DID BROTHER FELIX Y. MANALO RAPED ROSITA TRILLANES?
By Dave Lawrence Michaels, Ph.D.
I am Dave Lawrence Michaels, a history professor. When I was attending the Bible Studies for those being prepared for baptism in the Church of Christ, a friend of mine approach me and told me many negative things about Brother Felix Y. Manalo to discourage me in entering the Iglesia Ni Cristo. He said, “browse the internet and you will find the truth about Felix Manalo.” So, I did. I was shock about many things published in the internet against Brother Felix Y. Manalo, and I admit, it discouraged me to continue attending the Bible Studies of this Church. However, I managed to talk to a minister of the Church of Christ, a Church historian, a fellow historiographer. He showed me concrete evidences refuting those many accusations and allegations against Brother Felix Y. Manalo. Thank God for that. Today, I am an active member of the Iglesia Ni Cristo, and very much active in sharing my faith. Actually, this article is based on the research the minister I mentioned above who became a good friend of mine. Please read it with an open mind.
ATTACKING THE CHARACTER of a person is an act of desperation, because this shows that they cannot refute his teachings that’s why they resort to attacking the person instead of the teachings or doctrines he is preaching. This fallacy is called “argumentum ad hominem.” Yes, it’s an act of desperation and truly a fallacy. However, this is what the detractors of Brother Felix Y. Manalo and the detractors of the Iglesia ni Cristo are doing.
What exposed their real intention is the fact that although they have no concrete evidences, just baseless accusations and allegations, however, they will still use it, publish it, spread it. Many times, concrete evidences were already shown to refute their allegations, but they intentionally and totally ignored them and will continue to spread their baseless allegations and accusations because their intention is not to expose the truth, but to impose a negative impression on the person being attack (“manira lamang”). Thus, it is not surprising that after their allegations were proven false or refuted, they will invent more and more lies against the person they attack.
This is indeed what they are doing against Brother Felix Y. Manalo and the Iglesia Ni Cristo.
LIBEL CASE AND NOT RAPE CASE
In 1939, Reymundo Mansilungan, Cirilo Gonzales and Teodoro Briones were expelled from the Church. One former employee of the Central Office who was also expelled from the Church, named Rosita Trillanes, was convinced by Mansilunganm Gonzales and Briones to sign a letter saying that she was raped by Brother Felix Y. Manalo. The three promised her that the letter will only be shown to the members of the Church as an act vengeance against Brother Felix Y. Manalo for expelling them from the Church. (Trillanes’ Affidavit, 7 November 1952)
Reymundo Mansilungan and Cirilo Gonzales were former ministers of the Church. Teodoro Briones was a lay member, but he worked at the PASUGO magazine. The three were expelled because of the anomalies they committed. Reymundo Mansilungan was a counsin of Rosita’s boyfriend. Mansilungan rushed the marriage of Rosita to his cousin. Immediately after the wedding, Mansilungan shown to Rosita a letter and asked her to sign it, promising that it will only be shown to members of the Church. Rosita signed the letter. (Trillanes’ Affidavit, 7 November 1952)
Please Take Note: When they made the “letter” they were no longer with the Iglesia Ni Cristo, they were already been expelled from the Church. Thus, their “motive” in making such “letter” is really very questionable. If they were still members of the Church when that “letter” was made, or they were not expelled because of anomalies they committed, this “letter” may be found credible. However, because the letter was made by those expelled from the Church, that they lose not only their membership of the Church, but also their position and the “privileges” they enjoined (Reymundo Mansilungan was a former minister, Cirilo Gonzales was the former General Secretary of the Church, Teoforo Briones was a former editor of the PASUGO, and Rosita was a former clerk in the Central office), thus the credibility and truthfulness of the letter is truly questionable.
The “letter” was indeed shown to members of the Church, but they did not gain support from any members of the Iglesia Ni Cristo. No members and officers of the Church was convince that the content of the letter is true. Because they knew the “background” of those who made the letters, they knew that the real “motive” behind that “letter” was to make vengeance against Brother Felix Y. Manalo for expelling them from the Church.
Gaining no adherents or supporters from members of the Church, the “letter” was published in a local newspaper in Pampanga named “Ing Cawal.” Because of this, Brother Felix Y. Manalo filed a libel case against Rosita Trillanes, the editor of the local newspaper, Reymundo Mansilungan, Cirilo Gonzales and Teodoro Briones.
