Girish Mahajan (Editor)

2015 Iglesia ni Cristo leadership controversy

Updated on
Share on FacebookTweet on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on Reddit
Covid-19
2015 Iglesia ni Cristo leadership controversy

The 2015 Iglesia ni Cristo leadership controversy is a dispute between senior members of the Christian denomination Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) in the Philippines. In July 2015, it was reported that the INC had expelled some of its ministers, along with high-profile members Felix Nathaniel "Angel" and Cristina "Tenny" Manalo. Angel is the brother of current INC Executive Minister Eduardo Manalo and Tenny is the mother of Eduardo, and widow of former Executive Minister Eraño Manalo.

Contents

Angel and Tenny were expelled from the INC for "sowing disunity" in the Church. The INC administration released a statement claiming that Eduardo had agreed to the expulsion of his brother and mother from the INC, as decided upon by its overall leadership. However, both Angel and Tenny claimed their lives were threatened by the Iglesia administration. Angel and Tenny had reportedly been illegally detained at the Iglesia's Central Office Complex in Tandang Sora, Quezon City, and that at least ten ministers of the Church were missing and alleged to have been abducted.

Former INC ministers Roel Rosal and Isaias Samson, Jr., claimed that the Sanggunián (the highest administrative council of the INC) had unlawfully abducted and detained ministers, along with members of the Manalo family, to cover up corruption surrounding the chief auditor, Glicerio "Jun" Santos, Jr. On July 24, 2015, INC, represented by Glicerio B. Santos, IV, head counsel and son of Santos, Jr. filed a libel complaint against Samson. Detained INC minister Lowell Menorca stated that he was forcibly detained by the INC administration, and was kidnapped at gunpoint by police officers in the employ of INC leaders and was forced to deny his captivity under duress.

Angel and Tenny Manalo

On July 22, 2015, a video was uploaded to YouTube featuring Felix Nathaniel "Angel" Manalo, the brother to nominal INC leader Eduardo V. Manalo and a former General Manager of GemNet (formerly the TV station of INC, replaced by INCTV), along with his mother, Cristina "Tenny" Manalo, the widow of Eraño Manalo. In the video, they claimed their lives had been threatened by the Iglesia leadership, along with that of Angel's sister, Lottie Hemedez. Tenny Manalo also claimed that there had been a mass kidnapping of ministers who had not been accounted for, implying that their disappearance somehow traced to the INC leadership, and that she had not been able to speak to Eduardo V. Manalo.

However, INC denies the claims. Bienvenido Santiago, INC's chief evangelist, announced a few hours after the video's release that INC was expelling Cristina "Tenny" Manalo, along with Felix Nathaniel "Angel" Manalo, for allegedly causing divisions in the Church and wanting to seize power. Santiago claimed that their video was a sympathy ploy to gather support to meddle in the leadership of the INC and that the INC administration was acting on the wishes of Eduardo V. Manalo to prevent discord in the Church. Edwil Zabala, a spokesman for the INC stated that the INC would consider having Tenny and Angel Manalo return to the Church if they would pledge to uphold and obey their teachings. Marco Eraño "Marc" Villanueva Manalo and Lolita "Lottie" Manalo Hemedez, the younger siblings of Eduardo and Angel, were also expelled.

After the response from the INC, an unidentified individual was photographed holding a sign saying "Tulong, hostage kami" (Tagalog: Help, we're [held] hostage) in a building that is part of the INC Central Office in Tandang Sora, Quezon City. When contacted by reporters, INC spokesman Edwil Zabala referred them to a CD recording of Santiago's statement regarding the expulsions.

In a press briefing that same afternoon, Santiago confirmed the expulsions. Santiago said in Tagalog, "Painful as it is to our brother Eduardo Manalo, they have decided to expel those who have been causing division within the Church. That is why in future worship services of the Church of Christ, from this day, the Overall Leadership will let this be known by all of our brothers".

The Philippine National Police, through its Quezon City Police District (QCPD), sent its personnel to the INC compound on July 23. They were able to contact Angel in the evening, and Angel himself talked to the reporters around 1:00 PST, denying he was detained and saying that sign pleading for help was done by a child joking around. QCPD Joel Pagdilao said that the police is ruling out case of abduction and described the concerned persons inside as peaceful and free.

