If Bro. Eli would have his way, he would not wish to go abroad and stay there for good. His inherent fear to travel by air and his explainable anxiety towards living in foreign soil maybe construed as lame excuses but certainly, the agony of being physically apart and miles awayfrom his beloved Filipino followers (whom he used to personally guide and get together with) is to him, a nightmarish experience much too painful to bear and live with. Be that as it may, the confluence of complicated events that had happened since his becoming a Christian preacher had made it sure that Bro. Eli would reach this stage of his career (that necessitated his departure) to fulfill his “God-willed” date with destiny.
Bro. Eli is a kind of preacher who is emphatic with his revelation of the biblical truth and downright with his repudiation of sanctimonious practice by groups hiding under the cloak of Christianity. While this principle is biblical, the same also falls well within the parameter of the universal freedom of religion and belief and the democratic freedom of expression and freedom of speech. In the course of Bro. Eli’s relentless biblical expositions using all forms of multimedia communication, a very powerful and politically influential group that adopted the name Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) had been severely affected by the onslaught of Bro. Eli’s biblical revelations that shook the foundation of lies and deceit. Hence, Bro. Eli had become a fair game and target of endless harassments, vicious smear campaign and other forms of persecution.
Series of extreme persecution Bro Eli endured, a narrative account
The fated dispute with INC had its ominous beginning on April 14, 1974 at Guagua, Pampanga when Bro. Eli experienced the fury of an outwitted INC debater and cohorts who mauled him black and blue and bleeding following a heated debate with him. The INC debater’s argument that “Christ is not divine” could not stand up against Bro. Eli’s biblical argument that “Jesus Christ is God” and after all was said and done, thank God! Bro. Eli survived the consequent two-week stay in the hospital.
Since then, the dismal sounds of harassment and sweeping persecutions had kept reverberating in dreadful crescendo …and the hounding seemed endless. The peak of such wicked nuisance had brought about the ultimate deprivation of Bro. Eli’s universal right to “equal protection of the law”. It was a devious political feat accomplished by the INC under the previous regime (from period 2001-2010) of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo who was the recipient of its arguably solid endorsement or block voting during elections. Ex-President Arroyo had become politically indebted to the INC notwithstanding the common belief that she cheated her way to power in 2004 presidential election following a three (3)-year reign as De-facto President via power grab.
The reign of Arroyo was considered the darkest period in the life of Bro. Eli as well as in the history of Members, Church of God (MCGI) or better known as Ang Dating Daan (ADD). Political payback under the Arroyo regime necessitated accommodations of the whims and caprices of the INC and other political collaborators giving rise therefore to selective administrations of justice, socio-religious discriminations and human rights abuses.
INC: Highlighting a culture of violence being committed with impunity
Aside from its notoriety as a devious power broker in Philippine politics, the INC is also known for its culture of violence and intimidating ways. Thriving in their midst are: trigger happy ministers capable of killing people: security forces (vigilantes) who could decapitate and roast human beings without blinking; abductors who kill victims inside the basement of their church compound; maulers of policeman and raiders of other religious compound with government’s police/security assistance at times.
On 12 December 2005 at about 7:PM, several groups of heavily armed PNP (Philippine National Police) operatives in thirty (30) vehicle convoys composed of police cars, private vans and pick-ups swooped down the ADD Convention Center at Barangay Sampaloc, Apalit, Pampanga, Philippines for reason not given. The subsequent ‘zoning’ and intrusion that ensued were done swiftly. The guards were disarmed, herded and forced to the ground (at gun point) then the offices and vital communication equipments were ransacked and destroyed.
The unlawful conduct of raid and searches by mostly INC identified authorities ended in less than an hour. Such incident of glaring police brutality was reminiscent of the raid conducted by a group of NBI (National Bureau of Investigation) agents together with Manalo’s church members of the same ADD compound sometime in February 2002. The reason then was to serve a warrant for Bro. Eli’s arrest in connection with simple libel case filed against him by INC members themselves and for which a corresponding bail bond had already been posted. Despite legal action and official representations against such harassments and abuse of authority, the government of Arroyo never bothered to lift a finger to address the valid grievance of ADD and Bro. Eli.