Please Take Note: It was a libel case and not a rape case. It was Brother Felix Y. Manalo who filed a libel case against Rosita Trillanes and company, and not Rosita filling a rape case againt Brother Felix Y. Manalo. Thus, it’s a lie what INC detractors spreading that Brother Felix Y. Manalo was charged with a rape case. INC detractors knew the fact that it was Brother Felix Y. Manalo that filed a libel case aginst Rosita and company, however, they ignored the truth in order to impose a negative image against Brother Felix Y. Manalo.
Others asked why Brother Felix Y. Manalo filed a libel case against Rosita, Mansilungan and others? Because they were no longer members of the Church. Filing a libel case against them is the most legal, civil and proper thing to do. Brother Felix Y. Manalo did not attack them from the pulpit, nor publish or circulate the reasons why they were expelled from the Church.
Please Take Note: This indeed contradicts the image they are imposing against Brother Felix Y. Manalo that he abused his authority, and an arrogant and uncivil person. Brother Manalo did not went down to their level, but instead shown his civility and integrity through taking the case to the proper forum, to a court of justice.
THOSE CONVICTED WERE ROSITA AND COMPANY
AND NOT BROTHER FELIX Y. MANALO
Eventually, the lower court decided in favor of Brother Felix Y. Manalo, and Rosita, Mansilungan and others were convicted. The decision of the lower court in favor of the Brother Felix Y. Manalo was published in January 0f 1941 by Taliba, a national newspaper of that time (I don’t know if Taliba is still in circulation even up to this time).
Although they knew this fact that Brother Felix Y. Manalo was the one that filed a libel case against Rosita Trillanes and company, and it were Rosita, Mansilungan and others who were convicted by the lower court, however, the INC detractors continue to spread and insist that it was Brother Felix Y. Manalo who was convicted by the court of law. A BIG LIE INDEED.
Please Take Note: Brother Felix Y. Manalo was not convicted, not even charged of any crime. The INC detractors were challenged for many times to shown concrete evidences (court documents) that Brother Felix Y. Manalo was convicted or even charged of any crime. The INC detractors intentionally and totally ignored the truth that they don’t have such evidence, but they continue spreading the lies that Brother Felix Y. Manalo was convicted of a crime, convicted of raped.
ON THE DECISION OF THE COURT OF APPEAL
Afraid of being imprisoned, Rosita and company filed an appeal. They asked the Court of Appeal to reverse the decision of the lower court. The Court of Appeal did so and the decision was published in Philippine Gazette (the official newspaper of the Philippine government) on July of 1942.
What? July of 1942? Was that the year when the Philippines was under the Japanese Imperial forces? Yes, it was! The Pacific War of World War II started when the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor on December of 1941. Then they invaded the Philippines which then was a colony of the United States of America. The Japanese already occupied Manila and established a Japanese regime on January of 1942. The January 1942 edition of the Philippine Gazette published the Order No. 1 of the Japanese Military Administration in the Philippines (a proclamation of the commander-in-chief of the Japanese forces in the Philippines dated 23rd of January, 1942. The following is the statement of the proclamation of the commander-in-chief of the Imperial Japanese Forces in the Philippines regarding the judicial courts and the judicial system in the Philippines:
ORDER No. 1
ESTABLISHMENT OF THE EXECUTIVE COMMISSIONS AND CREATION OF SIX DEPARTMENTS
"…3. The Commander-in-Chief of the Imperial Japanese Forces shall exercise jurisdiction over judicial courts.
"4. A 'Commissioner' for each department constituting the central organization shall be appointed on [the Chairman's] recommendation by the Commander-in-Chief of the Imperial Japanese Forces.
"As regards the appointments of other important officials...you [the Chairman] shall have an approval of the Commander-in-Chief of the Imperial Japanese Forces.
"...COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF OF THE IMPERIAL JAPANESE FORCES IN THE PHILIPPINES January 23d, 1942 (the 17th year of Showa)."
Thus, during the Japanese occupation of the Philippines, the judicial courts of the Philippines were under the jurisdiction of the commander-in-chief of the Imperial Japanese Forces in the Philippines.
What will happen to the Filipinos, even to high ranking officials of the Philippine government (including officials of the judicial system) if they will not follow the will of the Japanese forces? The patriotic Jose Abad Santos, the chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the Philippines then, was executed by the Japanese on May 2, 1942 (Aquino, 1985:215).
Please Take Note: On JANUARY OF 1942, the Japanese commander-in-chief declared that judicial courts in the Philippines were under his jurisdiction. On MAY OF 1942, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the Philippines, Jose Abad Santos, were executed by the Japanese. Then on JULY OF 1942, the Court of Appeal reversed the decision of the lower court (Court of First Instance of Manila) regarding the libel case filed by Brother Felix Y. Manalo against Rosita Trillanes and company, and even went further in calling Brother Manalo “a man of low morals.”
