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MANILA, Philippines (4th UPDATE) – Appealing for help via a 1:54-minute video on YouTube, Felix Nathaniel "Angel" Manalo and his mother Tenny say their lives are in danger.
Their father is Eraño "Erdy" Manalo, who died in August 2009 and was Iglesia's former executive minister.
Angel Manalo says in the video, "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.)
He introduces his mother whose face is not seen in the video. Members of the Iglesia whom Rappler spoke with said it was indeed her voice.
Introducing herself as the widow of Ka Erdy Manalo who led the INC for 46 years, Tenny 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.)
Addressing her eldest son Eduardo, Ka Tenny says, "Sana'y makausap kita." (I wish I could talk to you.)
On Thursday morning, an unidentified person flashed a sign outside an INC building in 36 Tandang Sora, Quezon City: "Tulong, hostage kami." (Help, we're held hostage.)
Several followers of INC trooped to Quezon City Thursday afternoon to support Angel Manalo and his mother.
Lottie Manalo-Hemedez and Aileen Manalo-Alcantara are Tenny's daughters, while Angel and Marc are her other two sons besides Eduardo. The present INC executive minister is married to Lynn Ventura Manalo. She is referred to as "Jezebel" by INC members critical of what has been going on inside the church.
In a press conference on Thursday, July 23, the INC announced that Eduardo Manalo had expelled his mother and brother from the church. (READ: Iglesia ni Cristo head expels mother, brother)
At least 3 Iglesia sources told Rappler there appears to be a split threatening the powerful church which has an estimated 2.3 million followers, according to the National Statistics Office. (READ: The rise of INC: 'Stricter religions grow stronger)
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.
The video titled, "An Appeal to All Members of the Church of Christ" was uploaded on YouTube late Wednesday evening, July 22. It coincided with calls for Iglesia members to join a vigil to help and protect members of the Manalo family.
A template website on wix.com supposedly put up by incdefenders.org called on Iglesia brethren to gather on Tandang Sora Avenue near their central temple in Quezon City starting Wednesday night.
On Monday, INC celebrates its 101st year, which coincides with President Benigno Aquino III's last State of the Nation Address. (READ: Rappler's 2014 infographic on INC)
INC was officially registered by Felix Manalo, a Catholic who became dissatisfied with theological teachings he grew up with. Manalo came up with new-found doctrines that have become the foundation of a new church which he initially established in Sta Ana, Manila. (READ: Faith in action: The practices of Iglesia ni Cristo)
Its large following has become a vital part of the country’s social and political life through the years. The INC is known to vote as a bloc during elections, and its ministers have lobbied for government posts in past and present administrations. (READ: How potent is the INC's vote-delivery system?) – Rappler.com
Chay Hofileña is editor of Rappler's investigative and in-depth section, Newsbreak. Among Rappler’s senior founders and editors, she is also in charge of training. She obtained her graduate degree from Columbia University’s School of Journalism in New York.