Iglesia ni Cristo: Snapping Dissent with Familiar Patterns

By Jane Abao

Manila, Philippines (August 15, 2015) – What did experts think about the dissent within the Iglesia ni Cristo?

The INC is facing a crisis. That’s very clear from recent news. Critics claim that the leaders of the group are wasting money citing the millions of pesos being spent for their airplane. Rappler reports-

The Airbus that [Eduardo] Manalo and his ministers are using is aside from a Boeing Business Jet 737 that had been described as “the best-selling jet airliner in the history of aviation.” Depending on the model, a passenger business jet can seat from 85 to 215 passengers, while a customized executive jet can have a bedroom and seats good for 20-30 passengers, sources familiar with aircraft told Rappler.

The Boeing Business Jet 737 is said to have been purchased 4 years ago at an estimated price of about P3.6 billion ($80 million), the sources told us. Yearly maintenance costs of these types of aircraft, according to those in the know, easily amount to from P3 million to P4 million. This excludes fuel expenses. (http://www.rappler.com/newsbreak/investigative/100445-iglesia-leaders-billions-pesos-aircraft).

Added to this is abduction of ministers who were critical of the administration. Lowell Menorca’s case, for one, is intriguing. (http://www.rappler.com/nation/100501-inc-minister-lowell-menorca-released). There are allegedly no abductions happening. This is denied by the church. (http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/707413/what-split-what-corruption-iglesia-ni-cristo-spokesman)

But they immediately excommunicated some critics including the mother and brother of the Executive Minister, Eduardo Manalo. (http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2015/07/23/1480126/iglesia-ni-cristo-expels-leaders-mother-brother)

They even filed libel cases against the critics. (http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/nation/metro-manila/07/28/15/iglesia-ni-cristo-sues-expelled-minister-libel)

The crisis is not yet over as the critics try to create a movement “to return the church to its old splendor when it first began with Felix Manalo.” (See Nehemiah Ecclesiastes, Official videos, Facebook, 8/10/2015).

What is happening with the Iglesia ni Cristo? Where is the Iglesia headed for?

Four sources have invariably discussed what is happening with the Iglesia ni Cristo through their own platform: a professor of Philippine Studies, a Sociologist of Religion, a Bible Scholar, and a minister of the Iglesia ni Cristo who left his organization with many questions on his head.

The professor of Philippine Studies was asked about what he thought about the INC controversy. The sect is usually secretive, he said. There is a need for transparency.

Written by Joe Torres (ucanews, 8/10/2015), the interviewee noted that secrecy is one of hallmarks of this religious sect. In “Public rift puts 101-year-old Philippines sect under spotlight,” he highlighted the need for transparency. Here’s part of the report –

David Michael San Juan, professor of Philippine Studies at De La Salle University in Manila, said the public rift represents a crossroads for the usually secretive sect.

“The rift may weaken it if it fails to address concerns on transparency and other issues,” he said. “The rift may strengthen it if it leads to more transparency in their highly respected institution.”

In other words, secrecy in the sect has contributed to their undoing. San Juan said some issues that church members raised are valid and that includes the allegation about certain ministers trying to extort money from politicians, and the allegation that church funds for being used for some leaders’ luxury. These are public issues, he said.(http://www.ucanews.com/news/public-rift-puts-101-year-old-philippines-sect-under-spotlight/74040)

Earlier, Rappler.com posted a Podcast titled “Saan patungo ang Iglesia ni Cristo?” (Where is the Iglesia ni Cristo bound for? (8/8/2015). Jayeel Cornelio a Sociologist of Religion is said to point to some INC growth at another level: “religious worldling.”

Worldling is inherently negative, but as the column of Cornelio proposes the concept of “religious worldling” to explain what is happening with the INC, he lauds the group in terms of sophistication in the positive sense.

The Director of Development Studies Program of Ateneo in “INC, Philippine Arena, and religious worldling” was theorizing that with the mammoth Philippine Arena, the INC has achieved some sophistication.

Worldling

WorldlingDotOrg says the term “worlding” cannot be found in any dictionary, even though the term has been in use for nearly a century. Martin Heidegger is said to have popularized the neologism in his 1927 Being and Time to mean “being-in-the-world.”

A worldling is a person who is primarily concerned with worldly matters or material things. As applied with the Iglesia ni Cristo, the focus was on expansion – material at that, with the Philippine Arena giving the high point of assessment.

Now, we come to a preacher. What did he think about this INC crisis? It is a judgment from God says Bro. Eli Soriano, Presiding Minister to the Members Church of God International (MCGI). Do not mistake that for “pagsubok” or trial. Only fanatics insist it is trial, and that corruption is being revealed only now. No, that church has been corrupt from the beginning, he says.

Soriano’s blog says it best. In “Gravity Floating Up All Secrets of Secrets,” he writes –

What is obtaining now with the Iglesia ni Cristo ni Manalo is that in spite of their indoctrinated secrecy of what they do, a force from above is making those secrets surface. Undoubtedly, it is the power of God! That group has long been practicing the act of covering up ugly matters inside their church, of bringing them down, and layering them into secrecy.

But what they did to five PUP students in secret, for example, came out. The case said their members involved mangled the victims’ bodies at the basement of their chapel. The dead bodies floated and were fished out from the muddy Pasig River!!!! (See Supreme Courts Annotated, Vol. 339, August 28, 2000 on the case People vs. Abella).

In an attempt to flush the killing off, the river was the supposed solution. But the bodies floated up to witness against the killers.

What did Soriano think about what’s happening?

Can we say this is like the Cambrian Period where it is said there is a massive explosion of revelation? (Note: I do not believe in the Cambrian Period being an explosion).

We cannot say that corruption in the Iglesia ni Cristo ni Manalo evolved! What is true in the Cambrian Period is collaterally true with the INC of Manalo. Since its inception, there are the corrupt practices of its ministers! It is proven by the very words of Eraño Manalo, second generation Executive Minister, that the corruption among the present generation of his ministers was inherited from ministers pioneering their works of corruption! It was earlier proven by a circular signed by Felix Manalo, first generation Executive or Presiding Minister, himself revealing the corrupt practices of his pioneering ministers. (http://www.controversyextraordinary.com/2015/08/gravity-floating-up-all-secrets-of.html)

Finally, we look into a minister who left the INC.

On a circular read in the whole district of Leyte, July 25, 2015, Joven O. Sepillo Sr is excommunicated for allegedly fighting the Administration and circulating false information with the objective of troubling the church. Sepillo Sr. said he had decided to come out in public to clear out his name against this charge.

Sepillo, Sr. an INC minister for 29 years but excommunicated by the Sanggunian together with his family, was bidding goodbye to his calling as minister for what he considered to be irreconcilable to his principles. He was expelled instead. The following are excerpts from his post [translated from Tagalog] centered on many questions similar to those being voiced out by other excommunicated INC ministers –

If only I left in an orderly way, it would not reach this far, they said. Is what is orderly, bidding goodbye without mentioning any shenanigans and not calling the Administration to counter these? Have they found out that there is no corruption going on now? Has the Administration done an honest-to-goodness investigation to protect the Sanggunian from false accusations? If they have but the ones told to investigate are themselves the accused, will justice be seen by the brethren who are looking for truth?

I am sad that what is often heard from the Spokesman of the Iglesia regarding critics is that they are only defaming without showing any evidence. Those opposing corruption are shown as evil and creating trouble in the church. They are the ones being persecuted, threatened, and done with, just to silence them.

Is there no one from the Sanggunian who will stand for truth? Shall we only wait for the hand of God to render judgment on the guilty? They may have forgotten that it is a Nation of God that they are managing.

The root cause of these troubles now is the change of perceptions among ministers about their supposed life in the ministry. Some are not aware that this is where corruption entered in – the supposed lifestyle of ministers. (See post by Jorge. http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/711261/doj-secures-3-expelled-iglesia-ni-cristo-members).

Interpretations

San Juan, the professor, said secrecy has not done good to the INC. He considers that some of the issues raised by the members of the INC are public and therefore valid.

Cornelio, the sociologist says the INC has come to religious worldling, a sophistication that he tends to congratulate, although it is not about being godly but worldly. Cornelio has barely scratched the surface and his basic fault is the color of his tone. He provides no proper guidance for the reader since his moral compass is also faulty. Notice his use of the term, “Moral Economies.”

At the bottom of his column is written this part:

Some parts of this column are derived from the paper Cornelio presented at the international workshop “Emerging Moral Economies in Southeast Asia” at L’ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales in Paris in June 2014.

This italics part in a way explains the deficiency in Cornelio’s analysis. The original material was written one year before this public clash between the Manalo brothers with the Sanggunian on the side of Eduardo Manalo, the incumbent executive minister. Where was Cornelio all the time?

The column of this Sociologist of Religion is pathetically dead and deaf to events that have recently unfolded and still are. There was no attempt at updating. He had disregarded the fact that the INC members question the purpose of the mammoth building and even as basic as its maintenance. This is moral economy for Cornelio?

The second review of this Jayeel Serrano Cornelio talks of “restorationist ethos” of the INC but still suggests a patronizing attitude. With all the news coming out from many quarters, one would wonder if Cornelio is a PR man for the INC. His article of August 13, 2015 says –

The church espouses a restorationist ethos as it claims to be the one true church called to take Christianity back to its original character and form of worship. It has several distinctive elements, among which is the absolute oneness doctrine that pits it against the Trinitarian mainstream in the Philippines.

Its founder, Felix Y. Manalo, is believed to be the fulfillment of a biblical prophecy that in the last days, an Angel from the East will arise. The church has therefore effectively sacralized the Philippines as a nation that plays an instrumental role in the last days.

The church’s unity is also one enduring source of pride for its members.

Unity manifests itself in different ways, such as doctrinal uniformity and submission to the leadership. Members are expected to heed their ministers, for example, on matters of faith and interpretation of Scriptures.

Members also fall in line during national elections, voting as a bloc for whatever candidates church leaders tell them to support. Members cannot take each other to court nor can they marry nonmembers. Even the predictable neo-gothic architecture of its churches is evocative of Iglesia ni Cristo’s institutional unity.  (http://www.ucanews.com/news/after-101-years-growing-pains-for-philippines-iglesia-ni-cristo/74075)

One wonders now how Cornelio was educated. Was he taught to think critically?

Here’s a quote from Albert Einstein’s Ideas and Opinions (1954). It emphasizes the importance of bracing all education with critical thinking principles and the development of character – no matter what specialization.

It is not enough to teach a man a specialty. Through it he may become a kind of useful machine but not a harmoniously developed personality. It is essential that the student acquire an understanding of and a lively feeling for values. He must acquire a vivid sense of the beautiful and of the morally good. Otherwise he – with his specialized knowledge – more closely resembles a well-trained dog than a harmoniously developed person. He must learn to understand the motives of human beings, their illusions, and their sufferings in order to acquire a proper relationship to the individual fellow-men and to the community.

It’s a waste of time when a sociologist of religion writes without first manifesting on the environment. It is even dangerous that he professes to teach the Catholic world about the INC. If he is writing for United Catholic Asia News, he is only misleading the people there. Has he come across what the critic ministers are saying? There’s a Farley de Castro that is often reported by Ces Drilon of ABS-CBN. De Castro is one of the INC ministers excommunicated. Here are excerpts (translated from Tagalog) from his talk (Part III) –

They are just running away. They just do not want to answer the many questions about the anomalies and corruption issues happening now in the church.

Why don’t they answer? They said they will answer the questions last Tuesday [August 4, 2015] during the Prayer Meeting but they dealt with another topic. Aren’t they liars? And until now they haven’t answered the questions regarding anomalies in the church.

 

In Part II, here are some of Farley de Castro’s words [translated from Tagalog] addressing his brothers –

We saw how the words of God were used as basis in persecuting and abusing others by those who have no right. The abuse and wrong use of the words of God to deceive and make the brethren believe to accept their deeds and their reasons. Our poor brethren, our brethren who cannot do anything but follow.

But my question is, why is this done in the management of ministers? They said, isn’t it true that this church won’t apostate anymore? Yes, but many individuals will apostate if they do not move – if we don’t help them, if we don’t love them. Most of them are poor but with full faith, giving their all with readiness.

But our offerings are being wasted in a lifestyle meant only for personal interest.

He addresses Eduardo Manalo, the Executive Minster, and asks many questions, even an intriguing one about the spirit that dwells at their Central. [Note: Central refers to the main headquarters of the INC).

Bro. Eduardo, I have been hearing you for a very long time and I know that you love the church. But why now, why did you allow the church to go this way?

Didn’t you know that from the beginning the church would become like this if your wife will always intervene? Because this was the order of Bro. Eraño G. Manalo before he died. Why is it that we who are standing for righteousness are the very ones being expelled? Is it really true that the spirit of the devil thrives at Central? We love you, Bro. Eduardo.

Didn’t you know from the beginning what your mother and your brother wanted, especially Bro. Angel? Didn’t you know that never did he want to grab your rights? Didn’t you know that they only wanted to let the church restored from the beginning when the messenger of the last days started it? May God have mercy and remember his nation.(https://www.facebook.com/NehemiahEcclesiastesOfficial/videos/vb.414257252092254/440362976148348/?type=2&theater)

If Cornelio had scanned the environment well before writing, he would know that there’s no honest attempt at “restoration ethos” in the way he presented it. There is logically no restoration ethos where communication lines are not open. As a consequence, there’s no restoration ethos where the leader is found decidedly weak and indecisive, cutting off links even with his very own mother and siblings.