Brother Manalo’s Conflict With The Japanese
The Japanese knew that to win the war they must win the support of the Filipino people, and they want to accomplish these through religion. Even before they came to the country, they already made plans to use religions in the Philippine to win the heart of the Filipinos. Thus, immediately after they occupied Manila, they attempted to established a federation of churches in the Philippines so that they could easily control all churches in the country and use them to win the support of the Filipinos.
The Japanese want Brother Felix Y. Manalo to lead this federation of churches they established. However, Brother Felix Y. Manalo refused. Hence, he was arrested several times and harassed by the Japanese. They even forced Brother Felix Y. Manalo to step down as Executive Minister of the Iglesia Ni Cristo. But, they saw the loyalty of the Iglesia Ni Cristo members to Brother Felix Y. Manalo. So, executing him will not do them any good, instead, this may further arose the hatred against the Japanese. Thus, they made actions to destroy the integrity of the Brother Felix Y. Manalo so members of the Iglesia Ni Cristo and even other people will no longer support him. Consequently, they found out that there was a pending libel case in the Court of Appeal that Brother Felix Y. Manalo filed against Rosita Trillanes and company.
Coincidentally, on July of 1942, this was what the Court of Appeal said against Brother Felix Y. Manalo:
"... the Prosecution admits that there is reason to believe that the offended party, Manalo, did commit immoral acts with some women members of the Iglesia."
And the Court of Appeal also said these against Brother Felix Y. Manalo:
"And the Solicitor concludes that he found out through proofs presented that Manalo is a man "de baja moral" (man of low moral) and that he took advantage of his position in the Iglesia to attack and sully the virtue of some of his female followers."
Please Take Note: This is a statement of the Court of Appeal against Brother Felix Y. Manalo published on July of 1942, when the judicial courts if the Philippines were under the jurisdiction of the commander-in-chief of the Imperial Japanese Forces in the Philippines, two months after the Japanese executed the Chief Justice of the Philippines for not following their will, and after Brother Felix Y. Manalo had a conflict against the Japanese.
THE JUDICIAL PROCEEDINGS AND DECISIONS BY
THE PHILIPPINE JUDICIAL COURTS DURING THE JAPANESE OCCUPATION WERE QUESTIONED
The validity and credibility of the judicial proceedings and decisions of the Philippine judicial courts under the Japanese regime were questioned.
One of the basis in questioning the validity of the judicial proceedings and decisions of the judicial courts during the Japanese occupation of the Philippines was the proclamation of General Douglas McArthur dated October 23, 1944, a few days after the historic landing in Leyte. McArthur’s proclamation declared that:
“…3. That all laws, regulations and processes of any other government in the Philippines than that of the said Commonwealth are null and void and without legal effect in areas of the Philippines free of enemy occupation and control.” (GR L-5, 17 September 1945)
What further add insult to injury was when the Commonwealth government was re-established in 1945, President Osmena issued the Executive Order no. 37 which provides that:
“… (1) that the Court of Appeals created and established under Commonwealth Act No. 3 as amended, be abolished, as it is hereby abolished," and "(2) that all cases which have heretofore been duly appealed to the Court of Appeals shall be transmitted to the Supreme Court for final decision. . . ."
