|Corruption in the Philippines|
[Editor's Note: This formal report was undated, so I assume it was written about the same time as Lordly Salunga's letter.]
PREACHING TRIP TO SOUTHERN MINDANAO
On this report, let me start with a Parable:
"Somewhere in our local airport, two men travel among many (an American and a Filipino preacher) to an unknown destination. They boarded a plane. Later, as the plane was flying high, it developed engine trouble and suddenly it burst into flames and crashed into the middle of the jungle.
All, except the two, were dead. Though they survived, they suffered cuts all over their bodies; the American lost his sight, he became blind; while the Filipino, lost his two legs, he became crippled! With quick decisions they agreed to get out from the jungle at once, or else, they may lose their blood. And, alas, they arrived in a safer place; what did they do?
As there was no other way for them to seek help, as their cries no body could hear; so with proper mind the American who was blind, carried the Filipino on his shoulders who served as his 'eyes'. On the other hand, as the Filipino could see clearly through the jungle, though without his two legs, being very much familiar with the area, guided the American. And finally, both were able to get out from "the valley of the shadow of death" into a hospital safely to tell their ordeals. Later to enjoy the remaining days of their lives!"
Brethren, Philippine evangelism is likened to this story: the Filipino preacher is too dependent on the helping hands of the Americans. For the very fact, that every worker in their land cannot stand alone on their two feet, they are crippled! If we want rapid growth, we needed the assistance of our US brethren; that's why, every local worker begged for help in their local effort or on any legitimate need that may arise. Though on the other hand, every American is "blind" on the area of labors of every Filipino native preacher, yet,because the trust and confidence of every US brother, he could not help but share with the wonderful work .
That's why, the American brethren "opened" their heart and "poured out to every hands in the destitute fields the abundance of assistance without any second thought of deception upon the native brethren. And due to faithfulness felt on the native brother, both enjoyed the joint-efforts for all the rest of their lives in the Lord's Cause! (But alas, that may not be the case anymore-L.S.)
Brethren, embodied on this story is the very essence of facts in this report. It is hoped that, love for the truth, fair and unbiased judgment be meted, with justice and without any iota of compromise! We plea to all and ask everyone to be fair to those innocent ones; we know that the Philippine work has been tarnished again due to malicious cover-up, dishonesty, corruption and all attitudes unworthy to those called Gospel preachers. The dignity of the Lord's church has been maligned, and the capacity of its workers, had been brought to condemnation without fair trial.
The Apostle Paul said, "Render honor to whom honor is due", and logically speaking, those who do not deserve any honor but condemnation should be given due process. Brethren, this is our plea...
Summary Report on the Preaching Trip:
March 24-28, 2003 was the schedule of the lecture-training-seminar at the Lanton church at Brgy. Apopong, General Santos City. Preachers for this church were the Julom brothers: Jessy and his younger brother, Jolly.
Lordy, my wife, Nena and myself, arrived at the Gensan airport after 12 high noon. We were met by several brethren, headed by brother Jessy. We went to his house for lunch and later we walked for several minutes after crossing a creek before the chapel. At the chapel, several brethren were waiting for us, and the lectures started at 1:30pm.
Nena, was not included on the $200 dollars budget for travel given by the elders at Centerville, Texas. So, she made a loan for herself; and I was thankful indeed, because the $200 was too small. Lordy, later knew that it was too small, because he has to locate some additional on his. After we have emailed the appeal for travel funds, gasoline went up twice, and so with all the fares. Nena's presence was a good help to me and Lordy. She was useful on the trip, especially when we travel to those critical areas, passing several check-points. She was the only lady in our group, and she was in front sitting at the pick-up driven by brother Julie Nortarte.
Our original plan was that, Lordy will go back ahead of us on the 28th,
Friday, and Nena and I on the 31st. But things were abruptly changed when
there were no good reaction from our hard-hitting sermons. As we have
seen , there were:
Our efforts on this matter were Scripturally sound preaching:
Our topics were given blow-by-blow preaching, rebuking and exhorting; no one is above the law (1 Cor. 4:6), and no matter who gets hurts and who were involved, all must respect the truth (2 Cor. 13:8), and let justice prevail.
Though our topics and subjects of discussion were hard-hitting points; still there was no action seen on the brethren. That's why, on the first day lecture, in the afternoon, I just could not hold on my emotions, tears from my eyes fell! Because there was no acceptance of guilt among those preachers who were involved on some sinful acts (of womanizing, tampering of receipts on purchased of Bibles, mishandling of benevolent funds, exaggerated reports on numbers of evacuees, false reports on numbers of baptism, continued asking for monthly support, etc.).
All these illicit actions pointed to be positive but proving it beyond any reasonable doubt is next to impossible, because of cover-ups and tolerance among themselves. What these brethren needed is so simple: they must accept their evils, repent of sins and make restitutions to restore the lost trust and dignity.
By the way, why such wrong-doings abound in that part of Mindanao? Here are some observations:
(1) American brethren were easy to extend monetary assistance to newly converted native former denominational preachers. However, that is their personal prerogative .
(2) An old preacher from South Cotabato lamented on the fact, that in the past 40 years of preaching the Gospel, he only tried to seek monetary support , but no one have ever helped him; because, as he said, he tells the truth. But in other areas, talented Filipino preachers who were just making 'alibis' on their works, were immediately given assistance, though they were only converted a year ago. That's why he said, "God has sent a deceiver to the Americans to deceive them because they do not believe the truth that those who labor faithfully say!" Because he saw that the Americans were being told lies and that the Lord's money has been corrupted. But he asked, "Bert, who will believe me?"