In an earlier incident sometime in April 2005, fourteen (14) ADD members most of whom were hosts of UNTV program D’ X-Man (former INC members who joined ADD following their enlightenment of the biblical truth) were mercilessly mauled to near death by a mob of more or less a hundred INC bullies. The unfortunate incident that happened in a fast food restaurant in Apalit, Pampanga, Philippines was triggered by their attempt to forcibly take D’ X-Man members into their custody.
Such violent action caused serious head and body injuries to hapless victims who, as Christians meant no harm against them. Ironically, however, the serious physical injuries suffered by Bro. Eli’s followers were ridiculously deemed as “self-inflicted” and thus the victims were the ones charged by the police with frustrated homicide instead of the assailants. Such an outrageous reversal of facts again underscored the INC’s tremendous influence over both national and local government authorities.
The deliberate effort to destroy and demolish D’ X-Man eventually became more evident with the gruesome murder of its acknowledged leader and TV program host, Marcos MATARO. On April 26, 2008 Mataro was mercilessly gunned down near the vicinity of San Simon North Expressway Exit in Pampanga province by motorcycle riding assailants who pumped at least six (6) bullets all over his body.
The police investigation report later traced the ownership of the motorcycle used in the commission of crime to a confirmed INC member who cannot anymore be found. This tragic incident was reminiscent of the April 18, 2003 shooting of Bro. Marciano Manuyag (another ADD member who was also with the group of D’X-Man) inside his residence wherein he suffered multiple gunshot wounds from frustrated murderers and that case had remained unresolved.
The use of propaganda and influence as INC means to justify its ends
When it comes to propaganda effort, the INC, now headed by Eduardo Manalo (he took over from Erano Manalo upon the latter’s death in 2009) was likewise crookedly shrewd but nevertheless enjoyed maximum tolerance from the equally crooked Arroyo governance. The INC’s supposedly religious program on radio and TV “Ang Tamang Daan” (The Right Path) was launched by the INC in 2002 only to be used as vehicle for vicious smear campaign and character assassination against Bro. Eli. Characteristics of that program had been the daily unethical, contemptible and immoral presentation using spliced video films of Bro Eli’s preaching engagements. The films were purposely edited and mangled to create a spin of contradictions and inconsistencies with his preaching.
It was as if Ang Tamang Daan TV program had been INC’s show window of a Machiavellian type of public relations strategy in trying to obfuscate and hopefully evade Bro. Eli’s exposition of their deceitful ways. For instance, while Manalo was one of the original bashers of Mohammedanism in the Philippines, having adjudged its followers as hopeless and hell bound, he was nonetheless able to provoke some Muslim Filipinos to be hateful towards Bro. Eli.
Dubious portions of tapes quoting Bro. Eli out of context in the supposed critique against the Muslims were repeatedly played and exhibited. As a consequence, the Muslims responded by making several phone calls to ADD TV and radio programs conveying their angry reactions to Bro. Eli’s perceived tirades against them as falsely depicted by INC. Hence, his travel movement had been severely restricted due to potential security threat, the constant danger of being harmed by some misinformed Muslims and their sympathizers.
In contrast, the Arroyo government had demonstrated maximum intolerance to defensive responses of Bro. Eli against the INC tirades and disinformation campaign against him. As if to emphasize its bias in favor of the INC, the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB), a regulating body under the Office of the President had formed the habit of suspending ADD TV programs every so often at the slightest provocation of INC complaints.
In late 2004, a couple of suspensions were recklessly imposed against ADD by Chairperson Consoliza la Guardia of the MTRCB so that viewers were deprived of the right to religious information while depriving Bro. Eli the right to preach and be heard. Again on May 7, 2005, the MTRCB suspended the different ADD program of similar nature or format aired on any free and/or cable TV for a period of thirty (30) days and enjoined ADD from directly or indirectly causing the production, broadcast or airing the afore cited programs of similar nature or format on any free and/or cable TV.
