Iglesia ni Cristo, persecuted or prosecuted?
When will you consider a person or a group is persecuted? If a person or group becomes a subject to hostility and ill-treatment especially because of their race, political or religious beliefs, that person or group is persecuted as defined by New Oxford American Dictionary. On the other hand, prosecution refers to the legal proceedings with reference to holding a trial against a person or group who is accused of a crime to see if its guilty.
The former is associated with unfair treatment while the latter constitutes pursuing of guilt. A group will never be prosecuted should there be no basis but persecution is meant to annoy or harass only.
Known for bloc voting and political influence, Iglesia ni Cristo, in its path to its centennial celebration come July 2014, traverses controversies thrown by the media, public officials, fellow citizens and netizens. But every time they experience such, its members decry fouls claiming they are being persecuted with reference from the Bible.
A classic example, which is now part of the history, was the massive “Kabayan Ko, Kapatid Ko” medical mission initiated by the sect in the streets of Quiapo in which it devastated the flow of traffic and caused class and work suspensions in Metro Manila on October 14, 2013. The sect earned lots of criticisms evident on travelers who vented out their frustrations on social media sites. The church’, which was founded by late Felix Manalo in 1914, supposed-to-be relief giving event robbed relief from travelers who experienced high blood pressures and over-fatigue due to the strike of heat and congested traffic. Doris Bigornia of ABS-CBN said, during her live report, that most spectators of goodies, who went fit to the event, returned home weaker.
To an INC member, heavy criticism is a form of persecution.
Another INC-related incident that went viral online is the alleged shelter refusal for super typhoon Yolanda’s victims in one of their chapel in Iloilo, November 7, 2013. Using a text message from Mai Militante, a blogger priest named Abe Arganiosa spread the story like wildfire from his blog Splendor of the Church in which it reaped mixed reactions – criticisms from netizens but defensive stance from INC’s side.
Accompanied with the text message was a photo of INC chapel in Tacloban that first appeared on SCAN Int’l Facebook Page. Screen shot of the photo follows:
Facebook username Keel Wynn posted a similar photo, grabbed from ABS-CBN’s news report, which showed the chapel in Tacloban unharmed amidst the homeless villagers roaming.
Netizens who saw the photo described it as insensitive but INC members expressed support for their church.
As of this writing, no official and specific statement was given by INC leaders about the incident in Iloilo which led for some INC members to defend on their own and treated criticisms as persecutions.
Different arguments from some INC members surfaced on the web justifying the reasons why INC denied refuge for non-members. One prominent reasoning was that their chapel is a place of worship and not an evacuation center. Another was citing the story of Jesus where He drove away robbers and vendors out from the temple in Jerusalem. Some denied such allegations while others supported the accuracy of the allegation stating their first-hand experience of shelter refusal. As a remedy, the INC started relief-giving and released press statements to clear their selves from web attacks.
To an INC member, heavy criticism is a form of persecution.
Given the incidents, the public might wonder: Does the Iglesia ni Cristo deserve such treatment? Is there any ill-will that should be brought to light that its church members should consider?
Place of worship or scene of a crime?
What is known for INC members as object of pride and house of worship was once used as a scene of crime based on Supreme Court Reports Annotated, Volume 339, August 28, 2000, People vs. Abella. Deacons and INC members, with a minister present, brutally murdered five Catholic students of Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP) due to a basketball altercation in their chapel’s basement. Excerpt from the SCRA follows:
Inside the basement the victims were continually mauled, whipped with a gun, and beaten with steel tubes, lead pipes and other blunt instruments. One of the victims was tied with wire. Filemon Garcia arrived with a blowtorch and also entered the basement. ELENA heard the victims beg for mercy.
At about 10:00 p.m. the victims, except the one lying in the vehicle who seemed either unconscious or dead, were brought to a so-called basement in the Iglesia compound in Punta, Sta. Ana. There, they were mauled, tortured and beaten by appellants, who were deacons of the INC, as well as by their cohorts, using steel tubes, lead pipes, guns and other blunt instruments. Thereafter, they were loaded into the van, which forthwith sped out of the compound…
Three days later, or on 10 March 1992, the victims’ bodies were found floating on the Pasig River, showing signs of foul play.
Former Chief Justice Hilario Davide, Jr.rendered judgment on the case. The four accused in these cases, Juanito Abella, Diosdado Granada, Benjamin De Guzman, and Edgardo Valencia, who are deacons of the Iglesia ni Cristo, were declared guilty beyond reasonable doubt on five (5) counts of murder.
In a similar case where a crime was done inside an INC chapel, Del Villanueva of Tempo reported an incident of a “Bloody Worship” on March 11, 2004 at Brgy. Daang Amaya 2, Tanza, Cavite. According to the report, a certain Restituto Salvador, 29, was charged with attempted homicide and violation of Article 133 of the Revised Penal Code, otherwise known as violation of religious feelings, after stabbing two of his fellow worshippers “in the midst of a religious ceremony inside their church.” Police Chief Inspector Audie Madrideo identified the victims as Feliciano Limonero and Pablo Dumalogdog, 36, both residents of the town. Only the latter filed formal charges against the stabber before the local court, according to Madrideo.
Not only inside the premises of the chapel violence was done but also in front of the chapel. On February 15, 2002, ten Iglesia ni Cristo members mauled a Quezon City police officer in front of their chapel in Caloocan City based on Gemma Amargo’s report in Pilipino Star Ngayon. The victim was identified as SPO1 Ramon Austria, 49, member of the Central Police District Investigation and Intelligence Division and Anti-Carnapping Unit. Austria was badly beaten turning his body purple upon reaching the police station to report the incident.
Hunted by prosecutions?
Although the sect members claim persecution whenever history reminds them of their infamies, a pattern of INC member or supported official being involved in anomalies is apparent. To name a few, former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who was publicly supported by the sect , was named “most corrupt leader” according to poll conducted by Pulse Asia in 2007. Ousted Chief Justice Renato Corona was cheered up by the sect in an INC-led rally in February 2012 while carrying placards with messages such as “No to Impeachment,” “Uphold Judicial Independence,” “Uphold bank secrecy law” and “Stop Malacañang takeover of the judiciary.” Serafin Cuevas, a senior INC member, defended Corona during the impeachment trial. However, on May 29, 2012, Corona was found guilty by the Senate of Article II of the Articles of Impeachment filed against him for his failure to disclose to the public his statement of assets, liabilities, and net worth. Twenty out of twenty-three senators voted to convict him.
Former LTO Chief Virginia Torres, former NBI Director Magtanggol Gatdula and many more were also among the long list of INC-related public officials or INC members involved in anomalies. Even Sen. Bong Revilla, Jr., who was the front-runner for the role of Eduardo Manalo, INC’s executive minister, in an upcoming INC centennial movie “Ang Sugo”, was dragged in a recently pork barrel scam issue.
Despite all of these, to an INC member, heavy criticism is a form of persecution.
For a sect whose members are willing to waive their personal choice like in elections giving way for the dictates of their leader, hence, the bloc voting, it’s no surprise should be a programmed response, thinking or reaction becomes apparent every time criticisms, no matter how valid, surge to them – they are being persecuted. But in the absence of careful consideration, one is being robbed of the benefit of the doubt, and the privilege of self-examining; and, in the end, becomes a subject of one’s control.
Posted on November 13, 2013, in Politics, Religion and tagged Bong Revilla, CJ Renato Corona, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, GMA, Haiyan, Iglesia ni Cristo, Iloilo, impeachment, Kabayan Ko, Kapatid Ko, medical mission, NBI, Super typhoon, typhoon victims, Yolanda. Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.