The decision of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on 17 September 1945 (Co Kim Chan vs Valdez Tan Keh), established only the validity of the judicial proceedings during the Japanese occupation of the Philippines, but the “credility” is still in question. Dessenting, Justice J. Hilado stated the following:
“The courts created here by the Japanese government had to look for the source of their supposed authority to the orders of the Japanese Military Commander in chief and the so-called Constitution of the "Republic of the Philippines," which had been adopted in a manner which would shock the conscience of democratic peoples, and which was designed to supplant the Constitution which had been duly adopted by the Filipino people in a Constitutional Convention of their duly elected Constitutional Delegates. And it was decreed that the Commander in chief of the Imperial Japanese Forces "shall exercise jurisdiction over judicial courts." (Vol. 1, p. 7, Official Journal of the Japanese Military Administration, cited on pp. 2, 3, of the order of the respondent judge complained of and marked Exhibit H of the petition for mandamus.) How can our present courts legitimately recognize any efficacy in the proceedings of such an exotic judicial system, wherein the Commander in Chief of the Imperial Japanese Forces possessed the highest judicial jurisdiction?” (GR L-5, 17 September 1945)
Justice Hilado clearly points out that during the Japanese occupation of the Philippine “the Commander in Chief of the Imperial Japanese Forces possessed the highest judicial jurisdiction. Regarding the credibility and integrity of the judicial processes of the Japanese-sponsored judicial courts, this is what he said:
And yet, I am firmly of opinion that whoever was the "judge" of the Japanese sponsored Court of First Instance of Manila who presided over the said court when the proceedings and processes in the dispute were had, in acting by virtue of the supposed authority which he was supposed to have received from that government, did so with no more legal power than if he had acted as a mere lawyer applying the same laws to the case. If duplication of work or effort, or even if confussion, should be alleged to possibly arise from a declaration of nullity or judicial proceedings had before those Japanese-sponsored courts, it should suffice to answer that the party so complaining in voluntarily resorting to such courts should be prepared to assume the consequences of his voluntary act. On the other hand, his convenience should not be allowed to visit upon the majority of the inhabitants of this country, the dire consequences of a sweeping and wholesale validation of judicial proceedings in those courts. Let us set forth a few considerations apropos of this assertion. It is a fact of general knowledge that during the Japanese occupation of the Philippines, the overwhelming majority of our people and other resident inhabitants were literally afraid to go any place where there were Japanese sentries, soldiers or even civilians, and that these sentries were posted at the entrance into cities and towns and at government offices; that the feared Japanese "M. P.'s" or Kempeitai's" were a constant terror to them; and lastly, that the greater number who lived or had evacuated to places for from the Japanese, were found precisely in the cities and towns where the courts were located; and as a consequence, the great majority of the people were very strongly adverse to traveling any considerable distance from their homes and were, one might say, in constant hiding. Add to these circumstances, the fact of the practical absence of transportation facilities and the no less important fact of the economic structure having been so dislocated as to have impoverished the many in exchange for the enrichment of the few — and we shall have a fair picture of the practical difficulties which the ordinary litigant would in those days have encountered in defending his rights against anyone of the favored few who would bring him to court. It should be easy to realize how hard it was for instances, to procure the attendance of witnesses, principally because of the fact that most of them were in hiding or, at least, afraid to enter the cities and towns, and also because of then generally difficult and abnormal conditions prevailing. Under such conditions, cases or denial of a party's day in court expected. Such denial might arise from many a cause. It might be party's fear to appear before the court because in doing so, he would have had to get near the feared Japanese. It might be because he did not recognize any legal authority in that court, or it might be his down-right repugnance of the hated enemy. And I dare say that among such people would be found more than seventeen million Filipinos. These are but a few of countless cause. So that if some form of validation of such judicial proceedings were to be attempted, all necessary safeguards should be provided to avoid that in any particular case the validation should violate any litigant's constitutional right to his day in court, within the full meaning of the phrase, or any other constitutional or statutory right of his. More people, I am afraid, would be prejudiced than would be benefited by a wholesale validation of said proceedings.” (GR L-5, 17 September 1945)
Pioneer ministers narrated that Brother Felix Y. Manlo never attended any court hearings duting that period. Thus, they were all surprised when Court of Appeal already has a decision on the libel case he filed against Rosita Trillanes and company and it was evn published on the Philippine Gazette on July, 1914. Thus, although the decision of the Court of Appeal reversing the decision of the lower court and even calling Brother Felix Y. Manalo a “man of low morals” was published and circulated nationwide, it had no any impact on the members and non-members alike. People of that time believe that the lower court’s decision in favor with Brother Felix Y. Manalo is more credible that the decision of the Japanese-sponsored Court of Appeal reversing the lower court’s decision and call Brother Manalo a “man of low morals.”
BROTHER FELIX Y. MANALO DID NOT MADE
ANY APPEAL TO THE SUPREME COURT
Even after the Japanese occupation, Brother Felix Y. Manalo did not made any appeal to the Supreme Court. When he was asked why, he compassionately answered, “I pity Rosita. The truth is, she was only used by those who want to destroy the Church. Let us not allow it that she go to prison. Besides, no one believes in their lies.” True, no one joined this group that made the “letter” that they made Rosita signed.
Rosita herself narrated that after the war, when the Philippine Republic was re-established, she was deeply worried that Brother Felix Y. Manalo made an appeal to the Supreme Court and afterwards be convicted and imprisoned. She waited if Brother Manalo will make an appeal to the Supreme Court. After a while, she learned what Brother Manalo said why he did not bring the libel case against her to the Supreme court. Upon knowing it, she cried.