Angel Manalo also spoke to the reporters and criticized the Church's Sanggunian, denied that he is challenging the leadership of his brother, Eduardo Manalo. He also advised his brother Eduardo against trusting people within the Sanggunian he alleged to be corrupt. He also criticized the decision's to build the Philippine Arena instead of more houses of worship. He lamented the situation that his Church is facing saying in Tagalog, "Why is it that these days, there are many anomalies? Others might say we're challenging our brother. No, we love our brother. But our problem is with people around him." He added "The doctrine of the Iglesia ni Cristo is now damaged. In the same way that you looked up to us before, now you can see there are many anomalies. There are many acts of corruption in the Church. That's what we want to avoid"

On December 15, 2015, church guards prevented Manalo and his housekeepers from allowing members of the media to enter their ancestral house in Tandang Sora, following the inspection of the sheriff of the Quezon City RTC. The court inspection was requested by church officials in order to identify the occupants of property, following reports that unknown masked and hooded persons were going in and out of the compound which is right beside the INC central office, as well as in response to several ex-Marines who tried to go inside the INC Compound, led by renegade soldier Capt. Nicanor Faeldon, and who were only stopped by INC security. INC spokesman Zabala also claimed that the #36 TS property was owned by INC. Angel Manalo also protested the construction of the high fences in the compound. The next day, the Quezon City RTC branch 22 ordered INC to restore the electricity supply of the compound, remove and dismantle the blocking fences, and remove the guardhouse and portalet that blocked the vehicle gate #3 of the Manalo's home.

INC planned to filed an ejectment case against Manalo and Hemedez if the siblings refused to leave their residence in Tandang Sora. On her part, Manalo-Hemedez said that she is the real owner of the #36 Tandang Sora compound, having been owned the property since 1983. She maintained that she and her household would not leave the compound.

Presidential aspirant Roy Señeres visited the compound in January 2016. Guards barred Señeres from entering and refused to let hum provide the occupants with food and bottled water.

Ministers

That same day, allegations from former and current INC ministers claimed that the Manalo family were hostages. Roel Rosal, a former Iglesia ni Cristo minister who stated that he and his wife were expelled from the church for trying to expose corruption, made a public statement that ten ministers along with the Manalos whee under house arrest at the INC Central Office, at the behest of INC auditor general Glicerio B. "Jun" Santos, Jr. in order to prevent the revelation of financial corruption by Santos and his staff. Rosal claims that Santos has pilfered and misused church offerings, and is holding the Manalos for "revenge." Supporters of Tenny and Angel Manalo gathered outside the compound demanding to know the whereabouts of the Manalos and missing ministers. GMA News reported that they saw an individual resembling Angel Manalo inside of the house, along with guards wielding long firearms.

At least ten ministers are reported to be missing according to expelled minister Roel Rosal. One of the reported ministers, Lowell Menorca II was reported to be arrested by the Philippine National Police in Dasmariñas after two construction workers were allegedly threatened by Menorca with a grenade. Menorca's lawyer, Allen Blair Boy from the New Era University Legal Aid, questioned whether he was abducted and Boy said that Menorca told him that he was indeed arrested. It is not clear why he was in Dasmariñas, because Menorca is based in Sorsogon.

On July 29, 2015, Rosal reiterated his claims against the INC leadership. He also stated that the Quezon City Police were taking sides in the conflict by supporting the INC administration, and denying Angel and Tenny Manalo deliveries of food and water. Rosal also claimed that the captives in the Manalo compound were running out of food and water.

In a press conference held July 23, INC minister Isaias Samson, Jr. cited Menorca's case alleging that the military had taken him from Sorsogon to Dasmariñas. He said that the missing ministers were held in Rosalia Compound and Caringal in Quezon City.

Arnel Tumanan, Joven Sepillo of Tacloban, and Nolan Olarte of Cebu are among the other reported missing ministers.

INC, thru attorney Serafin Cuevas, Jr., had also filed libel charges against Samson and Joy Yuson, former administrative coordinator of GEM TV, then the TV arm of INC, for accusing INC and its Sanggunian members of involvement in various anomalies and alleged abductions of ministers, preliminary investigations for the said case started on September 16, 2015 at the Quezon City RTC.

