MANILA - Is the Iglesia ni Cristo going bankrupt? This is the claim of a former member of the church of over 20 years, who said church funds are being funneled into a foundation set up by INC auditor general Jun Santos.
A spokesman of the Iglesia quickly debunked the allegations, saying the former INC member should show proof and file a case in court.
Speaking to radio DZMM, Joy Yuson, a former administrative coordinator of the TV arm of the INC, said corruption inside the Iglesia ni Cristo started after the death of the late INC Executive Minister Erano Manalo in 2009 and Manalo's son, Eduardo, took over the leadership of the church.
Yuson claimed the INC first started asking for more funds for charity through the Lingap sa Mamamayan fund drive.
Giving, however, was done on a voluntary basis.
"Nakita ko yung corruption nung magdagdag sila ng abuluyan sa Iglesia ni Cristo, yung tinatawag nilang Lingap sa Mamamayan na dati po wala nung panahon ni Ka Erdy....Gagamitin daw sa mga biktima ng bagyo [pero] nung nangyari ang Yolanda, nanghingi pa sila ng panibagong pangkalahatan ng abuluyan sa buong Iglesia sa buong mundo. Nagbenta pa sila ng t-shirt. Nagbenta sila ng kung ano-anong bagay para umano itulong sa mga biktima...Saan napunta ang linggo-linggo naming abuluyan sa buong mundo?" he asked.
Yuson claimed the INC could gather as much as P1 billion in funds all over the world based on the number of INC members giving as little as P30 per week.
He pointed out that some members could give as much as P1 million.
He also claimed that some INC ministers now are living the high life, compared to the simple lifestyles of former leaders.
"Nakahilera at iba-iba ang kanilang luxury cars. Yung kanilang mga asawa ay mga signature na suot na damit at mga bags na nagkakahalaga ng P30,000, P100,000, P500,000 - bags pa lang. Yung mga ministro ay pabalik-balik sa iba't ibang bahagi ng daigdig para magbakasyon kasama ang buong pamilya," he said.
Yuson made an emotional appeal to INC leader Eduardo Manalo to speak with his mother, Cristina "Tenny" Manalo, widow of the late INC Executive Minister Eraño Manalo, after the INC expelled her from the church.
"Kausapin niyo po ang inyong ina na anim na taon na niyong hindi kinakausap. May sakit, hindi niyo ipinapagamot. Ninanakaw ang abuloy ng Iglesia, sariling ina hindi niyo ipinapagamot. Napakarami na pong ministrong namamatay ng walang sariling gamot. Ninanakaw ang abuloy ng Iglesia. Ayusin niyo po ito, kayo lang po ang makapag-aayos," he said.
He also urged Manalo to remove INC auditor general Jun Santos and the other members of the Sanggunian for alleged corruption. He accused Santos of withdrawing INC funds from various bank accounts and channeling these to the Felix Y. Manalo Foundation.
"Winithdraw nila sa lahat ng bangko ng Iglesia na mga account. Kaya po ang Iglesia wala na pong salapi ngayon. Ang abuloy ng Iglesia ay pinapasok araw-araw sa Felix Y. Manalo Foundation na ang presidente ay si Jun Santos," he said.
According to the Iglesia ni Cristo media website, the Felix Y. Manalo Foundation is a non-stock, non-profit, and non-political organization. It is envisioned to be one of the leading charitable institutions in the world by providing services for people to lead healthy and productive lives, and promoting community development.
The website said the foundation earlier gave 2,000 relief bags to tornado victims in Oklahoma as well as $210,000 in donations to the office of the Oklahoma governor and the city of Moore in 2013.
The foundation also donated $20,000 to Bundaberg East State School, North Bundaberg State School, and the Office of The Mayor of Bundaberg, Queensland, Australia after the devastation of Cyclone Oswald.
It said the foundation donated $25,000 each to Coney Island and Bellevue Hospital in New York as well as $50,000 each to the New York Fire Department and New York Police Department in 2012 after the onslaught of Hurricane Sandy.
WHY YUSON WAS EXPELLED
For his part, INC spokesman Edwil Zabala said Yuson was expelled from the church because he abandoned the flock entrusted to him.
The INC spokesman noted Yuson is the best friend and classmate of Angel Manalo, a younger brother of INC executive minister Eduardo Manalo.
The INC leadership earlier expelled Tenny Manalo and Angel Manalo, younger brother of the INC leader, for making a YouTube video that said Angel's family was receiving threats and is in danger.
