With the Iglesia’s well entrenched influence in Philippine politics and businesses being felt of late, you get to think twice about past events. This is not simply about big national issues where INC gets into some sort of morass. This is about personal experiences of people, told over and over again, about how pushy and contentious INC members are. Anywhere I go there is always a “story” about INC.
The stories seem like folk legend until you get to experience them personally. The incident I had involved one of my family members. No details here, let it all pass my mother said. It wasn’t dramatic but you get to sense how INC do things. My friends in politics also lament over the power rigs by Iglesia. My friend who was working in a building-construction under sub-contract knows about “privileging” when it comes to Iglesia businessmen. Some of my friends coming from other Christian denominations complain about how contentious Iglesia ministers are. Don’t guess that I am an unqualified opposition to INC – I have a friend belonging to the said religion. It went this way: he met a pretty INC girl, they fell in love, so he had to convert to her religion in order to marry her. Our friends did not have problem with that. Nor did I – well, just a bit. But personal encounters should not always prevail over testimonies. Sure I know several good Iglesia members but what of those who cried foul?
Here, I keep the principle: the Chinese are different from the Chinese government. I always keep that in mind to differentiate the members and leaders of institutions. When the Iglesia leaders and members lashed at Justice Secretary Leila de Lima’s “supposed meddling with ‘internal’ affairs” prompting them to protest in EDSA, they did it under the direction of their pastors. But up to now, the Manalo’s are nowhere in sight to explain their side; this is where I think Iglesia becomes questionable. Its religious leaders are not known to account for their flock.
For some weeks now we follow Lowell Menorca, the expelled INC minister who allegedly suffered illegal detention by INC members and worse, abduction by policemen. What seems to be an organized manhunt on a certain “Antonio Ebangelista” a pseudo-name of a blogger exposing INC’s internal anomalies, led to Menorca’s illegal detention. This means that Menorca is just one among the many suspected INC ministers abducted in INCs blanket arrest. Just a couple of days ago, in a rather predictable turn of events Menorca and his wife were charged with illegally detaining one of their maids.
This brings us to Poe, Escudero, and others who said that we should let INC alone in their “religious business.” That is a dangerous assessment, as has been believed before and as it is being proven now. It renders someone who is supposed to defend civil rights, already inept to uphold it from the beginning. It is a failure of justice due to partisanship. Poe’s statement appeared supportive of the INC, when in fact all she has to say is “investigate the matter.” Why would she say that INC members are “defending their faith,” and “protecting their rights”? It is simply equivalent to saying “Don’t do anything.” That kind of attitude has led injustices in our system into an uncontrollable spiral. Yuji Gonzales reports that even Sen. Serge Osmeña was disappointed saying, “She (Sen. Poe) was wrong there, she appeared to be a trapo.”
Sec. Leila de Lima at least took her stand. At least now we have been supplied with more details. Menorca’s revelations are just startling; he was abducted in Sorsogon and was brought to Dasmarinas, Cavite. His wife Seiko Otsuka was threatened, that if she did not surrender her husband would disappear. The Philippine Star reports, “Menorca said he had the impression that one of the policemen who detained him is a ranking police officer, since ‘everyone saluted him.’” By retrospect he was certain that he was about to be murdered. A grenade was thrown into his car during the abduction, when it did not go off, an officer was asked “to finish him.” The report continues with Menorca saying “When we reached an isolated area, he looked for a gun. That was when I begged him. I said, ‘Please don’t kill me. Have mercy. I am a minister of the Iglesia ni Cristo and I have a family.” His life was spared but in turn he was illegally detained in a house.
I know you have time to research over this matter, I leave the rest of the reports for you to read.
It is so ironic that this one hundred and one year old “religion” has only instilled the impression of having bad PR among their fellow Filipinos. Don’t get me wrong, it would have been a “homegrown” religion we could have been proud of if it were only known for its good deeds, saintly ministers and self-sacrificing transparent leaders. We could have been proud of it if it has exemplified the best of Filipino qualities. I will not change religion for patriotism, that is absurd, but at least we could have been proud of “Iglesia.”
What is clear with this stunning turn of events is this – there is a crime. And when politicians suddenly becoming unsure of their stand whenever INC gets into a problem, it becomes an affirmation of their influence. Yes, that is how powerful INC has become.
Rey Bancod, “Abducted INC minister to bare all today,” Manila Bulletin, October 25, 2015, 6.
Jerome Aning, “Ousted INC leader bares murder plot,” Philippine Daily Inquirer, October 26, 2015, 1.
Michael Punongbayan, Edu Punay and Rey Galupo, The Philippine Star, October 26, 2015.
Yuji Vincent Gonzales, “Stand on Iglesia ni Cristo protests: Poe’s faux pas?” Inquirer.net, September 16, 2015.