MANILA, Philippines – Hiding their faces, more Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) members gathered near a church-owned compound in Quezon City on Sunday, July 26, to support the INC head's expelled mother and brother.
These INC members, around two dozen as of posting time, snubbed the anniversary event led by INC executive minister Brother Eduardo Manalo in Bulacan on Sunday.
They headed instead to 36 Tandang Sora in Quezon City, where Manalo's relatives reportedly holed up after claiming they received death threats. INC members said this is the Manalos' residence.
There, supporters of Manalo's mother and brother, Tenny and Angel, wore sunglasses and scarves to conceal their identities. They said they risk being expelled from the group if found publicly supporting Manalo's two relatives.
Former INC minister Roel Rosal, who was himself expelled after revealing alleged corruption within the group, said the supporters want to ensure that the Manalo family won't be forced out of their residence.
Earlier this week, the mother and son were expelled from the INC. Rosal said they would also likely be forced out of the house they currently occupy because of this.
"We supporters question the basis behind their expulsion. We are the only ones left here to protect them from being forced out," Rosal said.
He added that the supporters who showed up early Sunday all skipped the event in Bulacan. Attendance was not mandatory, he added.
"Dito na kami sa panig ng katotohanan," he said. (We are on the side of the truth.)
Calls to gather outside the Manalo residence have circulated on social media since the Manalos appealed for help through a Youtube video.
But fears of being excommunicated from the influential church have deterred some supporters. A number of them decided to send help through food deliveries instead.
Love for the Manalos
One female supporter, Hazel (not her real name), said people like her are risking everything to support the Manalos.
INC followers believe that they would be saved if they adhere to the church's teachings and doctrines. But if they are expelled from the group, they would be excluded from that certainty of salvation, Hazel explained.
Despite this risk, Hazel said that she and several others wanted to protest the alleged persecution of the family whom they have loved and respected for years.
She also implied that allegations of corruption and misuse of funds angered INC supporters who have admired the simplicity of lifestyle of the Manalo family.
"Mahal na mahal namin ang pamilyang iyan. Napakasimple, walang luho. Hindi ka naman mamahalin ng tao kung nakikita nila ang luho," she said. (We love that family. They are very simple. The people won't love you if they see your luxurious lifestyle.)
'Eduardo being manipulated'
Hazel also clarified that their support for Angel and Tenny doesn't mean they oppose their current leader and executive minister.
It is the Sanggunian (Council), the senior officials that advise Eduardo Manalo, that they are against, she said.
"He is being manipulated by the Sanggunian. We believe Eduardo won't expel his own family if not for the Sanggunian officials," she said.
Rosal echoed the same sentiments, hitting the Sanggunian for harassing the family and influencing the INC leader. He also called on Eduardo not to be swayed by his advisers.
"Kung siya lang ang magpapasya, hindi niya ipapasya [na itiwalag ang kanyang pamilya]," he said.
Facing reporters on Friday, July 24, Angel Manalo also alleged that senior officials are manipulating his elder brother.
As supporters continued to gather outside the Manalo residence, Rosal urged other INC members to send aid in protest of what they considered persecution against the family.
"Hindi kami nanggugulo. Gusto namin ng due process para sa pagpapalaya ng pamilya. Naparito kami dahil sa pag-ibig sa kanila, bilang pagmamahal sa Iglesia na dinudungisan ng Sanggunian," he said.
(We're not creating chaos. We just want due process to free this family. We're here out of love for them, and out of love for the Church being tainted by the Council.) – Rappler.com