What sorely obtains is more of a group confronting the administration and calling for a movement (kilusan) to force a return to the old set-up (physical) – because things are not normal. The resolution they basically wanted was for Eduardo Manalo not to listen to his wife, some peace, and a simple life style for the ministers. For a restoration ethos to materialize, it should start from the head having the drive, the discipline, and the desire. It should not come from the few critics at the side. But clearly, when a fish rots, it begins from the head.

As expected, there’s no response from his side. From all accounts, he and his men were not even answering questions of their brethren who wanted at least the children of Eraño Manalo to be back to their posts and their power restored. But Sociologist Cornelio appeared more of writing public relations pieces, taking extreme care lest he mention any fault. One is inclined to think he is an INC trolling in United Catholic Asia News, ready to neutralize whatever is written against the INC. That is barely a way to be helpful to society as a sociologist of religion.

Back to interpretations, when it comes to religion, the most that should be consulted are those that handle the words of God for this is the commodity in question. What is happening now? Preacher Soriano declares it is a judgment from God that the INC is being revealed as corrupt even from the beginning.

Admitting that he is the fiercest critic of the INC, Soriano would examine their beliefs and practices now and then – would answer to questions about the INC in his regular Bible Expositions. For that, he has attracted many court cases filed against him by the INC – including threats on his life. These have all become the drama that the broadsheets, the TV and the Internet would banner for several years.

The preacher talks about disturbing familiar patterns in the way the INC reacts to dissent – coming from his experience with the INC and paralleling those reported in the news. These practices and their attendant difficulties have been inflicted on him and those of others he knew, but never in his mind did he imagine they will happen to the very members of the INC.

What about the INC minister who had decided to leave his ministry? Sevillo Sr, the expelled INC minister, tends to agree with all of these three experts: (1) There is lack of transparency in the INC as pointed out by Prof. San Juan; (2) The INC has become worldly-wise as discussed by Sociologist Cornelio, but in the sense that it has become materialistic; (3) Corruption is with them according to Preacher Soriano, yes; but judgment may not have come yet. Sevillo Sr. seems hesitant to admit God’s judgment happening at this time, but he uses it as a warning stick against Eduardo Manalo’s administration. He adds a fourth one, his own interpretation of events: (4) The lifestyles of the ministers have led to this organizational upheaval

Like other INC’s who have began to doubt why these things are happening within them if they are a true church, Sevillo Sr. is still staying with the INC despite what he had observed. His belief is intact – presumably including the belief that Christ is mere human being.

Bro. Eli and the INC

As dissent within the INC develops amidst efforts to counter them – mostly suppress them – the following chips have in many forms bobbed up like familiar patterns of a template observed in the past: (a) Pressure on the Department of Justice, (b) Use of the National Bureau of Investigation as a personal bodyguard, (c) Framing up for a charge of rape, (d) Case closed case unclosed, (e) One-sided media, (f) Assignment to kill, (g) No mercy, (h) Humiliating the victim, (i) Hounding the leaving or those who criticize, (j) Gunshots fired at the home, (k) Brainwashing the members.

These were so in the case of Bro. Eli Soriano, the foremost critic of the INC. The INC has applied all of these to him and the people with him.

Aren’t these parts of the culture of the Iglesia ni Cristo? Why do they repeat themselves and this time on their very own people? It is not enough to just mention them as how they are worsening, only the victims can tell. But definitely politicians are wittingly or unwittingly part of the whole scheme. We will look into five of these practices later.

As defined in the dictionary, dissent is the expression or holding of opinions at variance with those previously, commonly, or officially held. Synonyms are disapproval, disagreement, difference of opinion.

But not all dissent is bad. Some are good when truth is king as in the case of critiquing their beliefs by Preacher Soriano and disapproving of maltreatment of the family of Eraño Manalo by Sevillo Sr.

In brief, here are how the familiar patterns have come into Bro. Eli’s life: He, as a bible man, believes he should correct whatever practices he finds are not biblical. That is part of his commission. But the INC is one that takes criticisms to the point of wanting him killed, if not imprisoned (with false charges), and humiliated before the world.

That explains how Luisito Amansec, a former INC hitman, found out the truth about the preacher and confessed that he was around to bump Bro. Eli dead. He became a member of the MCGI instead. Lying has long been with the INC ministers that Bro. Eli is not what they picture him to be. Amansec realized that his heart learned mercy for the first time when he saw Bro. Eli, long pictured as evil in the Iglesia ni Cristo.

In a case for libel where Bro. Eli won, video tapes and DVD’s had been provided to the court where INC ministers were calling him names like “dayukdok,  “mandarambong, “mongongotong,’ “matakaw sa pera,” “Seaman-loloko,” among many other names through their program, Ang Tamang Daan. In English, they mean starved, plunderer, extortioner, money-hungry, and deceiver. They were doing this but MTRCB never sanctioned them.

Bro. Eli also had provided proofs that the INC had distorted his speeches and commentaries to prove consistent patterns of mangling of tapes by the Iglesia ni Cristo on statements made by him. 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.

A discussion of these can be found in the court records of Criminal Case No. Q-05-136679 filed for libel for an Ang Dating Daan TV program aired on January 21, 2005 with Ramil T. Parba as representative complainant of the Iglesia ni Cristo along with Marianito Cayao and Bernardo Santiago.

Accused were Eliseo Soriano, Danilo Navales, Jocel Mallari, and Luzviminda Cruz, all anchors of Ang Dating Daan program on TV. This libel case was dismissed for lack of evidence. Cayao and Santiago are former members of MCGI having been excommunicated by Bro. Eli and then later joined the INC. What the MCGI throws away for spiritual filth, the INC accepts.

INC hates dissent. It also explains why Lydia Manuyag, former INC auditor from Central Diliman was straffed at her home for speaking in SBN21 where she had corrected Bro. Eli. The preacher was quoting the magazine, SAY, that Manalo is a billionaire. Trillionaire, said Manuyag, not billionaire. Afterwards their home was straffed. Lydia’s husband, also a former INC member, was hit with four bullets.

It also explains why Daniel Veridiano, Bernardo Santiago, Marianito Cayao and their kind who have been excommunicated by Bro. Eli for several offenses, have, in turn, been used against the preacher as either complainant or witness.

If media can be used against people especially the TV, it has not been forgotten that Soriano is a victim of this trick, which is why until now the Members Church of God International (MCGI) are boycotting GMA7-11. It is to send a strong message that it is not taking things sitting down. The dramatization in the interview with Daniel Veridiano in “Paninirang Puri, Case Unclosed” presented the Church leader as a shameless old man devoid of the knowledge of the Bible and hungry for sex – and for the same gender yet. The members were pictured as fools – laggards with the brain of a shrimp. This had been so after the Interpol caper has failed. Interpol whom the INC had access to, had found out that the Bro. Eli whom enemies wanted to humiliate before the world is not in hiding – and is even a man of God – not a sex-starved fugitive as the dramatization painted him to be.

The interviewee was Daniel Veridiano, excommunicated from MCGI where Soriano is Presiding Minister to. Veridiano became a member of the INC. By twist of faith, it is GMA being boycotted by MCGI for 5 years now for what they did to Bro. Eli and the organization. Screen Shot 2015-08-15 at 22.18.36

What about GMA 7-11? Earlier, it had made Daniel Razon to decide whether to remain as anchor and restrict his language when referring to the Iglesia ni Cristo, or resign. If he does not like restrictions, the INC may boycott the station. Where? On stage when he preaches to the congregation of the MCGI or Ang Dating Daan (as the church is more popularly known). Razon is Soriano’s nephew and the appointed next-in-rank to Bro. Eli. At the same time, he was working for GMA. But he chose to leave GMA rather than restrict his language – not even in anchoring but in preaching in church.

Imagine GMA representing the INC and asking one to restrict his language – and in another venue yet? Why does INC use GMA to restrict one’s language outside of the studio that is the very workplace of Razon? Can’t he preach before the congregation without an outsider’s intervention? Why did religion have to involve a TV station?

The Australian Journalists’ Code of Ethics says in #8 rule:

Do not allow advertising or other commercial considerations to undermine accuracy, fairness or independence.

There is an equivalent in the Code of Ethics of the Philippine Press Institute and the National Press Club of the Philippines in #5:

I shall not let personal motives or interests influence me in the performance of my duties nor shall I accept or offer any present, gift, or other consideration of a nature that may cast doubt on my personal integrity.

INC hates being critiqued. That explains why the NBI had been used to raid the ADD Convention Center in 2001 on a simple charge of libel filed by the INC. The director at that time was Reynaldo Wycoco, an INC member. They came in full-battle gear looking for Bro. Eli whom they could not recognize though they talked to him. Wycoco was reported preparing another raid in 2005 when he succumbed to heart attack.

The MTRCB had suspended the Ang Dating Daan TV Program including all the anchors at least three times in the past at the behest of the Iglesia ni Cristo. One time, it was because Bro. Eli was calling them Iglesia ni Manalo that they took as insult.

BELOW: Thousands upon thousands of people gathered in front of the Human Rights Commission in the Philippines to show their support to Brother Eli when the latter was indefinitely suspended by the MTRCB from appearing in any television program. The Human Rights Commission later ruled in favor of Brother Eli stating that the MTRCB committed a grave abuse of authority against the preacher.

Screen Shot 2015-08-15 at 21.57.49

The Department of Justice also through Secretary Raul Gonzalez had been utilized to persecute Bro. Eli.

A rape charge filed against him was dismissed as the investigating prosecutor found no probable cause to prosecute Soriano. The judge believed that Veridiano’s accusations were all lies and fabricated. Filed sometime before October 5, 2005, the case was dismissed on January 26, 2006. It was penned by Alexandro Lopez, Asst. Provincial Prosecutor and approved by Jesus Magarang, Provincial prosecutor, Province of Pampanga, San Fernando City. The case highly considered the rift going on between the INC and the ADD.

But the dismissed case was ordered re-filed by the Office of the President Gloria Arroyo, one widely known as supported by the INC through bloc voting.

Media People Talking

Why do we allow these things to happen? Columnist Conrad de Quiros, in exasperation, asked this question. He mentions about the INC’s habits of “trying to keep certain prominent citizens out of jail or, in the case of public officials, keeping them in power.” He also questions why we allow the Iglesia ni Cristo meddling in the justice department, and interfering in elections, among many others.

Here are excerpts from de Quiros’ column –

The INC has grown over the years to become the second biggest church in this country. You’ve got to wonder, though, what it is asking its fold to do. Over the same years it has grown, it has been trying to keep certain prominent citizens out of jail or, in the case of public officials, keeping them in power.

Not too long ago, the INC made headlines by railing against the government for axing Magtanggol Gatdula, the director of the National Bureau of Investigation and an INC stalwart. P-Noy himself did the axing after finding out that Gatdula had a hand in the illegal detention of a Japanese fugitive. Despite De Lima’s strenuous attestations that the justice department did its homework before recommending Gatdula’s dismissal, the INC complained that he was not given a chance to explain.

All of these must make us ask: Why do we allow this?

Why do we allow the INC to begin with to interfere in elections? We know that INC members vote as a bloc for the candidates of their leaders’ choosing. We know this because that church doesn’t bother to hide it; it parades it as one of the reasons for joining it or currying its favor….This is out-and-out flouting of the separation of Church and State, a thing expressly forbidden in a democracy. And yet we see no law stopping it, and yet we see only politicians seeking to profit from it.  (http://opinion.inquirer.net/29267/why-do-we-allow-this#ixzz3ilLClbI2)

It’s not only de Quiroz questioning the behavior of the INC as an organization. Here’s an excerpt from what Blogger Jake Astudillo wrote about INC power in government offices –

The morbid interest of the INC for critical posts in the national government is quite disturbing too and even the high courts of the land are not spared. The Supreme Court has some justices and other people therein known to have been highly recommended by the INC and cannot be said to be free from public perception of being stooges for the INC.

The same is true for the National Bureau of Investigation, and for other offices under the Office of the President. One of these is the Movies, Television, Radio Censors Board (MTRCB) where the INC cries to as its favored valid court every time their beliefs are being scrutinized. At least, that was the experience of Bro. Eli Soriano. Maria Consoliza Laguardia used to hold fort as head censor of the MTRCB and decides matters upon the behest of the INC.

Jake Astudillo mentioned Lawyer Panopio’s analysis, Reporter Romero’s observation, and Author Vitug’s book. Panopio had underscored INC’s influencing court litigation results; Romero and Vitug were aware of INC recommending justices where these justices decide in favor of the Iglesia ni Cristo once put into place. More from Astudillo –

Not everyone is cowered by the INC influence, however. An enterprising young lawyer found that unconstitutional powers are being interpreted as vested in the MTRCB. James Benedict Panopio, in his analysis of the MTRCB rulings on suspension of the Ang Dating Daan (ADD) programs on TV said the INC should seek redress in the courts instead of the MTRCB. It is not a secret that litigations are highly the interest of the INC where they try to influence results, one of which is the Barrameda case, he said. 

