Canadian Barry Gammon was allegedly murdered because he had a long-standing quarrel with members of the Iglesia ni Cristo (INC). (Photo: CBC Fifth Estate).
Updated: November 21, 2018, 7:34 AM
2nd Update: November 21,2018, 6 PM
Philippine church Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) brings fight to Canada, U.S.
By Ted Alcuitas
A Philippine church and its dissidents are bringing their internal fights outside the country using television and print and social media to air their dirty linen.
But more alarming are allegations of corruption,financial irregularities, kidnapping and even murder against the centuries-old church founded in 1914 by Felix Y. Manalo.
In a half-hour long investigative documentary by the Canadian Broadcasting Company’s (CBC) Fifth Estate aired in the past two weeks, ‘Church of Secrets’ details how church members tried to prevent CBC from doing the investigation.
The alleged murder of a Canadian man in the Philippines in June sparked the investigation by CBC.
Barry Gammon was shot to death in front of his Filipina wife and 11-year-old son in their house in Batangas City last June. According to the CBC, Gammon was murdered as a result of a long-standing quarrel with the Iglesia ni Cristo who built a church beside the Gammon’s house, citing a police report on the murder.
Fearing for their lives, mother and son fled the Philippines and landed in Vancouver where they are now living in a safe house, according to the CBC report.
The CBC report did not say what role Lowell Menorca II played in their arrival in Vancouver besides showing the family met by Menorca at the airport when they arrived.
We asked Menorca at the time if the Gammons were INC members but he refused to answer the question.
Menorca was a dissident INC pastor who fled the Philippines in 2016 fearing for his life and that of his family.
The Refugee Board of Canada (IRB) accepted Menorca’s claim that his life was in danger in the Philippines and that INC was capable of killing him. CBC even pointed to a police report indicating the ways the police can eliminate Menorca.
Coordinated harassment and intimidation
The CBC Fifth Estate crew was stymied right at the beginning of their investigation.
When it flew to Toronto in September to cover church spiritual leader Eduardo Manalo’s talk, it was met by a phalanx of security personnel who blinded TV cameras with spotlights and hid Manalo with tarps.
Everywhere CBC goes to film, from Toronto to California, they are met by church security who make sure they are not able to do their job.
And the man who blocks them?
He was at the Toronto church talking to veteran reporter Bob McKeown telling him they were not allowed to film a “church service.”
Two cars and several men followed the CBC van in Sacramento, CA and when McKeown stopped to confront the men it was Orozco who talked to him.
“We were just trying to guide you..” he tells an incredulous McKeown.
At the parking garage, it was again Orozco, through a burly security guard ordering CBC to get off the premises or they will call the police.
Soon after this confrontation with security guards, McKeown return to his van to find all four tires slashed.
Again, Orozco appears and when asked if he was responsible, denied and nonchalantly replied that “this things happen…”
Who is Orozco?
CBC’s Bob McKeown confronts Orozco (right). (CBC Fifth Estate, Screen Grab)
In the episode, Orozco denies he worked for the church and identifies only as a Filipino journalist. Orozco claims he is “a contributing writer for Philippine News and Fil-Am Star newspaper circulated in mainland USA as well as a business reporter and online marketing head of pinoyparinkami.com. He is a licensed Notary Public in the State of California and a deputized Sherriff of the Santa Clara County.”
Later, he admits that he is a member of the church.
If so, he is not an ordinary member.
He appears to be the official spokesperson of the INC, chief propagandist and chief of security rolled into one.
Playing the ultimate spin doctor, he refutes CBC’s claim about the church and points to the ‘many good deeds’ the church has done in North America.
He also defends and attacks INC dissidents by disseminating stories in local selected Philippine media.
While his writings are published in the San Francisco-based Philippine News and Silicon Valley-based FilAm Post, this is the first time he has written for the Vancouver-based Philippine Asian News Today (PNT). PNT was the first news media that broke the story of Menorca’s arrival in Vancouver even before CBC.
PNT refused to print Menorca’s Letter to the Editor rebuting Orozco’s story.
Toronto’s Balita newspaper also had a piece written by Romeo P. Marquez attacking the IRB decision on Menorca. While Marquez did not identify his source of the criticism, it is obvious that the source is the same person who penned the PNT stories. Marquez and his publisher, Tess Cusipag, was twice convicted of libel.
Lowell Menorca did not return our call for a comment on Orozco.
CBC calls the ubiquitous Orozco “their minder” for suddenly showing up when they were looking at their slashed tires. He nonchalantly denies INC was involved in the tire slashing saying he was “sad” it happened.
But CBC’s Bob McKeown was fuming:
“Do we know for a fact who did this. No. Do we have a pretty good idea? Yes. “
CBC interviewed two INC dissidents – Liz Deocampo and Rolando Dizon in California where the largest INC membership is.
Dizon tells CBC about how cash is being bundled and brought to INC headqauretrs in Burlingame, CA and “nobody knows what happens to the money. “
Dizon calls the North American congregations a “cash cow” adding that that could be the reason why Manalo spends so much time in America.
In fact, CBC says Matt Pareja, a senior church official, was caught in Seattle airport in 2015 for allegedly trying to smuggle cash out of the country. That case is still pending.
Quiboloy’s Kingdom of Jesus Christ Church
Another Philippine-based church, Kingdom of Jesus Christ Church led by Pastor Apollo Quiboloy, was in the news earlier this year when authorities in Hawaii caught Quiboloy with $350,000 cash in his private plane. A church worker, Felina Salinas,has been charged and a trial date has been set for April 2, 2019, according to reports.
The Iglesia ni Cristo does not only spend its money on airplanes and expensive travel but have been acquiring massive landholdings.
The church has indulged in a massive property acquisition according to a report by The FilAm (http://thefilam.net). Beginning with the purchase in 2011 of the so-called ghost town in Scenic, South Dakota for $800,000, it purchased in June 2017 the “once-thriving mill town known as Johnsonville Village in Connecticut for $1.85 million.
High-profile Winnipeg lawyer Jay Prober, retained by the INC, called CBC’s investigation “scandalous, outrageous and untrue.” Prober is no ordinary lawyer and has represented prominent clients including the fashion mogul Peter Nygard. He also represented the late Claro Pacqueo in his infamous immigration case in 1991.
Prober refused to discuss his involvement with the INC when PCN.Com reached him at his Winnipeg office. Instead, he referred us to CBC who also refused to share the letter mentioned in their episode.
According to the CBC investigation, the church holds a “disproportionate influence” on Philippine politics albeit it is the third largest religious organization next to the Roman Catholics and Islam.
Philippine traditional politicians (euphemistically called ‘trapos’ by Filipinos), regularly troupe to the INC headquarters every election to have the blessings of the church who practices ‘block voting’.
The church has supported the dictator Ferdinand Marcos who used the broadcasting facilities of the church to announced the declaration of martial law in September 21, 1972.
Today, Executive Minister Eduardo V. Manalo, who turned 63 on October, is not only a confidant of the current strongman Rodrigo Duterte but is the Special Envoy for Overseas Filipino Concerns.