamut of libel, obstruction to justice, murder, rape; 3) Net25 is used by the INC ministers to incite Muslims to run after Bro. Eli to avenge his criticisms of Muslim beliefs;

-4) Several broadcast programs of Bro. Eli  or he and his co-anchors get suspended with time or indefinite time by the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB); 5) Rape case filed against Bro. Eli by an excommunicated Church member that went to the INC gets dismissed for lack of evidence; the Department of Justice under the Office of the President of the Land intervenes, gets the case elevated to them and then refiled;

-6) Bro. Eli is forced to leave the country late 2005;  7) Net25 is used by the INC ministers welcoming back Bro. Eli home with the free services of Amurao Funeral Homes, Amurao, being their “kapatid.”

-8) Interpol is attempted initially to locate Bro. Eli as Wanted for “sex crimes” which scope is not even covered by the concerns of the international body; 9) Motion to declare Bro. Eli a Fugitive from Justice is filed in two courts; and

-10) Disinformation campaign from the Internet extends to foreign media.

In each of these, Bro. Eli believes the The Almighty he serves has been saving him. Advertisements welcoming people to listen to his Bible Expositions are a part of normal routine. The fact that he advertises himself belies the claim that he is in hiding, the MCGI explained. Secondly, he preaches to the world via satellite and could be located if he is really wanted. The disinformer exerting influence on foreign media had not considered that advertising oneself and preaching openly could hardly be the behavior of a fugitive from justice.

Despite the continued disinformation, instead of seeing Bro. Eli banished from the face of the earth as desired by his enemies, all the more he has widened his base for preaching. When he speaks in Bible Expositions, all six continents are linked to his base. From statistics, the MCGI has tremendously grown over the last seven years since Bro. Eli set base in South America.

When asked about images, tithing, practices that are not espoused by the Bible, Bro. Eli continues to irk religious leaders with his answers. But it is part of his role as Truthcaster, preaching the Bible whole, the preacher claims.

What did the INC not want the world to hear from Bro. Eli as broadcaster? For one, the preacher underscores the devious effect of the Iglesia ni Cristo Command Votes practice that is actively influencing politics in the country. Public knowledge reveals that the members are commanded to elect certain candidates – be it someone judged to be unworthy for the elected position. Failure to do so would  merit sanctions. After the elections, the INC would recommend their people to sensitive positions as forms of payback. The devious effect can be said to have filtered into the justice system of the country by way of these Command Votes for the President of the Land and other national elective positions. [Read this book for more on the justice system: Shadow of Doubt: Probing the Supreme Court by Marites Danguilan Vitug, Public Trust Media Group Inc 2010].

To analytical minds, “Command Votes” is the right term because there is bloc voting that allows the will of the voter to reign. In contrast, in the Command Votes practice of the INC supposedly for unity, there is no freedom to choose, such that some leave the INC on account of such practice. Most leavers can be found in the MCGI who lament that they had to vote for the rivals of their very own relatives – against their will.

An earlier blog of Jake Astudillo (April 21, 2013, this blogsite)  wrote –

Alex Magno of Philippine Star calls this more of “command votes.” As practiced by the INC it is command votes, he said, “evoking sad imagery of witness voters and omnipotent political lords.”

Whatever you may call it, the INC had perfected this practice by declaring candidates to support only a few days before the actual casting of votes – when the most likely candidate to win is already palpable. They then appear to have exerted some influence when the candidate wins, who usually would call in to thank them.

As discussed by Preacher Soriano, this bloc voting syndrome has affected the country as exemplified by politicians’ sycophantic bestowal of favors to the Iglesia ni Cristo. There is the obvious hope of abbreviated efforts in having to troop to their chapels for endorsement during election time.

Jake Astudillo is talking about the controversial re-naming of already-named streets to Felix Manalo Street’s by politicians, and granting INC (July 27) holidays to INC members in their localities. It is a practice gradually getting established that takes a less strenuous exercise than having to go to the INC Palace for endorsement or inclusion in bloc voting.

Why do politicians do this – rename streets in heroes’ names into Felix Manalo’s and grant holidays to INC’s in their localities?  Did the INC ask for these street re-naming and July 27 holidays? They did not, some INC claim. Isn’t it an effect or more precisely an offshoot of this Command Votes practice? To re-quote Astudillo, “There is the obvious hope of abbreviated efforts in having to troop to their chapels for endorsement during election time….  this syndrome has affected the country as exemplified by politicians’ sycophantic bestowal of favors to the Iglesia ni Cristo.”

The INC Command Votes practice is really at the root of the INC Syndrome, some quarters swear to that. They get their influence from it and use it to persecute others. Meanwhile, they ensconce themselves in power. This INC is hardly a CHURCH, according to Bro. Eli. If this were a true church, it would not display these symptoms.

But there is the necessity to speak – for the benefit of others. At his age, when Bro. Eli goes, at least he has been harping about the nefarious practices of this so-called very influential group: scattering their grandiose chapels everywhere but deforming their members within. With him, enemies may do everything, but he depends on what God can do.