Purple S. Romero of Newsbreak took note that Justice Presbitero Velasco Jr. of the Supreme Court is publicly known to have been highly recommended by the INC. Marites Vitug, in her book, Shadow of Doubt: Probing the Supreme Court, gave the same observation. For three days after the publication of her book, Vitug was receiving death threats on her mobile phone.

And Justice Presbitero Velasco Jr? He was the ponente or decision writer or justice in charge of the case in the Supreme Court sustaining suspension of Ang Dating Daan upon the complaint of the Iglesia ni Cristo. “Political considerations may have come into play in the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the suspension of the religious group Ang Dating Daan’s TV program according to court insiders we talked to,” said Newsbreak reporters. In earlier reports, Newsbreak through Romero surmised that the ruling of the Supreme Court was to please the Iglesia ni Cristo. It was not exactly a legal reason, the report said. The report is interesting in that the dissenting justices pointed to suppression of the freedom of speech in their decision.

And Justice Velasco? Of all people, why did he not inhibit himself from the case, considering his links with the Iglesia ni Cristo? With just their endorsement, the message is clear: they expected someone to exchange favor with. And as venial as one can be, if your ambition is lying in wait for an invitation, you can be used and finally play the willing tool. But it takes two to tango.(https://kotawinters.wordpress.com/2013/04/03/are-we-now-going-to-give-the-country-to-bloc-voting-people/)

Familiar Patterns

These familiar patterns keep repeating themselves. Are we that weak to resist? Recent events with the INC and INC influence show the following:

1) Intervening with the Justice System

A recent news report stated that Justice Secretary Leila de Lima has directed National Bureau of Investigation Director Virgilio Mendez to discipline an official who declared earlier that the bureau’s probe on the alleged abduction of 10 ministers of the influential Iglesia Ni Cristo was deemed closed. (http://manilastandardtoday.com/2015/08/04/doj-iglesia-case-still-open/#

Written by Rey E. Requejo titled “DOJ: Iglesia case still open”(Manila Standard, 8/04/2015), De Lima was said to have made the statement reiterating that the authorities are still investigating the supposed abduction of INC ministers. This was in contrast to the claim of NBI Anti-Organized Transnational Crime Division chief Manuel Eduarte that the case is now considered closed.

De Lima was reportedly surprised said Eduarte had declared the case was closed when he is not even involved in the investigation nor part of the team.

A check into records show that Eduarte is a member of the Iglesia ni Cristo.

Not long after, The Daily Tribune came out with “Binay asks De Lima to stop ‘reckless’ statements vs INC” (Tribune Wires, 8/07/2015) (http://www.tribune.net.ph/nation/binay-asks-de-lima-to-stop-reckless-statements-vs-inc)

The report said Vice President Jejomar “Jojo” Binay had advised Justice Secretary Leila de Lima to refrain from giving “unwarranted statements” on the alleged abduction of Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) ministers.

In a letter to De Lima, the Vice President said he felt compelled to “call your attention to the unwarranted statements you have been expressing in the mass media in your capacity as Secretary of the Department of Justice asserting that the alleged abduction of ministers of the Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) is not yet a ‘closed’ case.”

Binay reportedly noted that De Lima’s statements contradicted the findings of National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) authorities that conducted the investigation.

“It taxes credulity that you had to publicly contravene the findings of the NBI Anti-Organized Transnational Crimes Division, which itself conducted the investigation on the alleged abduction,” the Vice President said.

“According to your own people in the NBI, no such abduction took place, which finding is bolstered by the fact that there is no complainant who has come forward to attest to its commission. In short, there is apparently no crime committed or being committed,” he added.

If there was no abduction that happened, why are there many complaining from diverse places? Would it hurt to check if there are? What is the hurry in Manuel Eduarte in trying to close the lid and in Binay pressuring the DOJ Secretary if there are lives involved?

2) Riding on one-sided media for personal agenda

The Daily Tribune is also the one that reported earlier on Jose Norelito Fruto, 50, of Amparo Road, Nova Ville Subdivision, Novaliches in “Bogus gay doctor apprehended for molesting Caloocan student” by Arlie O. Calalo (The Daily Tribune, 07/14/2015).

Fruto was one of the INC ministers picked up earlier for questioning regarding the Antonio Ebanghelista blogs that blared corruption issues within the Iglesia ni Cristo.

The report said a 22 year old man (Robert Anthony, not real name) was allegedly sodomized by Fruto and that a CCTV tape showed at least the first of two incidents, the first one (July 4) inside the victim’s house, and the second one inside Fruto’s home.

This Daily Tribune report was used by the INC against Fruto as the “proof” to truth, just as they used it against Justice De Lima. It is clear that The Daily Tribune is not as popular as other broadsheets. The comments are scanty and are lorded over by INC members who spam the same comments over and over.

In the case where Binay berated Justice Secretary De Lima whose group is trying to look into reports of abduction, media was also used in impressing to the public which case is closed or unclosed.

3) Promoting lying and falsehood

Letters posted on Social Media by those expelled show that they were being forced to do things against their conscience. Here’s one written by Joven O. Sepillo Sr –

On July 18, 2015, my name was written in social media as one among those ministers who were abducted and could not be seen. We told our contacts that we are safe and not abducted. My family were wondering why my name was included there when we are just silently doing our responsibilities in the Locale of San Roque in Tolosa Extension, Leyte East District. Who could have done that and what was his aim?

On July 21, I was made to produce a video and say, “I am INC.” I cooperated and did the video according to the order of Bro. Rommel Sanvictores of INCTV and then sent it through email. My family felt safe then that when the video will be shown, it will be clear that I was not abducted and that I won’t be missing but will be found doing my work. When July 24, 2015 came, I welcomed the order from Central to make another video together with the brethren from the Locale with all of us saying,” All of us with responsibilities and all the brethren of the Locale of San Roque, Ecclesiastical District of Leyte East are proclaiming that we are fervently following doctrines and are submitting to obedience so that we will be saved.” Then we would greet Happy 101st Anniversary to the Iglesia ni Cristo. 

Upon arrival at the San Roque Locale, I found the brethren already gathered by the Head Deacon based on the order of the District and there was the Video man. It was not a day for Worship Service at San Roque, but the video would show that the service was just over. At that moment, I decided not to make the [second] video because, first I had already made one last July 21, 2015 as proof that I was not abducted. Second, the brethren already knew on July 23, 2015 about the call from Ka Tenny and Ka Angel, and because of that, they will be asking questions like what is happening with the church.

The following day, July 24, 2015, came the reading of the Circular pertaining to the family of Ka Erdy. I have read that Circular concerning the expulsion in the Worship Service at Tolosa Extension, but I felt so hurt that it has come to this. I could not anymore take it that after reading about the expulsion of the family, they would order me to proclaim fervent obedience and submission to the Administration – and with that I had to involve even the brethren!” (See post by Jorge. (http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/711261/doj-secures-3-expelled-iglesia-ni-cristo-members).

4) Threatening the lives of those who leave their religion or dis-agree with them.

These are lines from a report titled, “Iglesia ni Cristo expels members who joined protest in US (Coconuts Manila, 8/06/2015) –

According to another expelled INC member who was at the rally, fears of retaliation from the church against protesters were heightened a week later after gunshots were fired at his home. (http://manila.coconuts.co/2015/08/07/iglesia-ni-cristo-expels-members-who-joined-protest-us).

The members clearly know about killing being a part of the culture of the Iglesia ni Cristo.

Recently, Joy Yuson, one of the expelled ministers said in the vernacular, “We have to be careful. If they find us on the way, they will kill us. They may run over us, hold us up, kill or trace our steps to home.” (http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/focus/08/06/15/witnesses-vs-inc-placed-under-witness-protection-program).

According to ABS-CBN News, expelled INC Minister Joy Yuson had allegedly received information that the INC has a private army of 100 people that can strike any time. His companions also had other information –

“[Roel] Rosal, who used to work for the New Bilibid Prisons, told De Lima that INC can release inmates from prison, while [Lito] Fruto said an assistant state prosecutor from the justice department was involved in the arrest of one of the ‘missing’ INC ministers, Lowell Menorca, as well as in framing him up for a charge of rape.”

Yuson, Fruto, and Rosal are former members of INC who were expelled from the church after expressing support to the family of the late executive minister Eraño Manalo. (http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/focus/08/06/15/witnesses-vs-inc-placed-under-witness-protection-program).

These reports need verification, and if true, should be addressed by proper government authorities.

  1. No Mercy

A church is supposed to be the very first example in showing how character is supposed to be developed in a vibrant community. It may be none of people’s business questioning how a son can tolerate not talking to a mother for five years. But it has become public that the mother of Eduardo Manalo, Executive Minister of the INC, had wanted to talk to her son. Wasn’t she claiming her life was in danger together with the others? She was expelled from the organization in a show of force with the INC leadership claiming Ka Tenny and the rest of the family were creating division in the church. Farley de Castro, one of those expelled ministers claimed the widow of Eraño Manalo is more than 80 years old and is ill.

Screen Shot 2015-08-15 at 22.08.03

The Public is Watching: One-Sided Media

The Daily Tribune was decidedly one-sided. It did not mention earlier reports that De Lima had wanted the erring NBI Anti-Organized Transnational Crime Division chief Manuel Eduarte who said that the case is now considered closed to be sanctioned.

The Daily Tribune is obviously one of creating news instead of being a news courier. A good story would present both sides.

There is a tendency now for journalists to create news. And that is completely wrong. Journalists have a responsibility to report the news and comment upon the news. But they don’t have the right to create news. (Oscar R. Landicho, “Ethics in Journalism,” Booklore Publishing Corporation, Mla: 2002).

Indeed, what our country needs are good and honest journalists who can tell us what our people need or what is wrong with some government officials including judges and justices.

A look into a description of this paper says –

The Daily Tribune is a daily English-language broadsheet publication in the Philippines. Its office is in the 1st Floor of the Bel-Air Apartments along Roxas Boulevard, Manila. Its editor-in-chief is Ninez Cacho-Olivares. The Tribune is known for being critical of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her successor, Benigno S. Aquino III; conversely, it is often cited as supporting former President Joseph Estrada (now Mayor of Manila) and Vice President Jejomar Binay. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Daily_Tribune).

As a politician who has declared running for President as early as 2010, Binay, in his act of throwing down the gauntlet for the Iglesia ni Cristo is suspect. First, the INC’s practice of coercive bloc voting is a magnet for many politicians to woe the INC’s favor, ignoring the negative effect on the voters.

Second, the INC has been embroiled in controversy and has occupied the news spots in the recent months. But The Daily Tribune shows no indication of knowing anything before hand, as their reports reflected nothing of the other side.

What’s with a news outfit that cannot be objective? A journalist can do his job if his hands are free of bribes. Lest we be seen as imputing anything, there are many things aside from money that can corrupt a journalist: gadgets, electrical appliances, cars, free gasoline, gift vouchers in some department stores, free trips, free meals and drinks. Take that from a seasoned journalist like Oscar Landicho.

Here’s an excerpt from Landicho’s (2002) chapter on Envelopmental Journalism –

Only in the Philippines is ‘envelopmental journalism’ practiced with notoriety and frequency. Envelopmental journalism is not only illegal but also unethical. People who promote envelopmental journalism are peddlers of corruption, dishonesty, and immorality. Some journalists are … in the payroll of some politicians and businessmen.

The report on extensive lecture of Vice President Binay on DOJ Secretary De Lima is not balanced sans just one-liner saying Manuel Eduarte was not involved in the project of ascertaining abduction of INC ministers, or that De Lima was surprised on Eduarte’s “Case Closed” pronouncement. Instead, Binay was marking that Eduarte is a lawyer – as if being lawyer is equivalent to being honest and correct.

What citizens can do for now are the following: 1) Watch for wayward media and expose them; and 2) Watch the moves of politicians and expose them.

The Public is Watching: Politician’s Pressure

An evaluation of Binay’s motherland statements manifests an over-representation of this politician in the absence of a report on De Lima’s stance. He was clearly standing for Manuel Eduarte – someone not involved with the case – or even for the INC. This group is widely known to be influential with a reputation of actively lobbying to be able to place their own people in sensitive positions of the government.

From The Daily Tribune

“By your actuations, you are promoting the image of disunity, discord and even corruption in the INC to its clear prejudice and detriment,” Binay said.

“As public officials, it is our duty to respect the internal affairs and concerns of the INC and allow them, without the unwarranted interference from government, to conduct their own business in accordance with their religious beliefs. No less than our Constitution guarantees this inviolable separation of church and state,” he added.

“For the sake of upholding our Constitution, as well as protecting the integrity and good name of the INC as a religious community, I urge you to refrain from uttering baseless, if not reckless and irresponsible, statements that would tend to harm the religious institution of the INC,” Binay said. (http://www.tribune.net.ph/nation/binay-asks-de-lima-to-stop-reckless-statements-vs-inc)

Binay might not know it but it is the very ministers of the INC running for their lives who had requested for government intervention. Isaias Samson Jr. at a press conference held in July 23, said that government intervention in the crisis would help resolve the issue. Samson is one of those expelled INC ministers. (Tetch Torres-Tupas, “INC crisis: Suspended minister urges gov’t intervention”Inquirer.net. 7/23/2015).