Menorca released a video on October 23, 2015, a few days after he was allegedly rescued from abduction by the Sanggunian and the filing of writ of habeas corpus by his brother Anthony and sister-in-law Jungko Azuka. In it he supported the claim that he was abducted and illegally detained from July 25-October 21 in the Central Compound together with his wife, children and housekeeper, and orchestrated by the Sanggunian. He further claimed that he and his family never asked to the Church to give them a house, or to be put into protective custody. The supposed rescue of the Menorca Family was first supported by attorney Trixie Cruz-Angeles, the lawyer of the INC's expelled ministers, including Jun Samson.

During the alleged illegal detention they claimed to have not been allowed to leave the premises nor had the right to accept guests. Cellphones and gadgets were also said to not be allowed in the premises. After the video was uploaded, INC expelled him and his family. The expulsion papers was signed by minister Radel Cortez.

Isaias Samson, Jr.

Isaias Samson, Jr., was a second-generation INC minister, former Sanggunian member and head of Foreign Department. He had been demoted due to some cases in his department to be an editor of INC's Pasugo magazine (a section of INC's Evangelism Department) and part of the Philippine government's Official Prayer Day and regular minister during prayers in SONA. He held a press conference on July 23 confirming his own detention, stating that he and his family were placed under house arrest by the INC administration, with the involvement of military and police officials. Samson stated that he was detained because of his opposition to Santos and gave a rough estimate of the amount of fund misused by Santos as in the "millions" of pesos, but he gave no evidence. Samson also stated that communication from the outside world was cut off and that passports, computers, phones and other electronic devices were confiscated. He was accused by INC leadership of being "Antonio Ebangelista," a pseudonym used by a minister who had written critical articles that reveal details on Church administration and Santos, a charge Samson denies. Samson and his family escaped by telling the guards they wanted to go to church service. Samson described his imprisonment as "unlawful detention," and called some in the INC administration "dishonest," but stated that he retained his faith in the INC. Samson later claimed corruption within the INC leadership regarding misuse of funds, such as in the "Lingap sa Mamamayan" fund, use of private planes and oil business. On July 25, 2015, INC spokesman Edwil Zabala stated that Samson and his family were expelled from the church for refusing to submit to authority.

Samson was replaced by Dennis C. Lovendino, a minister who became the new editor of Pasugo as of the June 2015 issue.

In a separate interview with CNN Philippines, INC Spokesperson Zabala said that the so-called house arrest of the family of Samson, Jr. was a disciplinary act within the Church (preventive suspension) in which Samson was under investigation, due to his connection to the group in social media that was claiming corruption issues inside the church.

In November 17, the Department of Justice dismissed the criminal raps filed by Samson and fellow expelled member Lito de Luna Fruto against the INC leaders for lack of probable cause. Both Samson and Fruto accused INC of holding them against their will.

Investigations

On July 24, 2015, the Department of Justice ordered the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to investigate allegations of abduction of INC members. However it added that it would not interfere. On July 27, 2015, in a statement by Manuel Eduarte, chief of the NBI Anti-Organized Transnational Crime Division, said that the NBI concluded that insufficient evidence showed that the Iglesia ni Cristo abducted some of its ministers. However, on July 29, 2015, Former Justice department secretary (now Senator) Leila de Lima clarified that the case had not been closed.

Former Vice President Jejomar Binay criticized de Lima's "unwarranted statements" asserting that the case remained open and noted her statement contradicts the reported findings of NBI Anti-Organized Transnational Crime Division. "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 that De Lima must respect the separation of church and state and "unwarranted interference" from the government in the church must not happen. Binay also describe De Lima's dealings with the Iglesia ni Cristo controversy as similar to what he describes as a "policy of demolition" targeted towards his own person.

Protests in response to the investigation

On late evening of August 27, about 2,000 Iglesia members led by INC spokesman Edwil Zabala held a vigil outside the Department of Justice office and later moved to EDSA. The demonstrators protested against the government agency, led by De Lima, for allegedly persecuting their church and called for upholding the separation of church and state. They also called for the agency to prioritize more important issues.

