FAST FACTS: Who is Eduardo Manalo, special envoy for OFW concerns?

Sofia Tomacruz

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FAST FACTS: Who is Eduardo Manalo, special envoy for OFW concerns?
Manalo has served as the Iglesia ni Cristo Executive Minister since 2009

MANILA, Philippines – Eduardo Manalo, who is the Iglesia ni Cristo’s (INC) Executive Minister, donned a new hat as President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday, February 13, appointed the religious leader as his new Special Envoy for Overseas Filipino Concerns.

According to appointment papers released by Malacañang on Wednesday, February 14, Manalo will serve a year-long term from January 30, 2018 to January 29, 2019. 

The INC, known for its supposed bloc-voting system, endorsed the candidacy of Duterte during the 2016 presidential elections. (READ: How potent is the INC’s vote delivery system?) 

Who is Eduardo Manalo and how was he appointed to the position?

FAMILY. (L-R) Felix Manalo, Eduardo Manalo, Angel Manalo, Cristina Manalo.

INC family

Manalo is the grandson of the late INC founder Felix Y. Manalo. He is the eldest son of the late Eraño Manalo, who served as the INC’s Executive Minister for 46 years from 1963. (INFOGRAPHIC: The Manalos of the Iglesia ni Cristo)

Ordained minister in 1980, Eduardo Manalo led the local INC congregation in Cubao, Quezon City after he graduated from the INC’s Evangelical College. 

He then became the assistant dean of the Evangelical College, which later became the New Era University’s College of Evangelical Ministry. 

In May 1994, Manalo became the INC’s Deputy Executive Minister after being elected by the Church Executive Council. 

In 2009, Eduardo became the 3rd Executive Minister of the INC, succeeding his father and grandfather who both previously assumed the post. 

A few years later, however, controversy hounded the INC just days before its 101st founding anniversary. 

In 2015, the younger sibling of Eduardo, Felix Nathaniel “Angel” Manalo, and his mother Cristina appeared in a video posted on YouTube, appealing for help. The two said their lives were in danger and spoke of corruption in the church.  

Facing reporters at the time, Angel Manalo said he was not challenging the leadership of his brother and that the problem was the people around him. (READ: Manalo brother hits Iglesia ni Cristo ‘corruption’)

Bakit sa panahon ngayon, napakarami nang anomalya? Baka sabihin ng iba, eh kinakalaban namin ang aming kapatid. Hindi po, mahal po namin ang aming kapatid. Kaya lang ang nagiging problema natin, ang mga nasa paligid niya,” Angel said.

(Why is it that these days, there are so many anomalies already? Others might say we’re challenging our brother. No, we love our brother. But our problem is with people around him.)

Other expelled ministers also spoke out about alleged corruption and the extravagant lifestyles of the INC leadership. 

Events came to a head when in a show of force, INC members marched to EDSA and cleared out only after 5 days. 

According to a Senate resolution filed in September 2016, Eduardo Manalo’s leadership of the INC saw ecclesiastical districts established outside of the Philippines such as in the United Kingdom, Canada, Middle East, United Arab Emirates, China, Australia, and Southeast Asia among others. 

Under Manalo, the INC also conducted its biggest “Lingap sa Mamamayan” outreach program, coinciding with the INC leader’s 62nd birthday in October 2017. 

The “Worldwide Lingap sa Mamamayan” offered medical, dental, and livelihood services in more than a hundred sites across the Philippines and in other locations across the globe.

Earlier in 2017, the INC also distributed food, clothing, medicines, and other relief goods to around 100,000 Filipinos reeling from the Marawi City siege. 

MEETING. Former presidential candidate Rodrigo Duterte meets Iglesia ni Cristo Executive Minister Eduardo Manalo on April 22, 2016. Screengrab from EagleNewsPH YouTube

Relationship with Duterte

Manalo’s appointment as the President’s special envoy for OFW concerns mirrors his relationship with Duterte. 

In April 2016, presidential candidates paid a visit to the INC leader with Duterte reportedly spending about an hour-and-a-half with Manalo. (READ: When Rody Duterte met INC’s Eduardo Manalo) 

On the other hand, former presidential candidates such as then vice president Jejomar Binay and Liberal Party standard-bearer Mar Roxas were given only about 20 to 30 minutes with Manalo, according to reports. 

A few days after the meeting, a fake letter endorsing Duterte’s candidacy and supposedly signed by Manalo went viral on social media, though the INC quickly disowned it. The fake letter had also misspelled Duterte’s name as “Ridrido” instead of “Rodrigo.” 

In addition to this, a few months after winning the presidency, an INC group in August 2016 penned an open letter asking Duterte to intervene in controversies surrounding the church. (READ: INC group asking for ‘Duterte intervention’ in church crisis?

“Before election day came, our hearts decided upon you because we saw your sincerity in honest governance,” the group wrote in its letter. “This is also what we are striving for, that the church will be restored to its former honorable administration.”

While it’s no secret that politicians appeal to the INC for its strong influence, will Manalo’s recent appointment see the INC’s influence extending even more into issues close to Duterte? –

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Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers defense and foreign affairs. Follow her on Twitter via @sofiatomacruz.