Samson claimed that the INC was after him because of he had opposed INC general auditor Glicerio Santos Jr. According to reports, he was also accused of being the man behind the blog of Antonio Ebangelista, who has released critical articles against the group. (http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/707346/minister-detained-by-armed-guards-escapes-corrupt-inc-practices-bared).

The 1987 Constitution of The Republic of the Philippines in Article III Bill of Rights is enough cover for those running for their lives from the powerful.

Screen Shot 2015-08-15 at 22.10.51Consider this: Binay, a candidate for President in 2016, pitches for a religion that is publicly known as influential, but he does not feel for those individuals in it being abducted and reporting fear for their very lives.

The fact is that the INC does not need protection because it is very powerful – unlike individuals in them being threatened after exposing anomalies in their organization.

The right to life, liberty and the protection of the laws is guaranteed by the constitution. It is the right of citizens to be protected and secure in their persons.

The least that Vice President Binay could have done is not to contribute to the INC cover-up – unless he is a willing tool and has become part of these familiar patterns. Politicians are well-entrenched in these practices of the INC having become stooges or willing to become one.

A bird of the same feather knows its kind. It is time for everyone to choose whom to side with: the good or the evil.

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Are We Now Going to Give the Country to Bloc-Voting People?

By Jake Astudillo

Manila, Philippines (UPDATED April 21, 2013) – It’s election time again! Are we now going to give the country to bloc-voting people?

The effects of bloc voting in the country have never been at a scale felt by those being victimized by it than now. The key here is the impact of a command of unity that leads to an exchange of favor where favor has nothing to do with truth.

Bloc voting has long been a practice germane to the Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) as a doctrinal concept. However, such doctrine of unity is not based on the Bible but only in Manalo’s mind according to International Evangelist Eliseo Soriano, the foremost critic of that group.

Eliseo “Eli” Soriano, Presiding Minister to the Members Church of God International (MCGI) or Ang Dating Daan as more popularly known by its Radio-TV program, has been filed case after case by the Iglesia ni Cristo using members excommunicated by Soriano.  These people have gone to the INC despite the radical differences in belief beginning with the deity of Christ where the latter (INC) believe he was a mere human, will remain a human, and will appear again as a human and not God.

In an article written by Bro. Eli titled The Knowledge Of Counting Is Wisdom dated July 28, 2010 in his multi-awarded blog, http://www.esoriano.wordpress.com, he traced the beginnings of national interest in this so-called religious group that has morbid interest in politics. Bro. Eli asked his countrymen to learn how to count.

He said it all began with numbers apparently faked by Felix Manalo since the 2 Million population count of the INC members is many times over the total number of Filipinos in 1953.

Such number shocked politicians right away to court their favor. Until now, their numbers game is being played by the INC and largely helped by their members in media. In 2010, a lady newsreporter of the Philippine Daily Inquirer started the myth about the INC registered voters as ranging from 5- 8 Million. Read “registered voters.” That is not even talking about membership. Just with brackets, it is too big for an educated guess work. It is more of a political ploy. But with that millions, why can’t they win?

Arlyn dela Cruz was identified as an INC member who apparently had quickly learned from INC history how the numbers game had helped build the empire of the Manalo’s.

Asking his countrymen to learn how to count, Soriano said people are getting deceived into believing that victory in the national elections is owed to the INC bloc-voting practice. He pointed out examples where the INC failed. Here are some examples of those failed endorsements of the Iglesia ni Cristo – at the national level:

In 1992, the Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) endorsed Danding Cojuangco to Presidency. Danding landed only as 3rd in the final counting of votes. Six years later, in 1998, the INC supported Joseph Estrada who failed to continue his term.  On May 10, 2007, Michael Defensor, Ralph Recto and Vicente Sotto were endorsed as Senators by the INC but they lost in the 2007 elections. On May 5, 2010, the INC endorsed Mar Roxas as Vice-President but he lost. Again, on May 5, 2010, Raffy Biazon was endorsed by the INC as Senator but he lost. In the same year, on July 22, 2010, the Iglesia ni Cristo supported Manny Villar for  the Senate Presidency but he failed to win.

Walden Bello in 2010 wrote about local INC leaders selling promised bloc votes to local candidates in Bulacan. He was then running as a Representative for Akbayan. Or is it a command vote? 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.

In an interview with Bro. Eli recently, this is what he said –

“It’s an undeniable fact that the Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) is meddling in government affairs but firstly in placing people in government. They do this in their tricky neat way of saying they helped you win by some calculations they made a few days the win is palpable. With the blessings of a command vote, the fate of the politician is sealed, tucked with a gift of promise in an exchange made in the dark.                                    

“Even in the appointment of justices in the Supreme Court, the INC has not seen it fit to keep off – much to the dismay of the “common tao.”     

“If the INC is that numerous that can assure the victory of a candidate, logic dictates that they, given the chance, will want to directly govern the country.

“Why until now are they afraid of fielding their own candidate for a national position, like an INC candidate for senator or vice president or president? The reason is that if their very own (INC) candidates lost, the people and their candidates will discover the truth  or the one nearest to the truth: the paltry or insignificant total membership of the INC. This can prove that they are not as numerous as they claim.

“How? It is due to their injunction that a member that will not vote for a chosen candidate will automatically be excommunicated according to their book, ‘Ministerial Code and Ethics.” See?”

It is not a secret that candidates for elections beginning with the president troop to the chapels of the Iglesia ni Cristo. Public news have it that politicians are asked what they can contribute to this church group – before elections or after.

The INC is also known for their job-placement efforts for their members much akin to fraternity systems, the knowledge of which attracts those looking for work, and not for their belief. Matthew Guba was one who did not believe in the man-Christ doctrine of the INC but he stayed on for financial support and education. He was to sell house and lot and then have commissions for school fees. Saying it was a dangerous thing to do, he planned to leave when he could already have studied and have a job.

Every July 27 of every year now is an Iglesia ni Cristo holiday. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo who was also endorsed by the INC in the 2004 elections signed it into law. Marichu Villanueva of Philippine Star wrote that Arroyo admitted having asked the support of the INC for the 2004 elections but denies that there was a pay-off.

Following that, Commonwealth Avenue, the longest running street where four big Catholic churches stand, threatened to sport an INC address where Eraño Manalo Avenue would be the new name. This is by virtue of seven politicians who authored House Bill 6785which action surprised many.  Delon Porcalla, writing for Philippine Star in October 13, 2009 named them as  Reps. Candido P. Pancrudo, Jr (Bukidnon), Diosdado “Dato” M. Arroyo (Camarines Sur), Pedro P. Romualdo (Camiguin), Yevgeny Vicente B. Emano (Misamis Oriental), Jose S. Aquino II (Agusan del Norte), Antonio F. Lagdameo Jr (Davao del Norte), and Rommel C. Amatong (Compostela Valley).  It was only a bill, however, that remained a bill. It was not acted upon.

Next, Rodante D. Marcoleta of Alagad Party List, also a member of the INC, authored HB01323, an act renaming the Commonwealth Avenue in Quezon City into Eraño G. Manalo Avenue.  Status? It is pending with the Committee on Public Works and Highways since August 2, 2010.

After all of these efforts failed, Wikipedia accounts show that the Quezon City government renamed what was Central Avenue to Eraño G. Manalo Avenue under Ordinance number SP-1961 S-2009 of the Quezon City Council.  Chito A. Chavez, an INC reporter of Manila Bulletin was quoted as source, who in turn mentioned Ariel Inton as allegedly sponsoring such ordinance. Comelec records show that Antonio “Ariel” Inton Jr. ran for Mayor of Quezon City as Independent some six months before this but lost.

Julie M. Aurelio of Philippine Daily Inquirer also wrote of such proposal on September 4, 2009, also naming Councilor Ariel Inton as proponent of the new street name a few days after Eraño Manalo died.

Although Chito Chavez had reported in 2009 that there was one ordinance approved, a check with Quezon City Ordinances of 2009 reflected no such street naming by Councilor Inton but that he had been vocal about the proposal to some media men, particularly to Chito Chavez. Moreover, the ordinance mentioned by Chito Chavez  in his Manila Bulletin report and picked up by many including Wikipedia and propagated as truth does not bear the name Manalo but that of a manufacturing corporation.

In the records of the Quezon City Council, 17th City Council, Ordinance number SP-1961 S-2009 is about granting authority to Hermano Oil to operate a market and the author is Eden Candy A. Medina. And yet the report of Chito Chavez of an approved ordinance has been repeated as gospel truth.

This is what the records show: Approved No: SP-1961, S-2009 Proposed No: PO2009-046. Title: AN ORDINANCE GRANTING A FRANCHISE TO HERMANO OIL MANUFACTURING AND SUGAR CORPORATION TO OPERATE THE KINGSPOINT WET AND DRY MARKET ALONG KINGSPOINT AVENUE, KINGSPOINT SUBDIVISION, BARANGAY BAGBAG, DISTRICT 2, QUEZON CITY, PROVIDED THAT NO STRUCTURE WOULD BE CONSTRUCTED ON THE ROAD RIGHT-OF-WAY. Author: EDEN CANDY A. MEDINA.

Neither do Quezon City Council Ordinances of 2008 or 2010 reflect of an approved ordinance naming a street to Eraño Manalo nor to Felix Manalo despite efforts of some politicians.

The report of Delon Porcalla said there was the previous effort of the Quezon City Councilors to name Central Avenue to INC founding bishop Felix Manalo, Eraño’s father. However, Novaliches Bishop Antonio Tobias sent a letter of protest to Vice Mayor Herbert Bautista, who heads the city council, the same report said.

The fight is not over yet for a Manalo Avenue to become a reality among politicians. In February 2010, Lorelei V. Castillo in a press release for the Lower House wrote that Del R. De Guzman sought the early passage of House Bill 7102 that seeks to change the name E. Rodriguez Street from Barangay Concepcion Uno and Barangay Sto. Niño in Marikina City to Eraño G. Manalo Avenue. A few months before this, De Guzman was eyeing the office of the Mayor. He assumed office as Mayor on June 30, 2010, having won the latest election. De Guzman was a Representative of the Lower House before he ran for mayor.

If all these efforts at street-renaming for the INC Manalo’s are happening in Metro-Manila and the suburbs, it is also happening in Mindanao where people are more vocal in protesting against new street names.

Nicole J. Managbanag of SunStar Cagayan de Oro wrote on July 11, 2012 about a Councilor Alvin Calingin who authored three resolutions declaring July 27, 2012 and every year thereafter as INC Day in Cagayan de Oro City, renaming the Montalvan St. as “Felix Y. Manalo St.” in honor of the founder of INC; and naming the road from the junction of Concordio Diel St. and Villarin St. in Barangay Carmen to the landfill in upper Dagong up to the boundary of Barangay Canitoan as “Eraño V. Manalo St.” in honor of INC’s former executive minister.

Two days after, on July 13, 2012, Cong Corrales of InterAksyon.com, the online news portal of TV5, wrote about the chaos the Calingin resolutions produced. The Montalvan families who vowed to fight for the honor of their grandfather were backed up by historians and long-time residents. Bangon Kagay-anon vowed to fight these resolutions too.

Montalvan Street that Councilor Alvin Calingin wanted changed to Felix Y. Manalo St. stood in honor of Dr. Antonio Montalvan who had brothers Jesus, and Jose, who also fought the Japanese during World War II.

Corrales reported that the eldest brother Jesus served as intelligence officer in the guerrilla unit lead by Col. Wendell Fertig while Jose served as camp commander of the Philippine Auxiliary Tactical Air Group, what is now Camp Edilberto Evangelista, headquarters of the Army’s 4th Infantry Division.

Dr. Antonio Montalvan, for his part, was an intelligence officer captured by the Japanese and was beheaded with other captured guerillas at the Chinese Cemetery in Tayabas, Quezon. A monument honoring them still stands at the North Cemetery, the report said.

In reacting, Councilor Calingin said that city streets get renamed often, but this did not sit well with the local residents. They called the Calingin resolutions a political stunt ahead of the 2013 elections, the report said.

The Montalvans, among them a historian named Antonio II, pointed out that it is only the National Historical Commission that is authorized by Republic Act 10066, or the National Cultural Heritage Act to approve the renaming of streets.

You would think that renaming streets after one Manalo is stupid, but here’s one that surpasses it all. One hundred twenty-five years after the death of Felix Y. Manalo, here comes a Senator Juan Miguel F. Zubiri with a Senate Resolution 471 to honor the dead. The Resolution ended this way: “Be it resolved as it is hereby resolved that the Senate of the Philippines remember the 125th birth anniversary on May 10, 2011 of Ka Felix Manalo, founder of the Iglesia ni Cristo. Adopted.” Whereas in the true CHURCH, the dead are believed to be dead, resting, and beyond man’s reach. More so honoring one after 125 years buried in one’s part of the earth, whose remains cannot hear any, is a manifestation of stupidity and ignorance in Biblical teachings.

After the Lower House, by virtue of their enterprising representatives, the Senate is involved too?

