Frustrated INC members back leader's kin
MANILA, Philippines – Heeding an emotional call for help, several followers of the Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) trooped to Quezon City on Thursday, July 23, to support two members of the Manalo family who said their lives are in danger.
Sporting white ribbons on their wrists, a handful of INC members – less than a dozen – gathered outside an INC building on Thursday. They were responding to a 1:54-minute video appeal made by Felix Nathaniel "Angel" Manalo, the brother of INC head Eduardo Manalo, and their mother Tenny.
In the video, Angel revealed alleged death threats made against their family, and requested their brethren in the church to come to their aid.
A day after the video went viral, INC member Shirley Cruz Rosal turned emotional. She sobbed as she pleaded for the release of ministers allegedly held captive by some senior members of the group.
In between sobs, Rosal expressed her grief and frustration at what she implied to be a betrayal of the church.
"Bakit ganito ang nagiging ganti sa amin?" she said. (Why are we getting this in return?)
Another person who showed support was 34-year-old Sarah Manuel, who admitted feeling fearful and tense as she spoke with reporters who had been staking out in the area.
Manuel said she decided to go to the house "out of love" for Angel and Tenny Manalo.
"Gusto namin silang tulungan, bigyan ng maiinom, makakain. Gusto naming maiabot ang kahit anong maitutulong namin," she said. (We want to help them, give them food and water. We want to extend whatever aid we can give.)
'Calm, peaceful' INC
The reported conflict within the group came as a surprise, she added.
"I have always known INC to be calm and peaceful. I didn't know of any conflict within the group, so I was surprised when I watched the video," Manuel said in Filipino.
In the video, Angel Manalo says: "Nananawagan po kami sa inyo dahil nanganganib po ang aming buhay. Sana'y matulungan niyo po kami." (We are appealing to you because our lives are in danger. We hope that you can help us.)
His mother's voice is also heard in the latter part of the clip, where she pleads: "Ako'y nananawagan sa aming mga kapatid sa Iglesia na tulungan ninyo kami dahil may panganib sa aming buhay. Saklolohan niyo ang aking mga anak, si Angel at Lottie at ang kanilang mga kasama. Tulungan niyo rin ang mga ministro na dinukot at hanggang ngayon ay hindi pa nakikita. Kaawaan natin sila at ang kanilang pamilya."
(I am appealing to our brethren in the church to help us because there is a threat to our very lives. Please help my children, Angel and Lottie, and their companions. Let us also help the ministers who were taken and until now, have not yet been found. Let us show mercy to them and their families.)
After the mother made this appeal, an unidentified person flashed warning signs and appeals for help from the window of the INC compound.
Split in the family?
At least 3 Iglesia sources told Rappler there appears to be a split threatening the powerful church which has an estimated 1.37 million followers as of 2013.
These same sources alerted Rappler about the video appeal for help. It is still unclear from whom the threats to the family are coming, and where exactly the executive minister himself stands.
On Thursday, INC General Evangelist Bienvenido Santiago announced the expulsion of Angel and Tenny, accusing them of releasing the video in an attempt to create divisions within the church.
He also denied Angel and Tenny's claims that there were threats made against them.
"Ang basa namin doon sa ipinahayag nila kagabi sa YouTube ay ibig lamang nila makakuha ng mga tao na magsisimpatya sa kanila para nang sa ganoon ay makuha nila iyong talagang gusto nila: na mapakialaman ang pamamahala sa Iglesia," he said.
(Our reading of what they announced last night through the YouTube video is that they only want to gain sympathy so that they can achieve their real goal: to meddle in the leadership of Iglesia.) – with reports from Chay Hofileña and Paterno Esmaquel II/Rappler.com