Religious leaders

INC general evangelist Bienvenido Santiago on July 23, responding to allegations made by the Manalos in a July 22 video, dismissed the accusations that some INC ministers were abducted and claimed that the two were attacking the church to make it appear that it was involved in the abductions. He also added that the video was an attempt to rally support from church members and to distract the church's management. Santiago said that the church's decision to expel the two Manalos was to show that the INC is a religion that follows the teachings of God found in the Bible, not a business.

In a morning Sunday worship in July 26, INC executive minister Eduardo Manalo repeated that members should strictly follow the church's leadership and rules to attain salvation.

The media reported that an INC member said that provincial ministers issued a set of tagubilin (instructions) towards the church's members during the weekend ahead of the church's 101st anniversary celebrations to be held in July 26 in Ciudad de Victoria complex in Bulacan. Among these reported instructions were that members decline media inquiries and travel by private cars to the celebrations. During the centennial celebrations, members were provided with service vehicles. Stickers for vehicles with "One with EVM" were reportedly distributed.

The media reported an unusually high number of worshipers and vehicles at the INC church in Los Baños. Several taurpalins bearing the words "One with EVM" were posted outside the building.

Expelled members

Expelled INC minister Roel and his spouse, Shirley Rosal told reporters on July 23, 2015 that at least 10 ministers were under house arrest. Roel Rosal claimed that auditor Jun Santos and his staff were using donations for the INC to purchase luxury vehicles. He also said that Angel and Tenny Manalo were hostages. Roel said that the expulsion of the Manalos might have been influenced by a "third party" in the church administration.

Isaias Samson, Jr. at a July 23 press conference, said that government intervention in the crisis would help resolve the issue. Samson was expelled from the INC the day after his press conference.

Other members and supporters

Fewer than 12 supporters of the church wearing white armbands organized a vigil in support of the Manalos in front of the INC compound in Tandang Sora. By 2:00 am of July 25, no INC member was seen camping outside the compound.

Some members used social media to express their support for Eduardo V. Manalo and the Sanggunian. Some members changed their profile photo to an image bearing the words "I am one with EVM," in support of the leadership of Eduardo Manalo.

On July 25, 2015, Louie Cayabyab, the minister of the Iglesia ni Cristo locale in Fremont, California, resigned his position as minister as a response to the expulsions of Samson and Tenny and Angel Manalo. Cayabyab stated "Beloved brethren, there are two circulars that are supposed to be read this morning. The first circular is about the expulsion from the Church of the wife and children of Bro. Erano G. Manalo. And another circular is the expulsion from the Church of Bro. Isaias T. Samson Jr., former editor-in-chief of the Pasugo. I decided, brethren, that I won’t read those circulars. You might be asking, 'why?' Because in my heart, in my heart of hearts, I can’t take it. It is, it is just so so difficult to betray one’s heart..." While Cayabyab asked INC members to remain in the church, he urged them to support peaceful vigils held in their areas, and implored them to support brethren in the Philippines "who are risking their lives" to expose corruption and reform the church.

In response to Cayabyab's resignation, members of the INC in Northern California, numbering in the "dozens," according to ABS-CBN News, held a protest at the INC's main United States office in Burlingame, California, demanding an investigation and tribunal into the corruption allegations, along with the reinstatement of Angel and Tenny Manalo. About a week later those who were identified as having taken part in the protests were expelled from the church.

Members of INC from 26 ecclesiastical districts picketed the Department of Justice office in Manila, when Secretary Leila de Lima, on her birthday, officially announced her 2016 senatorial bid. The assembly happened a few days after former minister Samson, Jr., his wife and son, filed illegal detention charges against eight members of the Sanggunian. A respondent of the case, Bienvenido Santiago, Sr., the church's general evangelist, wanted De Lima to focus instead on the SAF 44 case.

Net 25 TV interview with allegedly missing ministers

In an interview with Eagle News Service/Net 25 on July 29, 2015, a broadcaster owned and operated by INC affiliate Eagle Broadcasting Corporation, ministers Lowell "Boyet" Menorca II, Joel San Pedro, Jojo Nemis and Arnel Tumanan denied they were held captive or tortured. They also affirmed their loyalty to the church administration and executive minister Eduardo Manalo and that they were still church members. The ministers also stated that members should not believe the claims of abduction.