This is how far we are afraid of them. This is how far we have been taken in by the Iglesia ni Cristo.

The police are ours; the mayor is ours; the fiscal is ours. So now, where will you go? Thus bragged in topix.net a blogger belonging to this group where the leader only has to intervene in any deadlock in the affairs of the Senate and the House. And presto, the problem is solved!

Did not Juan Ponce Enrile warn of church groups meddling in the affairs of the senate lately? Did not Francis Pangilinan give up his interest in running as Senate President, claiming that the Iglesia ni Cristo is blocking his efforts? Was not the Rose Barrameda case being followed up by the the Iglesia ni Cristo?

Where did they get their guts to be doing all these interventions? From people who succumbed to their bloc voting or command votes practice. Of course! There is an exchange involved in the process – and what an exchange!

“The Iglesia Ni Cristo is a minority church that is always on the wrong side of history. It has a track record of supporting most unholy causes to pursue certain opportunistic objectives.” This comes from Philip M. Lustre, writing from Manila Standard Today.

The morbid interest of the INC for critical posts in the national government is quite disturbing too and even the high courts of the land are not spared. The Supreme Court has some justices and other people therein known to have been highly recommended by the INC and cannot be said to be free from public perception of being stooges for the INC.

The same is true for the National Bureau of Investigation, and for other offices under the Office of the President. One of these is the Movies, Television, Radio Censors Board (MTRCB) where the INC cries to as its favored valid court every time their beliefs are being scrutinized. At least, that was the experience of Bro. Eli Soriano. Maria Consoliza Laguardia used to hold her fort as head censor of the MTRCB and decides matters upon the behest of the INC.

Not everyone is cowered by the INC influence, however. An enterprising young lawyer found that unconstitutional powers are being interpreted as vested in the MTRCB. James Benedict Panopio, in his analysis of the MTRCB rulings on suspension of the Ang Dating Daan (ADD) programs on TV said the INC should seek redress in the courts instead of the MTRCB. It is not a secret that litigations are highly the interest of the INC where they try to influence results, one of which is the Barrameda case, he said.

Purple S. Romero of Newsbreak took note that Justice Presbitero Velasco Jr. of the Supreme Court is publicly known to have been highly recommended by the INC. Marites Vitug, in her book, Shadow of Doubt: Probing the Supreme Court, gave the same observation. For three days after the publication of her book, Vitug was receiving death threats on her mobile phone, Melissa Rodgers who wrote about courageous women journalists reported.  The threats stopped only after the International Women’s Media Foundation (IWMF) wrote the President which contents were picked up by the local press. As a result of death threats, nowadays Newsbreak is more careful. It would scantily name reporters of reports.

And Justice Presbitero Velasco Jr? He was the ponente or decision writer or justice in charge of the case in the Supreme Court sustaining suspension of Ang Dating Daan upon the complaint of the Iglesia ni Cristo. “Political considerations may have come into play in the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the suspension of the religious group Ang Dating Daan’s TV program according to court insiders we talked to,” said Newsbreak reporters. In earlier reports, Newsbreak through Romero surmised that the ruling of the Supreme Court was to please the Iglesia ni Cristo. It was not exactly a legal reason, the report said. The report is interesting in that the dissenting justices pointed to suppression of the freedom of speech in their decision.

And Justice Velasco? Of all people, why did he not inhibit himself from the case, considering his links with the Iglesia ni Cristo? With just their endorsement, the message is clear: they expected someone to exchange favor with. And as venial as one can be, if your ambition is lying in wait for an invitation, you can be used and finally play the willing tool. But it takes two to tango.

The country is being sold to the dogs if decisions are only made to please the wiles of some people. Departures from just decisions ensure that those who disagree with one’s group are muffled to the core. A case in point is Bro. Eliseo Soriano who up to the Highest Court doesn’t seem to have hope for justice.

Justice is not reserved only for those who can dictate on voting because in the first place such kind of voting rapes the freedom to screen the candidate for his true worth. On the part of the candidate, he is missing the chance to be evaluated properly by individual voters. All in all, the set-up is virtually a demonic exchange for something that would make one’s country and countrymen suffer later on in many forms.

The candidate-winner won’t be able to feel the consequences, of course, being now ensconced in high places of personal comfort. Meanwhile people suffer first from injustice, now that the country is becoming divided into INC interests and non-INC interests.

Why so? Politicians curry their favor, even crafting resolutions such as gifting them with holidays, changing the names of important streets to names of INC leaders, chalking up memorandums of agreements. These they do to ensure their political ambitions.

How about media? They repeat what they read as truth, regardless of whether it is an INC propaganda or not. They are afraid to comment and exercise their social responsibilities; instead they help crystallize what social decay has started. As simple as applying compartmentalized justice on the streets, people are divided into who gets kid-gloves treatment and who gets sanctioned. As long as you carry those green-white- and-red stripes of the INC taken from Italian symbols, you are safe, no matter what traffic violation you made. But the traffic syndrome is just a tip of the iceberg. And yet media is quiet.

Why do we allow this?

The sinister spirit has caught up in all forms within the government system.  It has been many years already embedding itself, and because we are afraid of numbers, it will remain that way.

Conrado de Quiros of Philippine Daily Inquirer could only ask, why do we allow this?  Yet no one of us is responding. The numbers game – no matter how fake – has muffled our voices.

What next do we give to the Iglesia ni Cristo? The whole country?

____________

NOTES

Aurelio, Julie M. “Eraño Manalo Ave in QC proposed.” Philipine Daily Inquirer 4 September 2009. Print.

Bello, Walden. “Philippine Democracy: Alive, but is it well?” Inquirer.net 11 May 2010. Web.

Castillo, Lorelei V. “Solon wants Barangay Street renamed Eraño G. Manalo Avenue.” House of Representatives Press Release 26 February 2010. Web.

Chavez, Chito A. “Street in QC renamed Eraño Manalo Avenue.” The Manila Bulletin 20 October 2009. Print.

COMELEC. “Certified list of candidates for congressional and local positions for the May 10, 2010 National and Local Elections, Quezon City, National Capital Region – Second District.” Document. 2010. Web.

Corrales, Cong. Move to rename Cagayan de Oro street from war hero to INC founder draws flak. News. Philippines: InterAksyon.com, 2012, July 13. Web.

Cruz, Arlyn dela. “Iglesia ni Cristo endorses Aquino-Roxas tandem.” Philippine Daily Inquirer 4 May 2010. Print.

Dy, Erika T. “SC Upholds MTRCB Suspension of Ang Dating Daan.” Document. 2009 May. Web.

GMANews. “Commonwealth Ave nais ipangalan kay ‘Ka Erdy’ Manalo ng INC.” GMANews 11 October 2009. Web.

Magno, Alex. “Command votes.” Philippine Star 21 April 2007. Web.

Managbanag, Nicole J. “Councilors disagree over renaming of city streets.” SunStar Cagayan de Oro 11 July 2012. Print.

Marcoleta, Rodante D. HB01323[History]. An act renaming the Commonwealth/Don Mariano Marcos Avenue in Quezon City, Metro Manila into Eraño G. Manalo Avenue. Government File. Philippines: Lower House, 15th Congress, 2009. Web.

Medina, Eden Candy A. SP-1961, S-200. .An Ordinance granting a franchise to Hermano Oil Manufacturing and Sugar Corporation to operate the Kingspoint wet and dry market along Kingspoint Avenue Subdivision, Barangay Bagbag, District 2, Quezon City, provided that no structure would be constructed.  Republic of the Philippines, Quezon City Council, 17th City Council, 69th Regular Session. Government Files. Quezon City: Quezon City Ordinances, 2009. Web.

Porcalla, Delon. “GMA son wants Quezon City Avenue renamed.” Philippine Star 13 October 2009. Print.

Quiros, Conrado de. “Why do we allow this?” Philippine Daily Inquirer 23 May 2012. Print.

Rodgers, Melissa. “Vitug undeterred by ongoing legal battle with Supreme Court Justice.” Courage in Journalism Awards. IWMF.Org. 2011. Web.

Rufo, Aries. “SC sustains suspension of Ang Dating Daan.” Newsbreak 30 April 2009. Web.

Villanueva, Marichu. “GMA: Opposition behind Iglesia payoff rumors.” Philippine Star 30 May 2004. Print.

Virola, Dr. Romulo A. Where to go, for voters or for worse? Column. Makati City, Philippines: National Statistics Development Board, 2010 May 11. Web.

Vitug, Marites Danguilan. Shadow of Doubt: Probing the Supreme Court. Philippines:  Public Trust Media Group Inc 2010. Print.

Wikipedia. “Eraño Manalo, Recognition.” Biography. 2013, April 20. Web.

Zubiri, Juan Miguel F. “Remembering the 125th Birth Anniversary on May 10, 2011 of Ka Felix Manalo, Founder of the Iglesia ni Cristo.” Resolution. 2011. Document.

What the Dissenting Judges Wrote: Bro. Eliseo Soriano Vs Laguardia, MTRCB on Speech

Justice Roberto Abad

The following is an update on the case of Bro. Eli Soriano versus Ma. Consoliza Laguardia and the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB). It begins with the preacher’s account with a snippet from TOP magazine. It then leads to Erika T. Dy’s news on Supreme Court’s en banc decision, and Newsbreak Purple S. Romero’s voting report of the Supreme Court on the case. The focus is on the dissenting opinions of two justices: Justice Roberto A. Abad and Justice Antonio T. Carpio.The dissenting opinions carry facts of the case which can update the reader.

Dissent means that judges that do not agree with the majority may write their own dissenting opinions to state their views.

Justice Antonio Carpio

Background:

MTRCB suspended Bro. Soriano’s television broadcasts after the same religious group, the Iglesia ni Cristo (INC), had filed practically the same complaints about the use of harsh words by Bro. Soriano or alleged “bad words” and defamation against the INC. Soriano contested the suspensions at the high court, complaining that the MTRCB violated his constitutional right to free religion, speech, and expression.

“The statements were merely in response to the detestable conduct of the ministers of the Iglesia ni Cristo hosting a television program entitled, Ang Tamang Daan,” he said.

In taking Ang Dating Daan off the air, the MTRCB cited Section 3 of Presidential Decree 1986, granting the Board the power to screen, review, and examine all movie and TV programs and to delete materials that it deems morally offensive.

But Soriano countered that Section 3c of PD 1986 “is unconstitutional in so far as it sanctions the censorship of religious TV programs as a form of subsequent punishment.” [SOURCE: THE OLD PATH MAGAZINE. Vol. 1 No. 3 | 2005. http://www.angdatingdaan.org/publications/pub_top_2.htm%5D

After four years, this report came out –

The Supreme Court en banc, in an 11-4 vote, upheld the three-month suspension imposed by the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board on the TV program Ang Dating Daan, aired on UNTV 37, after its host, petitioner Eliseo S. Soriano, was found to have uttered offensive and obscene remarks during its August 10, 2004 broadcast.

The majority, in a consolidated decision, speaking through Justice Presbitero J. Velasco, Jr., held that the suspension is not a prior restraint, but rather a “form of permissible administrative sanction or subsequent punishment.” In affirming the power of the MTRCB to issue an order of suspension, the majority said that “it is a sanction that the MTRCB may validly impose under its charter without running afoul of the free speech clause.” [Source: Erika T. Dy. SC Upholds MTRCB Suspension of Ang Dating Daan. Supreme Court of the Philippines. April 30, 2009.]

A researcher from Newsbreak had provided a capsule report of the voting of the High Court on this issue as follows –

How the Supreme Court decided on
Soriano v. Laguardia; Soriano v. MTRCB

(on the suspension of “Dating Daan” preacher for uttering profanities on air against the Iglesia ni Cristo)

Why is it important: The case raised questions on what constitutes prior restraint.

The SC upheld the 3-month suspension of Dating Daan host Eliseo Soriano, who uttered profanities against the religious sect Iglesia ni Cristo on his show.

The Movie and Television Review Classification Board first slapped Soriano with a 20-day preventive suspension upon preliminary probe. It then issued a 3-month suspension against Soriano after he was found guilty of expressing obscenities on air.

The majority ruled that it is within the powers of the MTRCB to issue a preventive suspension.

However, those who dissented, which included Chief Justice Reynato Puno, said that the sanction will extend to Soriano’s future speech, and thus would constitute prior restraint.

How they voted: De Castro concurred with the decision. Carpio and Carpio-Morales dissented. Brion and Corona voted to dismiss the petition. [Research by Purple S. Romero. Newsbreak.com]

Here come now the excerpts from Law Monitor of the Supreme Court showing the dissenting opinions of Justice Roberto A. Abad and Justice Antonio T. Carpio.

Saturday, June 5, 2010
Supreme Court Decisions and Resolutions March 2010

G.R. No. 164785/G.R. No. 165636. March 15, 2010
Eliseo F. Soriano Vs. Ma. Consoliza P. Laguardia, etc. et al./Eliseo F. Soriano Vs. Movie and Television Review and Classification Board, et al.

