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As I planned to write this piece I was at the crossroads of my membership with the Iglesia ni Cristo. Shall I stay? Or shall I leave?
I have been an avid member of the Iglesia ni Cristo since the time of Bro. Eraño Manalo. I believed all its teachings that it is the true church. I stayed loyal for more than a decade now, doing my part and giving my all that was required of the members. I had no complains. I felt it was okay so that we could have beautiful chapels that are our pride and joy.
But I am not exactly moneyed: my salary is just enough to give my part. And that explains why I think I am also entitled to say my piece and ask where the money goes. Where do they really go? I am asking this question and other questions because of the recent events that have captured the attention of the world on us. Are we really a true church? Is the Iglesia ni Cristo God’s church?
Now and then, I would hear people attacking the teachings of the church especially the part that says Christ is man. But that did not bother me. I still have time to check on that. Politically, there are those issues like the legitimacy of bloc voting that sometimes a brother is pitted against his family. He cannot vote for his relative but only for the wishes of the Administration or else he gets excommunicated. I had an experience that closely hews to this one. It concerned my father who lost the barangay elections because earlier he did not vote for the choice of the Administration. They pitted someone against him. Poor father! That was painful to me but I still let that pass.
We were told not to watch the programs of Eliseo Soriano or Bro. Eli – that proud minster that left us and now talks a lot against the church. But one fortunate Friday, without intending to, I had the opportunity to watch him in one of his recent Bible Expositions. There, flashed on the screen, I saw our ministers unabashedly flashing a death threat on him. They were saying, if he comes back (to the country), he would be met at the airport; there would be red carpet on the floor. Candles would burn for him and there would be free peanuts. They sealed their talk saying, “To Bro. Eli, peace be with you!”
I was so ashamed of myself. And I thought we drove him away in an effort to gag his mouth. This Bro. Eli was saying at the Exposition that he was forced to leave the country on account of the INC. He explained that events happened fast when he dared our Sugo to have a debate with him. But we did not respond to that challenge, right?
I knew that our brother, Daniel Veridiano, had filed a rape case against Soriano. When that move did not prosper, he went to GMA7 and had himself interviewed. I came to know more about this case because of that Boycott Page of the Ang Dating Daan people in Facebook. From the Long Description of that page, it appeared that they are still smarting from a Second Insult from GMA. They say that despite their complaints of irresponsible reporting, some 3 years after, their sister station aired that controversial interview also. That is why it is a GMA7-11 that the Ang Dating Daan are boycotting, going five years now, they say. Don’t tell me we had nothing to do with this GMA caper. We love to persecute Soriano.
I also learned that Daniel Veridiano is in fact a former member of Soriano’s group. He is called “Puto” over there. They know him as one who took advantage of 14 of his office mates – all sexual offenses. It appears that the INC only used him against Soriano and more. The case was dismissed and then re-filed by virtue of INC influence with Gloria Arroyo, the president that time. That is why the preacher is charging us with panggigipit. This persecution has something to do with political influence, right?
If we center this discussion on Soriano – the man we love to pester just because he keeps examining our beliefs – he would say in his expositions that we are guilty of the following: “pamamaratang, panggigipit, paninira, pagdedemanda, pagtatangka sa buhay, at panguusig sa ADD.” In English, these are “ false accusations, persecutions, defamations, filing cases of false charges, threat on life, and oppression of the Ang Dating Daan.”
I am getting curious about the many cases we are filing against Soriano. It does not only look excessive but it’s like done with malice. “Again!” we love to say when the papers come out announcing that he has been charged with another offense. In online forums that I visited, it appears that we are really persecuting him. But recently, even as he went abroad, court cases that we filed, especially libel cases, are getting cleared. One by one the cases seem to be getting dismissed.
Now, I am able to connect things one with another. In my mind, I have yet to find evidences for what our ministers said that Soriano is an extortionist, a kidnapper, a plunderer. But from the headlines today it appears that our charges against him have come back lashing at us.
Look at these headlines of diverse sources. They speak about corruption, cracks in the organization, lobbying for appointments that we endorse in exchange for something, expulsion of ministers from the church for exposing anomalies, family feuds, interventions in government affairs, the dark side of our bloc-voting practice.
There’s also confusion whether the church is a family corporation or a church, about infighting among ministers as well as the Manalo family. As we built what we prided over as the biggest Arena in the world, there arise some questions about it because we now allow presentations that harm our beliefs beginning with bare bodies dancing on stage. This we do while we become so strict with the brethren and tell them not to bring in things ugly to look at like umbrellas.
But what is more ugly than witnessing a family tear each other apart in public with accusations. It does not respect any sense of family at all. Brother expels brother and mother. What is really happening here?
Is this our church now? Much have been exposed. These anomalies cannot just be the product of one’s imagination. Even our dirty links with the Bureau of Customs and our supposed support of politicians have money as the ground base.