Please Take Note: During that time, the Iglesia Ni Cristo was only a small religious organization having congregations only in Luzon. The Church was just starting to establish missions in Southern Philippines. The Iglesia Ni Cristo then was not as large, influential and powerful as today.
(1) The “letter” signed by Rosita stated that Brother Felix Y. Manalo raped and abused many woman. However, when the “letter” was published and made known to the public, no “other victims” emerged.
(2) When the Japanese harassed and persecuted Brother Felix Y. Manalo, that the Japanese even asked Brother Manalo to step down as Executive Minister of the Iglesia Ni Cristo, still no “other victims” emerged.
(3) When the Japanese-sponsored Court of Appeal decided against Brother Felix Y. Manalo and even went further in calling Brother Felix Y. Manalo as a “man of low morals,” still, no “other victims” emerged. And that’s very surprising. The decision of the Court of Appeal said that Brother Manalo abused and raped many woman, but no other witnesses, no “other victims” emerged.
ROSITA AND HER FAMILY
WENT BACK TO THE FOLD
Rosita further narrated that after learning what Brother Felix Y. Manalo said about why he did not brought the case to the Supreme Court, she and her family wanted to go Brother Manalo and asked for forgiveness. But they were to ashamed to do it.
After a few years, in 1952, with her husband, they managed to gain some strength to go to Brother Felix Y. Manalo and ask for forgiveness. She said, when Brother Felix appeared in the office, she could not raised her face and look at Brother Manalo straight in the eye. Then she burst in tears. Then Brother Manalo said to him, “The Bile taught us to forgive others as how God forgive us.” Rosita and her husband embraced Brother Manalo.
Rosita further said that she was not asked to make an affidavit, she voluntarily asked a lawyer to help her make an affidavit of retraction. Rosita’s retraction was dated November 7, 1952.
Thus, after more than a decade, she retracted and went back to the fold with her family. Rosita became a deaconess and died an active member of the Iglesia Ni Cristo.
Please Take Note:
(1) From 1942-1952, the Iglesia Ni Cristo have established additional 18 ecclesiastical districts nationwide; her membership tripled; and have already build large concrete houses of worship. So, the “letter” signed by Rosita Trillanes did not made any impact against the spread of the Church. Thus, it is wrong to say that the Church did everything they could to make Rosita retract the “letter” she signed. If the Church continued to grow and spread nationwide, that the “letter” signed by Rosita has no any impact against the expansion of the Church, so the Church doesn’t need Rosita’s retraction.
(2) It is also wrong to say that the Church did everything to make Rosita retract because the “letter” might came out of the public. The “letter” already did came out of the public. It was published in a local newspaper in 1939; the libel case was a headline in 1941 in a national newspaper; and the Official Gazette published in 1942 the decision of the Court of Appeal against Brother Felix Y. Manalo.
(3) If Rosita was really raped by Brother Felix Y. Manalo, would she and her family (especially her husband) will come back to the Church where the leader raped her (his wife in the case of his husband, and their mother in the case of her children)?
Was Rosita Trillanes went back to the fold because she was given privileges like being a deaconess? And others asked why she was made a deaconess if she was an usurper? Rosita was made a deaconess not immediately after she went back to the fold but in the 1960s, or almost a decade after she went back g to the Church, after many years that she has proven that she already changed her ways.
THE CATHOLIC DEFENDERS IN 1950s
Not knowing that Rosita Trillanes already went back to the fold and even made an aiifidavit retracting the “letter” she signed in 1939, many Catholic publications published “Rosita’s 1939 letter.” They even titled their headlines, “Angel or Maniac,” “Ganid sa Laman,” “A Rapist Sugo,” and others. They thought that they already found a “smoking gun” against Brother Felix Y. Manalo. However, their “gun” backfired against them. Tney were surprised when they learned that Rosita and her family were again members of the Iglesia Ni Cristo and that she already made an affidavit retracting the “letter” that she signed in 1939. As history tells us, again, the INC detractors failed in their attempt to destroy the mission of the Church of Christ. The Church continued to grow, spread not only nationwide, but worldwide.
THIS ISSUE TODAY
Today, INC detractors again using this issue and spreading this “lies” to destroy the Iglesia Ni Cristo, but as how the group of Mansilungan in 1939 failed, the Japanese in 1942 failed, the Catholic Defenders in 1950s failed, surely these groups will also fail. This is what the Bible tells us about them:
“A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who utters lies will perish. (Proverbs 19:9 RSV)