Dissenting Opinion
J. Carpio, J. Abad

This is The DISSENTING OPINION OF JUSTICE J. ABAD [Source: http://sc.judiciary.gov.ph/jurisprudence/2010/march2010/164785_abad.htm%5D

EN BANC

G.R. No. 164785 — ELISEO F. SORIANO, Petitioner, versus MA. CONSOLIZA P. LAGUARDIA, in her capacity as Chairperson of the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board, MOVIE AND TELEVISION REVIEW AND CLASSIFICATION BOARD, JESSIE L. GALAPON, ANABEL M. DELA CRUZ, MANUEL M. HERNANDEZ, JOSE L. LOPEZ, CRISANTO SORIANO, BERNABE S. YARIA, JR., MICHAEL M. SANDOVAL and ROLDAN A. GAVINO, Respondents.

G.R. No. 165636 — ELISEO F. SORIANO, Petitioner, versus MOVIE AND TELEVISION REVIEW AND CLASSIFICATION BOARD, ZOSIMO G. ALEGRE, JACKIE AQUINO-GAVINO, NOEL R. DEL PRADO, EMMANUEL BORLAZA, JOSE E. ROMERO IV, and FLORIMONDO C. ROUS, in their capacity as members of the Hearing and Adjudication Committee of the MTRCB, JESSIE L. GALAPON, ANABEL M. DELA CRUZ, MANUEL M. HERNANDEZ, JOSE L. LOPEZ, CRISANTO SORIANO, BERNABE S. YARIA, JR., MICHAEL M. SANDOVAL and ROLDAN A. GAVINO, in their capacity as complainants before the MTRCB, Respondents.

Promulgated:

March 15, 2010
x —————————————————————————————- x

DISSENTING OPINION

ABAD, J.:

I am submitting this dissent to the ably written ponencia of Justice Presbiterio J. Velasco, Jr. that seeks to deny the petitioner’s motion for reconsideration of the Court’s decision in the case.

Brief Antecedent

Petitioner Eliseo F. Soriano, a television evangelist, hosted the Ang Dating Daan, a popular television ministry aired nationwide everyday from 10:00 p.m. to midnight over public television. The program carried a “general patronage” rating from the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB).

The Ang Dating Daan’s rivalry with another religious television program, the Iglesia ni Cristo’s Ang Tamang Daan, is well known. The hosts of the two shows have regularly engaged in verbal sparring on air, hurling accusations and counter-accusations with respect to their opposing religious beliefs and practices.

It appears that in his program Ang Tamang Daan, Michael M. Sandoval (Michael) of the Iglesia ni Cristo attacked petitioner Soriano of the Ang Dating Daan for alleged inconsistencies in his Bible teachings. Michael compared spliced recordings of Soriano’s statements, matched with subtitles of his utterances, to demonstrate those inconsistencies. On August 10, 2004, in an apparent reaction to what he perceived as a malicious attack against him by the rival television program, Soriano accused Michael of prostituting himself with his fabricated presentations. Thus:

“….gago ka talaga Michael. Masahol ka pa sa putang babae. O di ba? Yung putang babae ang gumagana lang doon yung ibaba, kay Michael ang gumagana ang itaas, o di ba! O, masahol pa sa putang babae yan. Sabi ng lola ko masahol pa sa putang babae yan. Sobra ang kasinungalingan ng demonyong ito…”

Michael and seven other ministers of the Iglesia ni Cristo lodged a complaint against petitioner Soriano before the MTRCB. Acting swiftly, the latter preventively suspended the airing of Soriano’s Ang Dating Daan television program for 20 days, pursuant to its powers under Section 3(d) of Presidential Decree 1986 and its related rules.

Petitioner Soriano challenged the validity of that preventive suspension before this Court in G.R. 164785. Meanwhile, after hearing the main case or on September 27, 2004, the MTRCB found Soriano guilty as charged and imposed on him a penalty of three months suspension from appearing on the Ang Dating Daan program. Soriano thus filed a second petition in G.R. 165636 to question that decision. The Court consolidated the two cases.

On April 29, 2009 the Court rendered a decision, upholding MTRCB’s power to impose preventive suspension and affirming its decision against petitioner Soriano with the modification of applying the three-month suspension to the program And Dating Daan, rather than to Soriano.

Issue Presented

This dissenting opinion presents a narrow issue: whether or not the Court is justified in imposing the penalty of three-month suspension on the television program Ang Dating Daan on the ground of host petitioner Soriano’s remarks about Iglesia ni Cristo’s Michael prostituting himself when he attacked Soriano in the Iglesia’s own television program.

The Dissent

The Ang Dating Daan is a nationwide television ministry of a church organization officially known as “Members of the Church of God International” headed by petitioner Soriano. It is a vast religious movement not so far from those of Mike Velarde’s El Shadai, Eddie Villanueva’s Jesus is Lord, and Apollo Quiboloy’s The Kingdom of Jesus Christ. These movements have generated such tremendous following that they have been able to sustain daily television and radio programs that reach out to their members and followers all over the country. Some of their programs are broadcast abroad. Ang Dating Daan is aired in the United States and Canada.

The Catholic Church is of course the largest religious organization in the Philippines. If its members get their spiritual nourishments from attending masses or novenas in their local churches, those of petitioner Soriano’s church tune in every night to listen to his televised Bible teachings and how these teachings apply to their lives. They hardly have places of worship like the Catholic Church or the mainstream protestant movements.

Thus, suspending the Ang Dating Daan television program is the equivalent of closing down their churches to its followers. Their inability to tune in on their Bible teaching program in the evening is for them like going to church on Sunday morning, only to find its doors and windows heavily barred. Inside, the halls are empty.

Do they deserve this? No.

1. A tiny moment of lost temper.

Petitioner Soriano’s Bible ministry has been on television continuously for 27 years since 1983 with no prior record of use of foul language. For a 15-second outburst of its head at his bitterest critics, it seems not fair for the Court to close down this Bible ministry to its large followers altogether for a full quarter of a year. It is like cutting the leg to cure a smelly foot.

2. Not obscene.

Primarily, it is obscenity on television that the constitutional guarantee of freedom of speech does not protect. As the Court’s decision points out, the test of obscenity is whether the average person, applying contemporary standards, would find the speech, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest. A thing is prurient when it arouses lascivious thoughts or desires or tends to arouse sexual desire.

A quarter-of-a-year suspension would probably be justified when a general patronage program intentionally sneaks in snippets of lewd, prurient materials to attract an audience to the program. This has not been the case here.

3. Merely borders on indecent.

Actually, the Court concedes that petitioner Soriano’s short outburst was not in the category of the obscene. It was just “indecent.” But were his words and their meaning utterly indecent? In a scale of 10, did he use the grossest language? He did not.

First, Soriano actually exercised some restraints in the sense that he did not use the vernacular word for the female sexual organ when referring to it, which word even the published opinions of the Court avoided despite its adult readers. He referred to it as “yung ibaba” or down below. And, instead of using the patently offensive vernacular equivalent of the word “fuck” that describes the sexual act in which the prostitute engages herself, he instead used the word “gumagana lang doon yung ibaba” or what functions is only down below. At most, his utterance merely bordered on the indecent.

Second, the word “puta” or “prostitute” describes a bad trade but it is not a bad word. The world needs a word to describe it. “Evil” is bad but the word “evil” is not; the use of the words “puta” or “evil” helps people understand the values that compete in this world. A policy that places these ordinary descriptive words beyond the hearing of children is unrealistic and is based on groundless fear. Surely no member of the Court will recall that when yet a child his or her hearing the word “puta” for the first time left him or her wounded for life.

Third, Soriano did not tell his viewers that being a prostitute was good. He did not praise prostitutes as to make them attractive models to his listeners. Indeed, he condemned Michael for acting like a prostitute in attacking him on the air. The trouble is that the Court, like the MTRCB read his few lines in isolation. Actually, from the larger picture, Soriano appears to have been provoked by Michael’s resort to splicing his speeches and making it appear that he had taught inconsistent and false doctrines to his listeners. If Michael’s sin were true, Soriano was simply defending himself with justified anger.

And fourth, the Court appears to have given a literal meaning to what Soriano said.

“Gago ka talaga x x x, masahol ka pa sa putang babae x x x. Yung putang babae ang gumagana lang doon yung ibaba, [dito] kay Michael ang gumagana ang itaas, o di ba!”

This was a figure of speech. Michael was a man, so he could not literally be a female prostitute. Its real meaning is that Michael was acting like a prostitute in mouthing the ideas of anyone who cared to pay him for such service. It had no indecent meaning. The Bible itself uses the word “prostitute” as a figure of speech. “By their deeds they prostituted themselves,” said Psalm 106:39 of the Israelites who continued to worship idols after God had taken them out of Egyptian slavery. Soriano’s real message is that Michael prostituted himself by his calumny against him.

If at all, petitioner Soriano’s breach of the rule of decency is slight, one on a scale of 10. Still, the Court would deprive the Ang Dating Daan followers of their nightly bible teachings for a quarter of a year because their head teacher had used figures of speech to make his message vivid.

4. The average child as listener

The Court claims that, since Ang Dating Daan carried a general patronage rating, Soriano’s speech no doubt caused harm to the children who watched the show. This statement is much too sweeping.

The Court relies on the United States case of Federal Communications Commission (FCC) v. Pacifica Foundation, a 1978 landmark case. Here are snatches of the challenged monologue that was aired on radio:

The original seven words were, shit, piss, fuck, cunt, cocksucker, motherfucker, and tits. Those are the ones that will curve your spine, grow hair on your hands and maybe, even bring us, God help us, peace without honor and bourbon…Also cocksucker is a compound word and neither half of that is really dirty…And the cock crowed three times, the cock—three times. It’s in the Bible, cock in the Bible…Hot shit, holy shit, tough shit, eat shit, shit-eating grin…It’s a great word, fuck, nice word, easy word, cute word, kind of. Easy word to say. One syllable, short u. Fuck…A little something for everyone. Fuck. Good word. x x x

Imagine how the above would sound if translated into any of the Filipino vernaculars. The U.S. Supreme Court held that the above is not protected speech and that the FCC could regulate its airing on radio. The U.S. Supreme Court was of course correct.

Here, however, there is no question that Soriano attacked Michael, using figure of speech, at past 10:00 in the evening, not at 2:00 in the afternoon. The average Filipino child would have been long in bed by the time Ang Dating Daan appeared on the television screen. What is more, Bible teaching and interpretation is not the stuff of kids. It is not likely that they would give up programs of interest to them just to listen to Soriano drawing a distinction between “faith” and “work or action.” The Court has stretched the “child” angle beyond realistic proportions. The MTRCB probably gave the program a general patronage rating simply because Ang Dating Daan had never before been involved in any questionable broadcast in the previous 27 years that it had been on the air.

The monologue in the FCC case that was broadcast at 2 in the afternoon was pure indecent and gross language, uttered for its own sake with no social value at all. It cannot compare to Soriano’s speech where the indecent words were slight and spoken as mere figure of speech to defend himself from what he perceived as malicious criticism.

5. Disproportionate penalty

The Court applied the balancing of interest test in justifying the imposition of the penalty of suspension against Ang Dating Daan. Under this test, when particular conduct is regulated in the interest of public order and the regulation results in an indirect, conditional, partial abridgment of speech, the duty of the courts is to determine which of the two conflicting interests demands the greater protection under the particular circumstances presented.

An example of this is where an ordinance prohibits the making of loud noises from 9:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. Can this ordinance be applied to prevent vehicles circling the neighborhood at such hours of night, playing campaign jingles on their loudspeakers to win votes for candidates in the election? Here, there is a tension between the rights of candidates to address their constituents and the interest of the people in healthy undisturbed sleep. The Court would probably uphold the ordinance since public interest demands a quiet night’s rest for all and since the restraint on the freedom of speech is indirect, conditional, and partial. The candidate is free to make his broadcast during daytime when people are normally awake and can appreciate what he is saying.

But here, the abridgment of speech—three months total suspension of the Ang Dating Daan television bible teaching program—cannot be regarded as indirect, conditional, or partial. It is a direct, unconditional, and total abridgment of the freedom of speech, to which a religious organization is entitled, for a whole quarter of a year.

In the American case of FCC, a parent complained. He was riding with his son in the car at 2:00 in the afternoon and they heard the grossly indecent monologue on radio. Here, no parent has in fact come forward with a complaint that his child had heard petitioner Soriano’s speech and was harmed by it. The Court cannot pretend that this is a case of angry or agitated parents against Ang Dating Daan. The complaint here came from Iglesia ni Cristo preachers and members who deeply loathed Soriano and his church. The Court’s decision will not be a victory for the children but for the Iglesia ni Cristo, finally enabling it to silence an abhorred competing religious belief and its practices.

What is more, since this case is about protecting children, the more appropriate penalty, if Soriano’s speech during the program mentioned was indecent and had offended them, is to raise his program’s restriction classification. The MTRCB classify programs to protect vulnerable audiences. It can change the present G or General Patronage classification of Ang Dating Daan to PG or “with Parental Guidance only” for three months. This can come with a warning that should the program commit the same violation, the MTRCB can make the new classification permanent or, if the violation is recurring, cancel its program’s permit.

This has precedent. In Gonzales v. Katigbak, the Court did not ban the motion picture just because there were suggestive scenes in it that were not fit for children. It simply classified the picture as for adults only. By doing this, the Court would not be cutting the leg to cure a smelly foot.