How are we going to deny all of these when there are many talking from diverse sectors? We cannot say this is the work of one frustrated man or one frustrated family. Reports came from different reporters of diverse news agencies.
Who is being proved now as the plunderer, extortionist, kidnapper? We are eating back our charges – particularly on Soriano. From the news circulating today in local and international newspapers including online, the Iglesia ni Cristo is being stripped off naked for all to see. I am so ashamed!
If we close in on the man our church workers said we should never listen to, they said Soriano came from us (expelled) and that explains why we speaks much against us. But is that so? I remember there was a lawyer who wrote the Philippine Daily Inquirer denying that Eliseo Soriano ever became a member of the INC. He was born in the Church of God, the lawyer claimed. But it appears like we like to forever claim he had been one of us. It is this thing that made me constantly curious of him.
There was this Luisito Amansec, a member of our SCAN, who went to the Ang Dating Daan. This hitman was an avid member. He said he was ever ready to defend the son of the Sugo (Messenger). In his heart, he never knew mercy. His assignment then was to pull down Eli Soriano. It was at the eve of Soriano’s birthday when he went to an event at the Ang Dating Daan Coordinating Center to make a case for his prey. The man was preaching. But when Amansec saw Soriano’s face, there, mercy came flooding in his heart again. The man he was supposed to trap and kill was not the man being defamed at the INC.
“For several years I felt no pity for anyone. Just tell me who and what and heaven knows the bounds.” He broke into tears while he was saying this. This was a video being played by Soriano to prove his life is really a target of some “submitting for baptism” but actually on a mission from the INC. This much, Amansec had admitted.
But Amansec is not the only one. There are many who left the Iglesia ni Cristo. For one, there are those called D’ X-Man or Former Manalistas who have a program on TV. I had the opportunity to read their testimonies and not only one said we do killing. Oh, we do? Seems I’ve been hearing about this now and then.
For lack of space, I will present only a few. Aside from Luisito Amansec, former SCAN, there were Lydia Erfilo Manuyag, former INC Auditor; Larry Licudine Erfilo, former INC Landscaping Head; Eddinor “Laddie” Sibug, former INC Deacon of Cavite Locale; and Cesar Adamos, an engineer, also former INC who challenged their ministers to answer the attacks of Soriano on the church.
Here are excerpts from Lydia Manuyag’s expose –
I had many experiences from there. The bad one is about those killing people. I had hitman friends. I had one who was killed by a minister in Cavite. Whenever he has killed someone, he would go to his mistress who was my friend. The name is Gerry. [He said the recent one he killed was someone who raped a sister.]
Of course, we were socialized in the Iglesia ni Cristo that to kill and to be killed – especially when it comes to the messenger – is holiness. That is why killing has blessing from management. That is how grave it is.
I had a friend there who was a security guard with a high position. One time, he asked me, “Ka Lydia, got someone you want killed? My gun’s gone rusty too long.”
Killing with them is common and natural. It is not a new thing. Up until my hitman friend said, “You know what, Ka Lydia? Am tired of killing. I don’t want any more of it. I want to change.”
You see, my friend has killed many already. He said his conscience bothered him. Up until a minister killed him in turn. He had refused to follow instructions. He did not like to kill anymore. (From “My Hitman Friend Said, ‘Am Tired of Killing. I Want to Change.’” MarksoftheSeer.wordpress.com)
This one is from Larry Licudine Erfilo, biological brother of Lydia –
After my baptism, we were presented by Ang Dating Daan on TV day in, day out. We were INC’s that left our religion – that was the gist. My plan before was to construct a letter addressed to Manalo challenging him to debate with Bro. Eli, but after my Sis Lydia talked, I realized it is nonsense to do that. There is no need to debate with Manalo face to face. I realized they were defeated. I knew that if I dared them on TV, they would wait for us below.
After that, the ministers began coming to the house – the squad of Eraṅo Manalo. Ka Guina asked, “What is the problem? Why did you leave?”
They were not yet meddling with my Ate Lydia as she was still considered their member. They were focused on me. They looked at my sister as one fired up to talk because of me.
Ka Guina warned me, “Ka Larry, never, never fight against the Iglesia for if you do, there’s a place for you!”
The following day, deacons and ministers came. They were making me write something. “Ka Larry, so you do not really like the Iglesia?”
“I don’t. And I need not say, I don’t.”
“And why not?”
“We are killing people!” As soon as I said that, a deacon stood up to hit me.
“Just like your actuations now! What does that mean? You will kill me? Go ahead, do it! I know you are capable of doing those things. I know you. But mark this, I am ready!”
They left. They were making me write a letter. “Write a letter as a proof that you do not like the Iglesia ni Cristo anymore.”
“What I am saying that I do not like the Iglesia anymore pertains to your killing! Write that and I will sign. And don’t you disturb me anymore. I will not exert an effort to write but what I am saying, you write that down: that we are killing people! And that love does not thrive with us here! Write that down; I will sign it.”
