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Scandal rocks INC

Dissenting churchmen rounded up, sequestered

The Iglesia Ni Cristo has allegedly started a crackdown on its leaders who have exposed corruption and anomalous activities within the church, with at least 10 ministers placed under house arrest and several others expelled.

Hostage drama. An unidentified person in a house in Tandang Sora, Quezon City
believed to be owned by the Iglesia Ni Cristo (inset) holds up a sign claiming they
are being held hostage inside. LINO SANTOS
Isaias Samson Jr., former editor-in-chief of INC’s official publication, Pasugo, escaped his armed captors early dawn on Thursday and held a press conference inside the United States embassy where he accused the group’s leadership under Executive Minister Eduardo Manalo of peddling lies and perpetuating corrupt activities.

“In fact, they have committed things that are far more grave, including abducting the ministers and the ‘manggagawa’ or those who are one step before being ordained minister,” Samson said.

The INC leadership, through general evangelist and spokesman Bienvenido Santiago, denied allegations that some of its ministers were abducted.

“There have been allegations that ministers have been abducted. They want to show that Iglesia is involved. There is no truth to those allegations,” Santiago said.

The crackdown on the ministers, according to a certain Antonio Ebangelista who maintains the blog Iglesia Ni Cristo – Silent No More (https://incsilentnomore.wordpress.com), was part of an effort to locate the blogger.

Ebangelista claimed in his blog that among the ministers who were abducted were Nolan Olarte from Cebu, Boyet Menorca from Sorsogon, and Joven Sepillo from Tacloban.

In a separate interview, INC minister Roel Rosal said he was among the ministers who were expelled to prevent them from exposing the misuse of INC funds which came from members’ tithes.

“We are fighting the corruption and the reckless expulsion of members who are only exposing the truth [on how] they have spent Iglesia tithe on vehicles to support their lavish lifestyle,” Rosal said.

Rosal specifically accused INC auditor general Glicerio “Jun” Santos Jr. and his staff of dipping their hands into the tithes.

Samson, for his part, said armed men were posted outside his house at around 2:30 a.m. Yesterday, an incident that he described as “torture” for him and his family.

He said he was able to escape at around 5:30 a.m. when he sought permission to go to church. He surfaced later at the US embassy for a hastily-called press conference yesterday evening.

Samson claimed military and police personnel were involved in the abduction of the ministers, which is why he decided against seeking police protection.

The INC crisis broke when Cristina “Ka Tenny” Manalo, widow of the late INC leader Eraño “Erdy” Manalo, and her son, Felix Nathaniel “Angel” Manalo, posted a 54-second video on YouTube Wednesday evening seeking help, claiming their lives were under threat.

“We call on the public: our lives are in great danger. We hope you could help us,” Angel said in the video.

“We call on our brethren in the Church of Christ to help because our lives are at stake. Rescue my children Angel and Lottie and their companions as well. Help our ministers who were abducted and up to now, were still missing. Pity them and their families,” said Cristina. “And to my son Eduardo, I wish I could talk to you.”

Eduardo, however, would expel Cristina and Angel hours after the video was uploaded – a move which Santiago said truly hurt the INC leader.

“Our brother Eduardo Manalo, our executive minister, can never allow any person to sow chaos. Though it deeply hurts our brother Eduardo Manalo, he has decided to expel those who have been causing disunity within the church,” Santiago said.

“The way we see things are, they just wanted to get the sympathy of the people so they could be able to do what they really wanted to do in the affairs of the church. [But] the entire Church of Christ should know that this is not a family corporation, but a religion anchored on the teachings of God written in the Bible,” Santiago added.

Cries for help also came from an INC-owned building in Tandang Sora, Quezon City yesterday noon, where an unidentified person flashed signs bearing the message: “Help” and “We are held hostage.”

INC will mark its 101st year on July 27. It was founded more than century ago by the current leader’s grandfather, Felix Manalo.

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