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.
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).
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.
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.
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 Manarang, 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/)
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.
- 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.
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.
Consider 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.