I vote to partially grant the motion for reconsideration by modifying the three-month suspension penalty imposed on the program Ang Dating Daan. In its place, I vote to raise the program’s restriction classification from G or General Patronage to PG or with Parental Guidance for three months with warning that should petitioner Soriano commit the same violation, the classification of his program will be permanently changed or, if the violation is persistent, the program will be altogether cancelled.

ROBERTO A. ABAD
Associate Justice

[1] Creating the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board.

[2] Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, p. 1829.

[3] Id. at 1274.

[4] New International Version (North American Edition); see other biblical passages that use “prostitute” as a figure of speech: Judges 2:17; 8:27; 8:33; 1Chronicles 5:25; and Leviticus 20:5.

[5] 438 U.S. 726.

[6] 222 Phil. 225 (1985).

Finally, this is The DISSENTING OPINION OF JUSTICE CARPIO [ Source: http://sc.judiciary.gov.ph/jurisprudence/2010/march2010/164785_carpio.htm%5D

EN BANC
G.R. Nos. 164785 and 165636 – ELISEO F. SORIANO, Petitioner, – versus – MA. CONSOLACION P. LAGUARDIA, in her capacity as Chairperson of the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board, MOVIE AND TELEVISION REVIEW AND CLASSIFICATION BOARD, JESSIE L. GALAPON, ET AL., Respondents.

Promulgated:
March 15, 2010
x—————————————————————————————–x

DISSENTING OPINION
CARPIO, J.:

Liberty is a right that inheres in every one of us as a member of the human family. When a person is deprived of his right, all of us are diminished and debased for liberty is total and indivisible.

Among the cherished liberties in a democracy such as ours is freedom of expression. A democracy needs a healthy public sphere where the people can exchange ideas, acquire knowledge and information, confront public issues, or discuss matters of public interest, without fear of reprisals. Free speech must be protected so that the people can engage in the discussion and deliberation necessary for the successful operation of democratic institutions. Thus, no less than our Constitution mandates full protection to freedom of speech, of expression, and of the press. All of the protections expressed in the Bill of Rights are important, but the courts have accorded to free speech the status of a preferred freedom. This qualitative significance of freedom of expression arises from the fact that it is the indispensable condition of nearly every other freedom.

The freedom of expression clause is precisely a guarantee against both prior restraint and subsequent punishment. It protects from any undue interference by the government the people’s right to freely speak their minds. The guarantee rests on the principle that freedom of expression is essential to a functioning democracy and suppression of expression leads to authoritarianism.

Prior restraint has been defined as official governmental restrictions on any form of expression in advance of actual dissemination. But the mere prohibition of government interference before words are spoken is not an adequate protection of the freedom of expression if the government could arbitrarily punish after the words have been spoken. The threat of subsequent punishment itself would operate as a very effective prior restraint.

Any form of prior restraint bears a presumption against its constitutional validity. The burden is on the censor to justify any imposition of prior restraint, not on the censored to put up a defense against it. In the case of print media, it has been held that just because press freedom may sometimes be abused does not mean that the press does not deserve immunity from prior restraint. The settled rule is that any such abuse may be remedied by subsequent punishment.

This Court, in Eastern Broadcasting Corporation v. Dans, Jr., laid down the following guideline:

All forms of media, whether print or broadcast, are entitled to the broad protection of the freedom of speech and expression clause. The test for limitations on freedom of expression continues to be the clear and present danger rule – that words are used in such circumstances and are of such a nature as to create a clear and present danger that they will bring about the substantive evils that the lawmaker has a right to prevent.

Chief Justice Fernando expounded on the meaning of the “clear and present danger” test in Gonzalez v. Chairman Katigbak, to wit:

The test, to repeat, to determine whether freedom of expression may be limited is the clear and present danger of an evil of a substantive character that the State has a right to prevent. Such danger must not only be clear but must also be present. There should be no doubt that what is feared may be traced to the expression complained of. The causal connection must be evident. Also, there must be reasonable apprehension about its imminence. The time element cannot be ignored. Nor does it suffice if such danger be only probable. There is the requirement of its being well-nigh inevitable.

Where the medium of a television broadcast is concerned, as in the case at hand, well-entrenched is the rule that censorship is allowable only under the clearest proof of a clear and present danger of a substantive evil to public safety, public morals, public health, or any other legitimate public interest.

One of the established exceptions in freedom of expression is speech characterized as obscene. I will briefly discuss obscenity as the majority opinion characterized the subject speech in this case as obscene, thereby taking the speech out of the scope of constitutional protection.

The leading test for determining what material could be considered obscene was the famous Regina v. Hicklin case wherein Lord Cockburn enunciated thus:

I think the test of obscenity is this, whether the tendency of the matter charged as obscenity is to deprave and corrupt those whose minds are open to such immoral influences, and into whose hands a publication of this sort may fall.

Judge Learned Hand, in United States v. Kennerly, opposed the strictness of the Hicklin test even as he was obliged to follow the rule. He wrote:

I hope it is not improper for me to say that the rule as laid down, however consonant it may be with mid-Victorian morals, does not seem to me to answer to the understanding and morality of the present time.

Roth v. United States laid down the more reasonable and thus, more acceptable test for obscenity: “whether to the average person, applying contemporary community standards, the dominant theme of the material taken as a whole appeals to prurient interest.” Such material is defined as that which has “a tendency to excite lustful thoughts,” and “prurient interest” as “a shameful or morbid interest in nudity, sex, or excretion.”

Miller v. California merely expanded the Roth test to include two additional criteria: “the work depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by the applicable state law; and the work, taken as whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.” The basic test, as applied in our jurisprudence, extracts the essence of both Roth and Miller – that is, whether the material appeals to prurient interest.

The present controversy emanated from the alleged splicing of a video recording wherein petitioner was supposedly made to appear as if he was asking for contributions to raise 37 trillion pesos instead of the allegedly true amount of 3.6 million pesos. The video was played by ministers of Iglesia ni Cristo in their television program “Ang Tamang Daan.”

In response, petitioner Eliseo Soriano, as host of the television program “Ang Dating Daan,” made the following utterances:

Bro. Josel Mallari:
Ulit-ulit na iyang talagang kawalanghiyaan na iyan, naku. E, markado nang masyado at saka branded na itong nga ito anong klase po sila. Wala kayong babalikan diyan Kapatid na Manny. Iyang klase ng mga ministro na iyan, pasamain lamang si Kapatid na Eli e pati mga ninakaw na tape, pati mga audio na pinag-edit-edit, lalagyan ng caption para makita nila, maipakita nilang malinaw ‘yung panloloko nila. Kasi Sis. Luz, puwede mo nang hindi lagyan ng caption e, patunugin mo na lang na ganun ang sinasabi. Pero talagang para mai-emphasize nila ‘yung kanilang kawalanghiyaan, lalagyan pa nila ng caption na hindi naman talagang sinabi ni Bro. Eli kundi pinagdugtong lang ‘yung audio.

Bro. Eli Soriano:
At saka ang malisyoso. Kitang-kita malisyoso e. Paninirang-puri e. Alam mo kung bakit? Mahilig daw ako talagang manghingi para sa aking pangangailangan. Pangangailangan ko ba ‘yung pambayad sa UNTV e ang mga kontrata diyan ay hindi naman ako kapatid na Josel.

Bro. Josel Mallari:
Ay, opo.

Bro. Eli Soriano:
Hindi ko kontrata iyang babayaran na iyan. I am not even a signatory to that contract. Pagkatapos para pagbintangan mo ako na humingi ako para sa pangangailangan ko, gago ka talaga Michael. Masahol ka pa sa putang babae. O, di ba? Yung putang babae ang gumagana lang doon yung ibaba, kay Michael ang gumagana ang itaas, o di ba! O, masahol pa sa putang babae yan. Sabi ng lola ko masahol pa sa putang babae yan. Sobra ang kasinungalingan ng mga demonyong ito. Sige, sumagot kayo. At habang ginaganyan ninyo ako, ang mga miyembro ninyo unti-unting maliliwanagan. Makikita n’yo rin, magreresulta ng maganda iyan.

Bro. Manny Catangay Jusay:
Bro. Eli, ay iyan nga po ang sinasabi ko e, habang gumagawa sila ng ganyan, gaya nung sinabi nung Kapatid natin kagabi dahil napanood ‘yung kasinungalingan ni Pol Guevarra, ay, lumuluha ‘yung Kapatid, inaanyayahan ‘yung mag-anak niya. Magsialis na kayo diyan. Lipat na kayo rito. Kasi kung nag-iisip lang ang isang Iglesia ni Cristo matapos ninyong mapanood itong episode na ito, iiwanan ninyo e, kung mahal ninyo ang kaluluwa ninyo. Hindi kayo paaakay sa ganyan, nagpafabricate ng mga kasinungalingan. Sabi ko nga lahat ng paraan ng pakikipagbaka nagawa na nila e, isa na lang ang hindi ‘yung pakikipagdebate at patunayan na sila ang totoo. Iyon na lang ang hindi nila nagagawa. Pero demanda, paninirang-puri – nagtataka nga ako e, tayo, kaunting kibot, nakademanda sila e. ‘yung ginagawa nila, ewan ko, idinedemanda n’yo ba Bro. Eli?

The majority opinion ruled that the highlighted portion of the aforequoted speech was obscene and was, therefore, not entitled to constitutional protection.

Well-settled is the rule that speech, to be considered obscene, must appeal to prurient interest as defined in Roth and firmly adopted in our jurisdiction. The subject speech cannot, by any stretch of the imagination, be said to appeal to any prurient interest. The highlighted portion of the verbal exchange between the two feuding religious groups is utterly bereft of any tendency to excite lustful thoughts as to be deemed obscene. The majority’s finding of obscenity is clearly untenable.

In contrast, a radio broadcast of a monologue replete with indecent words such as shit, piss, fuck, cunt, cocksucker, motherfucker, and tits, has been held protected speech depending on the context relating to the time of broadcast. However, in this case before us, the words “putang babae” (female prostitute), and the descriptive action phrases “ang gumagana lang doon yung ibaba” and “kay Michael ang gumagana ang itaas” were enough to constitute outright obscenity for the majority. The majority opinion simply forced these words and phrases into a strained standard formula for censorship. But such overbroad standard must be struck down for it indiscriminately infringes upon free speech.

The subject speech in this case may, at most, be considered indecent speech.

Indecent speech conveyed through the medium of broadcast is a case of first impression in our jurisdiction. However, this issue has been settled in American case law, which has persuasive influence in our jurisprudence. There, the rule is that indecent speech is protected depending on the context in which it is spoken. The concept of what is “indecent” is intimately connected with the exposure of children to language that describes, in terms patently offensive, as measured by contemporary community standards for the broadcast medium, sexual or excretory activities and organs, at times of the day when there is a reasonable risk that children may be in the audience.

FCC v. Pacifica Foundation is the landmark U.S. case on the regulation of indecent speech in broadcast. The case involved a radio broadcast of “Filthy Words,” a 12-minute monologue by American stand-up comedian and social critic, George Carlin. Appended to the decision is the following verbatim transcript prepared by the Federal Communications Commission:

The original seven words were, shit, piss, fuck, cunt, cocksucker, motherfucker, and tits. Those are the ones that will curve your spine, grow hair on your hands and maybe, even bring us, God help us, peace without honor and a bourbon. And now the first thing that we noticed was that word fuck was really repeated in there because the word motherfucker is a compound word and it’s another form of the word fuck. You want to be a purist, it can’t be on the list of basic words. Also, cocksucker is a compound word and neither half of that is really dirty. The word-the half sucker that’s merely suggestive and the word cock is a half-way dirty word, 50% dirty-dirty half the time, depending on what you mean by it. Uh, remember when you first heard it, like in 6th grade, you used to giggle. And the cock crowed three times, the cock-three times. It’s in the Bible, cock in the Bible. And the first time you heard about a cock-fight, remember-What? Huh? It ain’t that, are you stupid? It’s chickens, you know, Then you have the four letter words from the old Angle-Saxon fame. Uh, shit and fuck. The word shit, uh, is an interesting kind of word in that the middle class has never really accepted it and approved it. They use it like, crazy but it’s not really okay. It’s still a rude, dirty, old kind of gushy word. They don’t like that, but they say it, like, they say it like, a lady now in a middle-class home, you’ll hear most of the time she says it as an expletive, you know, it’s out of her mouth before she knows. She says, Oh shit oh shit, oh shit. If she drops something, Oh, the shit hurt the broccoli. Shit. Thank you.