However, Anthony Menorca, Boyet Menorca's brother, stated that his older brother was forced to deny his abduction because INC Sanggunian was holding Boyet Menorca's wife, Seiko Otsuka Menorca, and one year old child. Anthony stated that in a meeting with his brother, he told him "Binantaan kami ng kapatid ko na kami ay papatayin" (Tagalog: "My brother warned us we will be killed") Anthony Menorca stated that he was in an undisclosed location and feared for the life of his brother.

In a new video released after he was allegedly rescued from the captivity of the Sanggunian on October 21, Menorca clarified, claiming that everything he said in the interview on Net 25 were "scripted".

Interview with Boyet Menorca

On August 1, 2015, Boyet Menorca, along with his wife and child, were interviewed in person outside the INC compound, wherein he denied all allegations of his abduction and pleaded for his brother to stop making claims. He added that he and his family voluntarily decided to stay within the compound because of safety concerns. He was worried that he could potentially be attacked in order to direct the resulting blame on the INC. After the interview, he and his family returned to the INC compound. Later, Menorca stated the interview was held "under duress."

Menorca recounts capture and being held hostage

On October 21, 2015, Lowell Menorca's brother Anthony petitioned the Supreme Court of the Philippines to issue writs of habeas corpus and amparo against the INC administration. The request was granted and on October 25, Menorca stated that he was illegally detained by INC, kidnapped by police officers allegedly in INC's employ and had been interrogated for 17 hours. He also stated that police officials tried to kill him afterwards using a hand grenade and that he had to beg for his life, successfully convincing a police officer allegedly hired to murder him not to go through with the killing.

Menorca's arrest in connection with libel charges

On January 20, 2016, on his way to the Court of Appeals to attend a hearing on the illegal detention case, policemen wearing civilian clothes and without badges led by Supt. Ed Leonardo and INC member, arrested Menorca on libel charges filed by the SCAN International in Kapatagan, Lanao del Norte. A standoff between the police, Menorca and his wife Jinky occurred along Roxas Boulevard and Quirino Avenue when Menorca refused the arrest and claimed that the court had not notified him of libel charges. After the commotion, 20 policemen in uniform showed up to arrest Menorca. MPD Director Chief Supt. Rolando Nana stopped the standoff and told Menorca to go to MPD Station 5 for booking.

The church, thru its spokesman Edwil Zabala, said the INC strongly denied any involvement with the standoff and told Menorca to face the libel charges against him.

Politicians

The Bulacan chapter of the League of Municipalities of the Philippines posted tarpaulin streamers with photographs of 20 Bulacan mayors greeting the church on its 101st anniversary. Pandi Mayor Enrico Roque, president of LMP Bulacan, said that the taurpalin was displayed to express their continuing friendship and respect to the church, in response to a report that a Bulacan mayor complained to church leaders that a minister from the INC attempted to extort money from the official. Roque said that the group says that they are in complete support of the INC.

Eli Soriano

On his Twitter account, Eli Soriano of Members Church of God International expressed support for De Lima and urged De Lima not to resign.

Commission on Human Rights

Commission on Human Rights chairperson José Luis Martin Gascon on July 24 said that the human rights body is monitoring the situation and was yet to launch a formal investigation. The rights body stated that it was avoiding a "premature conclusion" regarding the situation. It described the situation as "primarily a police matter" and is looking into allegations before taking action.

Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines

Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas, president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines, on July 24 requested prayers for Iglesia members. Villegas said in Tagalog, "As with their plea, I also ask that we pray for our brethren in the Iglesia ni Cristo...Brother Angel and his relatives are requesting prayers, that we pray for them." He added that he respected the decision of the Iglesia, which like the church, is "bound by rules and regulations".

CBN Asia

CBN Asia, producer of the TV program The 700 Club Asia, stated that the issue will be resolved peacefully through prayer.

References

2015 Iglesia ni Cristo leadership controversy Wikipedia


Similar Topics
A Battle of Wits (2006 film)
Simon Merrells
Jorge Hankamer
Topics
 
B
i
Link
H2
L