“I am old. I don’t know how far my work will take me. As to preaching, there’s a direction to follow: from east to west to north to south. We are going north,” Bro. Eli would say.The Bible indeed points to that direction in not only with a single verse. When you consider what the preacher is saying and referring to, it is the Antipodal Map that he is busy following.

Courts Acquit Bro. Eli for the Second Time this Year on Cases Filed by Iglesia ni Cristo Members

By Jane Abao

Manila, Philippines (5/2/2014) – In two cases filed separately on two related incidents by members of the Iglesia ni Cristo against Eliseo Soriano, the evangelist won his second round of court case. The first case filed in Marikina City was for attempted murder and spoke of an incident on September 4, 2001; the second filed in San Mateo, Rizal was for libel and zeroed in on an incident, three days after.

People's Journal, May 8, 2014
People’s Journal, May 8, 2014

Soriano, who is referred to as Bro. Eli by his constituents, is the Presiding Minister of the Members Church of God International (MCGI) or Ang Dating Daan as known by the public for its flagship radio-TV program. The evangelist is now based overseas in accordance with his antipodal direction of preaching.

Judge Josephine Zarate-Fernandez dismisses case of attempted murder on January 14. 2014
Judge  dismisses case of attempted murder, Feb 11, 2010. No evidence of alleged conspiracy.

In an eight-page decision penned by Josephine Zarate Fernandez, Presiding Judge of the Regional Trial Court, Fourth Judicial Region, Branch 76 of San Mateo Rizal, TV Broadcaster Eliseo F. Soriano was acquitted of the charge of libel. The order signed on January 14, 2014 said that malice was not proven beyond reasonable doubt.

According to Law, malice is one of the four elements of libel that must be sufficiently satisfied for the case to succeed. The three others include: the allegation of a discreditable act or condition concerning another, publication of the charge, identity of the person defamed, and existence of malice. The absence of anyone of these elements will not make the case prosper.

The case docketed as Criminal Case No. 5957 charged Soriano for the crime of libel as punished under Article 355 of the Revised Penal Code.  The complaint in part said that on the 7th day of September 2001, the evangelist, during his TV program in SBN21 located at Pasig city,  uttered in particular, “Sabi nila sa akin, baka quack doctor yon, kaya galit sa akin (They told me, she may be a quack doctor and that is why she is mad at me.” Subject statement referred to Dr. Nancy Nakpil Pascua, the private complainant of the case, the decision said.

On September 4, 2001 or some three days immediately before the TV program wherein Soriano allegedly uttered that statement, Pascua happened to be found with some Iglesia ni Cristo members in the house of Dr. Alberto Jimenez and his wife who belonged to the congregation of the Ang Dating Daan. With them was Bernardo Santiago, one excommunicated by Soriano for adultery and then became a member of the Iglesia ni Cristo. As alleged by Witness Rolando Ocampo, this Bernardo Santiago, a companion of private complainant Dr. Pascua, told the Jimenez couple that Soriano is “bakla,” among others.

Judge found no malice. Accused acquitted
Judge finds no element of malice. Accused acquitted, Jan 14, 2014.

 

The decision ended, saying the degree of proof mandatory to establish malice was not attained. Soriano was therefore acquitted by the court.

Incidentally, in a separate case dismissed four years earlier, Bernardo Santiago of the Iglesia ni Cristo had filed a case of attempted murder against Bro. Eli Soriano and his companions. Docketed as Criminal Cases Nos. 2002-4236-MK and referring to September 4, 2001, the same date he and Dr. Pascua were visiting the Jimenez couple, private complainant Bernardo Santiago alleged that accused Soriano acted in conspiracy with the others to kill him.

According to the order dismissing the case, the prosecution presented Witnesses Glen Fernandez and Rommel Elbambuena who both heard one of the accused say, “Patayin yan! Patayin yan! Utos ni Ingkong!” (Kill him! Kill him! Order of Ingkong!) Ingkong is a monicker for Bro. Eli Soriano.

Judge Geraldine Fiel-Macaraig of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 192 of Marikina City, however, dismissed the case for insufficiency of evidence on February 11, 2010. Conspiracy was not proven.

The most recent case won by Bro. Eli and filed by Iglesia ni Cristo members was for libel but was dismissed on February 11, 2014. Ramil T. Parba as representative of the Iglesia ni Cristo along with Marianito Cayao and Bernardo Santiago, accused Eliseo Soriano and his companions, Danilo Navales, Jocel Mallari, Wilfredo Santiago and Luzviminda Cruz, of libel in Criminal Case No. Q-05-136679 for a program aired on January 21, 2005.

Soriano and his co-hosts in UNTV, after denying the allegation of the Iglesia ni Cristo that they were selling goods inside four church locales, were discussing the Supreme Court decision in People vs. Abella, G.R. No.127803, August 28, 2000 http://sc.judiciary.gov.ph/jurisprudence/2000/aug2000/127803.htm

Judge rules that INC is a public figure. Comments on the Abella case is a matter of public interest.
Judge rules that INC is a public figure. Comments on the Abella case is a matter of public interest. All accused absolved, February 11, 2014.

 

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.

Cayao and Santiago incidentally are excommunicated members of Ang Dating Daan. In all of these three cases, Bernardo Santiago figured as either as private complainant or involved.

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.