The expulsion of Angel and Tenny means they can no longer attend worship services of the church. The expulsion of the Manalo matriarch and son comes days before the INC celebrates the 101st year of its founding.
Angel Manalo earlier said Iglesia ni Cristo funds are being spent on big projects like the Philippine Arena in Bulacan instead of building INC churches.
"Nauubos na ang abuloy ng Iglesia sa kung ano-anong hindi naman kailangan," Angel said.
"Isa na ang Philippine Arena na ipinagtataka ko kung bakit nabuo. Sana lang po hindi nauubos ang pondo sa paggawa ng mga kapilya."
Zabala said there are people inside the church who have become disgruntled with the present leadership because they are not allowed to interfere with how the church is being run.
"Meron lang ilang tao na hindi napagbigyan marahil sa gusto nila na mapakailaman ang pamamahala sa Iglesia ni Cristo, mapasunod sa gusto nila sa personal nilang gusto. Dahil dun, minamasama na nila ang Iglesia," he said.
The spokesman said Yuson must show proof of his allegations of corruption inside the church.
"There must be proof given. Madali pong umiyak. Madali pong habang umiiyak, sabihin: 'tanggalin si ganito, tanggalin si ganoon.' Pero since he claims na naniniwala pa rin siya sa sinasabi sa bibliya, I would like to simply remind him and anyone else listening 1 Timothy 5:19 requires the church not to accept any accusation against an elder in the church except by the witness of two or three persons," he said.
He also dared Yuson to file a case and present his evidence in a court of law.
He said the church will present more evidence that will debunk Yuson's claims on Monday.
NO ARMED GUARDS?
In the interview, Zabala denied any knowledge of the alleged abductions of at least nine INC ministers.
He said at least one of the alleged missing ministers, Jojo Nemis, was spotted in Angeles City and that there is CCTV footage of his whereabouts.
He also debunked the allegations of suspended INC Minister Isaias Samson Jr. who said he was placed under detention by armed INC guards in his own home in Tierra Bella subdivision in Quezon City for nearly a week.
Samson earlier told media he and his family escaped after he asked permission to go to the INC service on Thursday.
Zabala said there is a "glaring contradiction" in Samson's account: if he was held against his will, why was he allowed to leave his house and go to the INC headquarters nearby?
"Granting without conceding na binabantayan ka pala, sabi mo ng mga armadong lalaki,doon sa iyong press conference na sinabi mo na ikaw ay tumakas nung ikaw ay sasamba. I see a glaring contradiction there - if you were being held against your will and yet you were allowed to attend the worship service," he said.
The spokesman said Samson must prove his claims that his passport and cellphone were taken from him while he was allegedly detained.
Asked if the INC has firearms, he said the only people who have guns in the INC compound are security guards.
NO NEGLECT OF MANALO MOM
Zabala also debunked Yuson's claim that INC leader Eduardo Manalo had neglected his own mother, Tenny, who had been sick for the past six years.
"Hindi po totoo na hindi maaaring lapitan ni Mrs. Tenny Manalo si Bro. Eduardo Manalo. Hindi po totoo na walang lines of communication na pwedeng gamitin. Hindi po totoo na willingly ia-abandona ng anak ang kanyang ina. Ito po ay isa na namang halimbawa ng kahapon pa nilang sinimulan na mga pinakalat nilang alegasyon without proof, puro appeal to emotion," he said.
The spokesman also hinted that the Manalo matriarch might not even be in the country amid appeals on Facebook and other social media networks urging INC brethren to gather outside the home of Angel Manalo inside the INC compound in Quezon City to protect the family.
He said the INC allowed policemen to enter the compound but that Angel refused to let officers come in the house.
"The question now is this - are they actually living there? Yun po ang isa pa. Kahapon pa sinasabi na namin sa kabila ng mga paratang at alegasyon na appeal to emotion na para bagang inaapi roon...Payag kaming pumasok kayo. Bakit ayaw pabuksan ng nasa loob? Hindi kaya dahil ba magkakabistuhan?" he said.
"Ang claim po earlier in the day [was] the mother is there. Kaya nga po very emotional yung iba. The mother that they claim to be there is not there. Hindi lang po buong araw kahapon," he added.
Zabala told radio DZMM anchor Karen Davila that the media should interview sources inside the Bureau of Immigration.
"If you have sources in the Bureau of Immigration, perhaps you can check with them," he said.
Asked if he could reveal where Tenny Manalo is staying, the INC spokesman said: "Right now, we will not release any more information concerning that. There will be a proper forum for this. I believe that on Monday, we will be able to address point by point all of these allegations."