Shit! I won the Grammy, man, for the comedy album. Isn’t that groovy? That’s true. Thank you. Thank you man. Yeah. Thank you man. Thank you. Thank you very much, man. Thank, no, for that and for the Grammy, man, [‘]cause that’s based on people liking it man, that’s okay man. Let’s let that go, man. I got my Grammy. I can let my hair hang down now, shit. Ha! So! Now the word shit is okay for the man. At work you can say it like crazy. Mostly figuratively, Get that shit out of here, will ya? I don’t want to see that shit anymore. I can’t cut that shit, buddy. I’ve had that shit up to here. I think you’re full of shit myself. He don’t know shit from Shinola. you know that? Always wondered how the Shinola people felt about that Hi, I’m the new man from Shinola, Hi, how are ya? Nice to see ya. How are ya? Boy, I don’t know whether to shit or wind my watch. Guess, I’ll shit on my watch. Oh, the shit is going to hit de fan. Built like a brick shit-house. Up, he’s up shit’s creek. He’s had it. He hit me, I’m sorry. Hot shit, holy shit, tough shit, eat shit. shit-eating grin. Uh, whoever thought of that was ill. He had a shit-eating grin! He had a what? Shit on a stick. Shit in a handbag. I always like that. He ain’t worth shit in a handbag. Shitty. He acted real shitty. You know what I mean? I got the money back, but a real shitty attitude. Heh, he had a shit-fit. Wow! Shit-fit. Whew! Glad I wasn’t there. All the animals-Bull shit, horse shit, cow shit, rat shit, bat shit. First time I heard bat shit, I really came apart. A guy in Oklahoma, Boggs, said it, man. Aw! Bat shit. Vera reminded me of that last night. Snake shit, slicker than owl shit. Get your shit together. Shit or get off the pot. I got a shit-load full of them. I got a shit-pot full, all right. Shit-head, shit-heel, shit in your heart, shit for brains, shit-face. I always try to think how that could have originated; the first guy that said that. Somebody got drunk and fell in some shit, you know. Hey, I’m shit-face. Shit-face, today. Anyway, enough of that shit. The big one, the word fuck that’s the one that hangs them up the most. [‘]Cause in a lot of cases that’s the very act that hangs them up the most. So, it’s natural that the word would, uh, have the same effect. It’s a great word, fuck, nice word, easy word, cute word, kind of. Easy word to say. One syllable, short u. Fuck. You know, it’s easy. Starts with a nice soft sound fuh ends with a kuh. Right? A little something for everyone. Fuck Good word. Kind of a proud word, too. Who are you? I am FUCK, FUCK OF THE MOUNTAIN. Tune in again next week to FUCK OF THE MOUNTAIN. It’s an interesting word too, [‘]cause it’s got a double kind of a life-personality-dual, you know, whatever the right phrase is. It leads a double life, the word fuck. First of all, it means, sometimes, most of the time, fuck. What does it mean? It means to make love. Right? We’re going to make love, yeh, we’re going to fuck, yeh, we’re going to fuck, yeh, we’re going to make love. we’re really going to fuck, yeh, we’re going to make love. Right? And it also means the beginning of life, it’s the act that begins life, so there’s the word hanging around with words like love, and life, and yet on the other hand, it’s also a word that we really use to hurt each other with, man. It’s a heavy one that you have toward the end of the argument. Right? You finally can’t make out. Oh, fuck you man. I said, fuck you. Stupid fuck. Fuck you and everybody that looks like you man. It would be nice to change the movies that we already have and substitute the word fuck for the word kill, wherever we could, and some of those movie cliches would change a little bit. Madfuckers still on the loose. Stop me before I fuck again. Fuck the ump, fuck the ump, fuck the ump, fuck the ump, fuck the ump. Easy on the clutch Bill, you’ll fuck that engine again. The other shit one was, I don’t give a shit. Like it’s worth something, you know? I don’t give a shit. Hey, well, I don’t take no shit, you know what I mean? You know why I don’t take no shit? [‘]Cause I don’t give a shit. If I give a shit, I would have to pack shit. But I don’t pack no shit cause I don’t give a shit. You wouldn’t shit me, would you? That’s a joke when you’re a kid with a worm looking out the bird’s ass. You wouldn’t shit me, would you? It’s an eight-year-old joke but a good one. The additions to the list. I found three more words that had to be put on the list of words you could never say on television, and they were fart, turd and twat, those three. Fart, we talked about, it’s harmless. It’s like tits, it’s a cutie word, no problem. Turd, you can’t say but who wants to, you know? The subject never comes up on the panel so I’m not worried about that one. Now the word twat is an interesting word. Twat! Yeh, right in the twat. Twat is an interesting word because it’s the only one I know of, the only slang word applying to the, a part of the sexual anatomy that doesn’t have another meaning to it. Like, ah, snatch, box and pussy all have other meanings, man. Even in a Walt Disney movie, you can say, We’re going to snatch that pussy and put him in a box and bring him on the airplane. Everybody loves it. The twat stands alone, man, as it should. And two-way words. Ah, ass is okay providing you’re riding into town on a religious feast day. You can’t say, up your ass. You can say, stuff it!

Worthy of note, in Pacifica, the FCC did not resort to any subsequent punishment, much less any prior restraint. The station was not suspended for the broadcast of the monologue, which the U.S. Supreme Court merely considered indecent speech based on the context in which it was delivered. According to the U.S. Supreme Court, the monologue would have been protected were it delivered in another context. The monologue was broadcast at 2:00 p.m., when children were presumptively in the audience.

A later case, Action for Children’s Television v. FCC, establishes the safe harbor period to be from 10:00 in the evening to 6:00 in the morning, when the number of children in the audience is at a minimum. In effect, between the hours of 10:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m., the broadcasting of material considered indecent is permitted. Between the hours of 6:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m., the broadcast of any indecent material may be sanctioned.

In this case, the subject speech by petitioner was broadcast starting 10:00 p.m. onwards, clearly within the safe harbor period as established in Action for Children’s Television. Correctly applying Pacifica’s context-based ruling, petitioner’s speech, if indeed indecent, enjoys constitutional protection and may not be sanctioned. The rule on this matter, as laid down by Pacifica in relation to Action for Children’s Television, is crystal-clear. But should the majority still have any doubt in their minds, such doubt should be resolved in favor of free speech and against any interference by government. The suspension of “Ang Dating Daan” by the MTRCB was a content-based, not a content-neutral regulation. Thus, the suspension should have been subjected to strict scrutiny following the rule in Chavez v. Gonzales. The test should be strict because the regulation went into the very heart of the rationale for the right to free speech – that speech may not be prohibited just because government officials disapprove of the speaker’s views.

Further, the majority opinion held that even if petitioner’s utterances were not obscene but merely indecent speech, they would still be outside of the constitutional protection because they were conveyed through a medium easily accessible to children. The majority misapplied the doctrine of FCC v. Pacifica, the leading jurisprudence on this matter. Pacifica did not hold that indecent speech, when conveyed through a medium easily accessible to children, would automatically be outside the constitutional protection. On the contrary, the U.S. Supreme Court emphasized the narrowness of its ruling in Pacifica. The guideline that Pacifica laid down is that the broadcast of a monologue containing indecent speech could be considered protected or unprotected depending on the context, that is, the time of the day or the night when the indecent utterances were delivered.

The majority’s ruling in this case sets a dangerous precedent. This decision makes it possible for any television or radio program, on the slightest suspicion of being a danger to national security or on other pretexts, to likewise face suspension. The exacting “clear and present danger” test is dispensed with to give way to the “balancing of interests” test in favor of the government’s exercise of its regulatory power. Granting without conceding that “balancing of interests” is the appropriate test in setting a limitation to free speech, suspension of a television program is a measure way too harsh that it would be inappropriate as the most reasonable means for averting a perceived harm to society. The restriction on freedom need not be greater than is necessary to further the governmental interest.

The “balancing of interests” test requires that a determination must first be made whether the necessary safeguarding of the public interest involved may be achieved by some other measure less restrictive of the protected freedom. The majority immediately resorted to outright suspension without first exploring other measures less restrictive of freedom of speech. It cites MTRCB v. ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corporation in justifying the government’s exercise of regulatory power. But the ABS-CBN case involved a mere fine as punishment, not a prior restraint in the form of suspension as in this case. In the cited case, one of the episodes of “The Inside Story,” a television program of ABS-CBN, was aired without prior review and approval by the MTRCB. For this omission, the MTRCB subsequently fined ABS-CBN in the amount of P20,000. However, even as the television station was fined, the program continued to be aired and was never suspended.

Indeed, prior restraint by suspension is an extreme measure that may only be imposed after satisfying the “clear and present danger” test, which requires the perceived danger to be both grave and imminent. Prior restraint is simply uncalled for in this case where what is involved is not even obscene speech, but mere indecent speech. Note too, that the subject utterances in this case were broadcast starting 10:00 p.m. onwards, well within the safe harbor period for permissible television broadcast of speech which may be characterized as indecent.

Suspension of the program stops not only petitioner, but also the other leaders of his congregation from exercising their constitutional right to free speech through their medium of choice, which is television. The majority opinion attempts to assuage petitioner’s misery by saying that petitioner can still exercise his right to speak his mind using other venues. But this proposition assumes that petitioner has access to other venues where he may continue his interrupted exercise of free speech using his chosen mode, television broadcast.

While we may not agree with petitioner’s choice of language in expressing his disgust in this word war between two feuding religious groups, let us not forget that freedom of speech includes the expression of thoughts that we do not approve of, not just thoughts that are agreeable. To paraphrase Voltaire: We may disapprove of what petitioner has said, but we must defend to the death his right to say it.

The three-month suspension cannot be passed off merely as a preventive suspension that does not partake of a penalty. The actual and real effect of the three-month suspension is a prior restraint on expression in violation of a fundamental constitutional right. Even Congress cannot validly pass a law imposing a three-month preventive suspension on freedom of expression for offensive or vulgar language uttered in the past. Congress may punish such offensive or vulgar language after their utterance, with damages, fine, or imprisonment; but Congress has no power to suspend or suppress the people’s right to speak freely because of such utterances. In short, Congress may pass a law punishing defamation or tortious speech but the punishment cannot be the suspension or suppression of the constitutional right to freedom of expression. Otherwise, such law would be abridging the freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press. If Congress cannot pass such a law, neither can respondent MTRCB promulgate a rule or a decision suspending for three months petitioner’s constitutional right to freedom of speech. And of course, neither can this Court give its stamp of imprimatur to such an unconstitutional MTRCB rule or decision.

I end this dissenting opinion with a reminder from Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes – that the market place of ideas is still the best alternative to censorship. The market place of ideas makes freedom of speech robust and allows people to be more tolerant of opposing views. It has been said that freedom of speech is not only to freely express oneself within the context of the law but also to hear what others say, that all may be enlightened, regardless of how obnoxious or erroneous the opposing views may be.

Accordingly, I vote to GRANT the motion for reconsideration.

ANTONIO T. CARPIO
Associate Justice

[1] Ordonez v. Director of Prisons, G.R. No. 115576, 4 August 1994, 235 SCRA 152.

[2] Simone Chambers, Deliberation, Democracy, and the Media, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2000, p. xi.

[3] Id. at 3.

[4] Constitution, Article III, Section 4.

[5] Blo Umpar Adiong v. Commission on Elections, G.R. No. 103956, 31 March 1992, 207 SCRA 712.

[6] Joaquin Bernas, S.J. Constitutional Rights and Social Demands, Notes and Cases Part II, 2004. pp. 284-285.

[7] Social Weather Stations, Inc. v. Commission on Elections, 409 Phil. 571 (2001); Iglesia ni Cristo v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 119673, 26 July 1996, 259 SCRA 529 citing Near v. Minnesota, 283 U.S. 697 (1931).

[8] 222 Phil. 151.

[9] 222 Phil. 225.

[10] Id.

[11] L.R. 3 Q.B. 360, 371 (1868).

[12] 209 F. 119, 120 (S.D.N.Y. 1913).

[13] 354 U.S. 476 (1957).

[14] 413 U.S. 15 (1973).

[15] Gonzales v. Chairman Katigbak, supra note 9.

[16] Rollo, G.R. No. 164785, pp. 148-153.

[17] Gonzales v. Chairman Katigbak, supra note 9; Pita v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 80806, 5 October 1989, 178 SCRA 362; Fernando v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 159751, 6 December 2006, 510 SCRA 351.

[18] FCC v. Pacifica Foundation, 438 U.S. 726 (1978).

[19] Id.

[20] Id.

[21] On 21 February 1975, the Federal Communications Commission issued a declaratory order granting the complaint and holding that Pacifica “could have been the subject of administrative sanctions.” The Commission did not impose formal sanctions, but it did state that the order would be “associated with the station’s license file, and in the event that subsequent complaints are received, the Commission will then decide whether it should utilize any of the available sanctions it has been granted by Congress.”

[22] 58 F.3d 654 (1995).

[23] G.R. No. 168338, 15 February 2008, 545 SCRA 441.

[24] See the dissenting opinion of Chief Justice Reynato Puno in this case. Soriano v. Laguardia, G.R. No. 164785, 29 April 2009.

[25] Social Weather Stations, Inc. v. Commission on Elections, supra note 7.

[26] Thomas Emerson, Towards a General Theory of the First Amendment, 72 Yale Law Journal 877 (1963).

[27] 489 Phil. 544 (2005).

[28] Gonzales v. Commission on Elections, No. L-27833, 137 Phil. 471 (1969).

[29] Dissenting Opinion of Justice Holmes in Abrams v. United States, 250 U.S. 616, 40 S. Ct. 17, 63 L. Ed. 1173 (1919).

[30] Ruben Agpalo, Philippine Constitutional Law, 2006, p. 330.