U.S.-based INC members protest PH church leaders’ actions
BURLINGAME, California — Scores of Iglesia Ni Cristo (INC) members in the United States staged a peaceful vigil in front of their church’s main U.S. office in Burlingame, California, Sunday, September 27.
The vigil was held to protest alleged harassment by the current church leadership of followers and family members of the late former INC Executive Minister Eraño “Ka Erdy” Manalo. The late INC leader is the father of current church Executive Minister Eduardo Manalo.
Participants in the vigil carried placards, and some wore masks to hide their real identities as a camera videotaped their movements and statements to the media present.
The placards expressed appeals and questions, such as: “Stop corruption,” “Airbus $229M was this purchased by our offering??,” “Don’t be afraid brethren,” “Stop oppressions to Ka Erdy’s family!!(sic),” “Protect Ka Erdy’s family,” ”Restore their basic human rights, do not cut their food supply,” “What is wrong with change?,” “IRS, thank you for the surprise investigation,” “Stop harassing defenders, we seek reformation not revolution,” “Keep offering amounts voluntary, among others.”
Vigil participant Arvin Cayabyab said they wanted to tell the world that what they heard was being done to the family of Ka Erdy in the Philippines should stop.
“We heard that the Iglesia ni Kristo leadership is giving the family of ‘Ka Erdy,’ particularly Ka Angel and Ka Loti (Felix Nathaniel, Angel Manalo and Lolita Manalo Hemedes) a hard time by denying them any access to food and preventing any visitors from giving them their primary needs. That is against human rights. And what they are doing there in the Philippines is not right,” Cayabyab stressed.
In a September 23, Facebook post lawyer Trixie Cruz-Angeles, counsel for Angel and Doti Manalo, wrote that two of the siblings were not being provided with anything, “not food, not toiletries, nor other necessary items for living they must rely on the kindness of friends and family.”
The Cruz-Angeles post claimed that a petition for Injunction for Temporary Restraining Order was filed by Radel Cortez, a member of the Sanggunian (the church’s council of elders) asking, among other things, that Ka Angel and Ka Loti no longer be allowed to receive visitors or have any items delivered to them as the boxes delivered to the siblings may contain guns.
The post further stated that the remaining Manalo family members in the compound were slowly being hidden from the world, with walls raised around them and surveillance cameras trained on them night and day.
Cayabyab added that with the rally, they also wanted to raise awareness of the “evil and wrongdoings” happening inside their church.
Church reform wanted
“What we are seeking is reformation (not revolution). We want the church to be cleansed. Those who are evil and corrupt, we want them removed from the church. Those who have led us astray and have taught us anything that is not in the Bible, we want them removed from the church,” Cayabyab disclosed.
Another vigil participant, Jonas Hernando, echoed Cayabyab’s sentiments about alleged corruption in the INC among church leaders and some ministers.
“We are regular members. We have opinions; we have concerns. And we want to have these concerns respected and answered in a way that is respectful to us and everyone involved,” Hernando declared.
“Everything has been done to reach out to the hierarchy, but the responses of the hierarchy are just expulsions and intimidation tactics, which are hypocritical and can be expected more from gangs, and not from an actual church whose message is for peace, love and joy for your fellow human being,” Hernando added.
Not a response to EDSA
The protesters were quick to clarify that the vigil was not their response to the big church demonstrations that jammed EDSA in Metro Manila recently, as they had no opinion on what happened there, they said.
“The INC media are getting our photographs, our videos, our voices, whatever they want to get in order to track who we are, the local congregations we are from. But the fact is when it comes to proclaiming the truth we are not scared. None of us are scared in proclaiming and showing everyone what they are doing to the members of the Church of Christ,” Cayabyab declared.
Speaking for the other side, Atty. Rommel San Pedro, minister of the gospel and lawyer for the INC U.S.A.’s main office, issued this statement:
“The Church of Christ is a Bible-based church. We spread all over the world based on our principles of love and caring for others. The people outside were former members of the church but have been expelled based on due process procedures of the Church of Christ. The Church of Christ respects the freedom of religion, also the freedom of speech and freedom of worship. Their activities have been patterned and timed to conflict with our own activities. We have reason to believe that a group or certain groups are working closely with others to try to interfere with our right to worship in peace. All we want in the Church of Christ is to worship our God Almighty is peace. We want our God Almighty be glorified. We want as many people as possible to be saved on the Day of Judgment.”
San Pedro also maintained that they were allowing the rally participants to speak in front of the church premises as part of freedom of speech, although he claimed that the protesters were libeling the Church of Christ by making inflammatory statements that have no basis in fact.
Lawsuits being readied
“That is why the proper forum is the court, and we are about ready to launch a series of lawsuits both in the Philippines and here in the United States to make sure that the truth comes out.” San Pedro reiterated.
He added: “We do everything by the book. Everything that we in the Church of Christ does, we follow the law of God we also follow the law of the land. We are law-abiding citizens. This church is a church based on biblical principle. That is why we believe that we are the only church of Christ.”
San Pedro further claimed that they had numerous dialogues with the expelled members in the past and that their doors remained open for a dialogue.
As for the harassment of Ka Angel and Ka Loti claimed by their lawyer, Santos-Anegeles, San Pedro refused to comment.
“We have no comment at this moment because this the U.S. branch of the Church of Christ, and I have no information regarding that at all. I am informed of what is happening here in the U.S.A. as I am the attorney for the U.S.A. that is the information I received and I respect the wishes and desires of my client that we work on the cases here in the U.S.A,” emphasized San Pedro.
“We don’t have anything more to say other than that we are a church that is filled with love that we care and we want so much the people of the world to know that this is the church that cares,” San Pedro concluded.
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