After that they did surveillance in our place. I told the District Servant of Ang Dating Daan, “Can you do something? My days are numbered!” On April 18, 2003, a week after we talked at SBN21, bullets rained at our house in Christineville. Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang! (From “The Gunman Did it Fast, Thinking He had My Family Killed,” Keytothelockedbook.wordpress.com)
Eddinor “Laddie” Sibug’s piece –
In 1989, I moved out of San Francisco to Los Angeles. That was where I met the mother of my child. I hid the relationship because it was forbidden with the INC. I kept it a secret from 1990 up until 1995. I was attending Church services in other locales. I would go to Hollywood, to Riverside, to Anaheim. I went where I could not be seen just to conceal my sin. I did not like to be excommunicated. No, I did not like to be excommunicated. Never. Because once I get expelled, I won’t be saved. With the INC, we were taught, “no matter what you do in life, just maintain your membership in the church and you will be saved.”
Ka Kundangan was the one in charge before. He would bring Fundador with a wine cup from which he drank. The trainee workers would come to our house that looked like there is no way out when you are there. The bathroom is there. The beer is there, the pulutan is there. That’s how I was able to come to that point with the Iglesia ni Cristo, with a head deacon planning some killing.
I became part of those – the killing plans. For example, the target person raped. The question from higher headquarters is, “Is our sister beautiful? Ugly?” If ugly, the answer is, “You are really shameless! Even the ugly, you rape!”
However, if the sister raped is beautiful, the answer is, “Ah, he was really tempted.” The target person will not be killed. But if the raped one is ugly, you are a goner! You will surely be abducted. You will disappear from the face of the earth! That was my experience when it came to killing. (From “I Went as Far as Being Part of those Planning to Kill,” StewardSecretsofGod.wordpress.com).
And here’s Cesar Adamos,
Imagine, that was August 10, 2001. I was only challenging the INC to prove that if they are the true church, they should answer Soriano’s allegations of their doctrinal flaws, but there was none. I asked them to fetch me if I was a lost sheep in the fold of the Church of God, but there was none. I was simply hunted like a criminal. (From “You think the Devil got me? Then Fetch me from Here!” Marksoftheseer.wordpress.com)
I know what you have in mind. What about me?
As I was writing this, I was at the crossroads. But from the past events that had happened many questions have come flooding my mind. Where is God in all of these? If we are the true church, why is he allowing these things to happen?
How come there is these much love for power? Why do we have to have the President on our side? The judges of the Supreme Court, the Chief of the National Police, the Bureau of Customs head, the National Bureau of Investigation head, the Land Transportation Bureau chief and all those at critical agencies of the land – why do we feel we have to have control over them? Why? If we are the people of God, why are we that insecure? Are we doing something sinful in the eyes of God that He is not enough for us?
It is not a secret that people smirk at us as we block traffic whenever we have our Grand Evangelization. We want to show our numbers, we want always to be Guinness’ pride in things that we do. We are so proud of being an Iglesia ni Cristo member. But now, it is not so with me.
I no longer feel the same way. I no longer feel God is on our side. I have come to think that those we had been persecuting are the ones God is backing up. They are the ones God is using for salvation and not us.
While we were accusing Eli Soriano of being extortionist, we are the ones doing it to politicians who beg to be supported with our bloc-voting practice. While we were saying Soriano is kidnapping people and bringing them to the ADD Convention Center, we are the ones kidnapping our ministers, holding them incommunicado, placing them on arrest, and bribing them not to talk, or outright suspending or excommunicating them if they refuse.
While we were saying Soriano is a plunderer, we plunder the collections for the church and find them re-appear as luxury cars and big businesses. You cannot say now we are imagining these things. There are too many talking.
Look at Soriano now. His church group is growing by leaps and bounds. Is this the man we said was persecuting the true church? We did everything beginning with filing case after case against him. Those he had excommunicated, we used them against him, either as complainant or as witness. One was used to file double rape charges against this preacher. Interpol even backed us up looking for Soriano and hunting him with a sex crime we imagined he made with children. But why was he able to surpass all these things? Why are the courts dismissing the cases?
When we twice asked to declare him as Fugitive from Justice, the courts denied. These are two regional courts with different judges from different places. Why was he able to get favorable ruling? If we are the true church and as we claimed he was persecuting us, why is God looking favorably at him?
Sorry, but I cannot take it anymore. As I end this piece, I am going now to decide: I am leaving the Iglesia ni Cristo.
To my loved ones, let me ask you: Are you comfortable with what is happening now? Did they make you think of your salvation? Is this the one we should die for?
I invite you to follow me. Let us find the true church. God is faithful and He will help us. With the Iglesia ni Cristo, there is already much to say: It is not the true one. It is a false church!