Surprisingly however, on May 12, 2005, while the May 7 suspension was still in effect, MTRCB issued an overlapping order wherein this time, Bro. Eli and his panel of religious anchors were indefinitely suspended and all ADD programs banned from being aired on any TV. While the erroneous May 12, 2005 suspension was lifted after more than two (2) months, the damage had been done and Manalo’s interest had been more than fully served.
The sad plight of ADD continued after the lifting of suspension as the government owned NBN Channel 4 refused ADD’s repeated request to resume Bro. Eli’s TV program Reality despite live contract and the payment of required advanced deposit of Php 748,000.00. To make things worse and add insult to injury, this very insensitive government TV station continued playing deaf ear on Bro. Eli’s subsequent demand for deposit refund.
Meanwhile, ADD was somehow vindicated when Laguardia and her cohorts, in a resolution by the Commission on Human rights, NCR dated 15 September 2005 were adjudged to have committed human rights violation following an investigation of the complaint filed by ADD. Further, the CHR recommended the filing of administrative case against the offenders.
The case against Laguardia et al had still to commence at the Office of the Ombudsman following CHR findings and recommendation but in rare display of shamelessness and defiance, La Guardia emerged instead with a vengeance. UNTV programs Ang Dating Daan and D’ X-Man were again slapped another round of preventive suspension for a period of twenty (20) days in a favorable reaction to a fresh INC capricious complaint just following the CHR ruling.
Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Expression and Religious Freedom form part of Civil and Political Liberties which are man’s constitutional guarantee to Human Rights yet Bro. Eli had been bearing the brunt of systematic persecutions for exercising those rights. Nevertheless, Bro. Eli continued holding on to his faith in the judicial system so that the infamous MTRCB ruling had reached the Supreme Court of the Philippines by way of his appeal and then the rest was history.
Very unfortunately, the Supreme Court upheld the MTRCB suspension order against Bro. Eli and the program Ang Dating Daan in a resolution dated March 15, 2010 which was penned by Justice Presbiterio Velasco. Justice Velasco incidentally was exposed as an INC protégé by a renowned journalist Maritess Vitug of Newsbreak in her book: “Shadow of Doubt”. The SC ruling penned by Velasco, in effect, rendered moot and academic the CHR resolution upholding the Human Rights violation committed by La Guardia and the MTRCB against Bro. Eli and ADD.
Trumped up cases vs. Bro. Eli filed and pursued to stop him at all cost
Bro. Eli had been facing numerous libel cases in various courts in the Philippines and they were all filed by the INC. The INC also filed sometime in 2001 a frustrated murder case and in 2004, a rape case against Bro. Eli. The frustrated murder case was dismissed during the early part of 2010 while the rape case had been ongoing.
It was worthy to note that the complainants Bernardo Santiago in frustrated murder case and Daniel Veridiano in rape case were former members of ADD. These people were excommunicated for adultery in the case of Santiago and multiple rape and malverzation of funds in the case of Veridiano. The moment they became privileged members of the INC, that was the time they filed their respective complaint against Bro. Eli. Incidentally, the ridiculous rape charge had been previously dismissed at the level of the Fiscals’ office in Pampanga but the surprise intervention of the Department of Justice then under Secretary Raul Gonzales who was highly suspected to be under Manalo’s sphere of influence, hastily reversed the earlier resolution and ordered the subsequent re-filing of the dismissed rape case against Bro. Eli.
Upon realizing the futility of obtaining justice from the Philippine Government under the Arroyo regime, Bro. Eli was obliged to bring the matter before the United Nation High Commissioner for Human Rights in his report dated November 3, 2005 hoping to finally get justice and much needed reprieve from the excruciating tribulation that he had been going through. Shortly thereafter, Bro. Eli left the Philippines not simply to save his own skin in the light of persistent report on threat to his life. He wanted to preserve the tranquility of the church whose members might be seriously disturbed if something bad would happen to him.
“…and you will be hated by all because of my name. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in one city, flee to the next; for truly I tell you, you will not have gone through all the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes.” (Matthew 10:22-23)