Just the same in the days of old, a prophet asked, "who believed our report?" Somehow, hopefully, our reports will be given consideration.
The Gensan City case is just an opposite to what occured in Ilocos Norte; in Gensan City, those who fell into Satan's trap, were younger ones and newly converted; but in the heart of Ilocos Region, it is an experienced preacher, very much respected and his influence reached far and wide. He was considered by all Americans as the most trusted among the Filipinos and heroes of faith among his contemporaries in Northern Luzon. However, such respect and adoration suddenly collapsed in a twinkling of an eye when he was proven guilty of deception by not disclosing all the names of his supporters and the amount he received monthly. Imagine, in the past four decades he did that? The case cited here is blatant grave misconduct uncalled for a Gospel preacher and a grave abuse of trust! The pain felt for those brethren who trusted Materno, whom he deceived for almost 40 years is so painful, that no amount of forgiveness can restore the lost trust and dignity.
As in the Parable, American brethren were loving people and easily entrusted their helping hands to anyone, whom they felt can be trusted; either old or newly converted. Because they expect that all baptized into Christ who were "new creature" (2 Cor. 5:17), are now walking "in newness of life" (Rom. 6:4). Because as Paul said, "they walked and lived with them" (Col. 3:5-10) in time past. But sad to say,m that not all who were immersed in the Lord were truly "new man", only those who were unselfish in their conduct (Phil. 2:1-4).
American brethren looks to the Filipino counterparts with full trust and confidence. So, when a talented Filipino preacher talks, Americans admire him because they could communicate faster with him and understand him easier. However, unscrupulous Filipino preachers take advantage on the love rendered to them by the American brethren. So without knowing and thinking evil on the native counterparts, the American brethren swallowed the bait, line and sinker! Because it was beyond their wildest imagination that the Filipino preacher can do that deception to them! It was too late to know and they victimized already!
(2) All the reports concerning the Gensan City, Davao area anomalies, are positvely TRUE!
However, we could not gather any "black and white" evidence proving beyond any reasonable doubts on all these cases that we have tried to confirm. Here are the cases of anomalies:
(a) BLATANT CONNIVANCE` among brethren in those areas.
Lordy and myself, do not speak evils against these brethren, because we love them, but we just cannot tolerate the wrong-doings that they are practicing. In fact, we preached sharply on many subject of corrections; we exhorted them to repent, before it would be too late, but no amount of guilt were accepted. So there is a need for us to mention their names on this report.
(1) Tampering of receipts on purchased Bibles: From what the brethren told it all pointed to Toto Samson committing that sin, and was covered-up by Jerry Caa of Davao area. Jerry tolerated such evil deeds of a younger man. Toto purchased only 10 Bibles and make tampering on the figures on the receipts sent to the US brethren. This dishonesty and tantamount to lying.
(2) Reports on making money or training men for making solicitations to US brethren. The mastermind here is not Jessy Julom, he was only used; but the real mastermind is Emilio Lumapay also of Davao area. This was conveyed to us by: Jessy himself (nephew of Lumapay who trained them), Jolly, Jen Julom, Carlito Abella, Socarno Cabca, and possibly others who were under this category: "...men of corrupt minds, destitute of truth, supposing that godliness is great gain" (1 Tim. 6:5). I was told that, it was those older men who taught them to manipulate on how to make money among brethren.
(b) GREAT CONSPIRACY: In Davao area, there is a triumvatrate supremacy among some brethren.
This sinful attitude was seen by brethren Earl Mitchell, Kevin Maxey and Andy Alexander while they conducted a lectureship at Calinan, Davao area. There were three different colors of ribbons worn by those who attended. It simply signifies that there was groupings there: one for Balbin, one for Lumapay and one for Jerry Caa.
When asked why those ribbons, bro. Lumapay said, "to distinguish it from others who were present." He was at Gensan during the lectureship, and we point it to him this wrong image. Factions is growing among themselves because of WHO IS WHO with the US brethren. Brother Balbin was seeking a replacement on his expenditures during the lectures at Calinan, in which he said, his medical budget of P30 thousand pesos were used on feeding the brethren.
Brother Earl was critical on that matter, because as Earl said, there were women and children who were feasting during the lectures; of which it was supposedly for preachers only. If there were women and children, it should have been the wives and kids of preachers; but they were not, Earl lamented. When asked about it by Lordy, after our trip to Bukidnon, brother Balbin said, that they could not control the people during eating time. So feasting was tolerated.
We disagreed with the idea said on this matter, because in Luzon, when it was for training of preachers, we do not invite women or children to the area. But if the practice has been tolerated, that will become a culture, by then it will be hard to eradicate, as it happened with those brethren in Davao.
(1) On reported number of evacuees. Brother Julie Notarte came to Gensan and took us to those critical areas of where those evacuees were relocated. There were so many evacuation centers somewhere in those provinces of Davao-Bukidnon, Cotabato-Davao, and Bukidnon-Cotabato areas. The report by bro. Julie on these volumes of evacuees was very much exaggerated; there might be hundreds of members of the church who were evacuees, but not thousands as reported. A 4,500 to 6,000 evacuees, that might be the total of all in those evacuation centers, but NOT ALL WERE MEMBERS of the church. What we are concerned about are those who are members of the church.
Several faithful brethren spoke that, it might be a lesser number, but not the cited figure. Brethren Dominador Neniel, Leonardo Maste and Jun Apatan told us this. THEY HAVE BEEN TO THOSE AREAS.
When we went to those areas, we passed by the relocation area that brother Andy visited, we went down to other areas, which were critical areas. Later, we were informed that it was too risky to continue as two trucks loaded with cavans of rice were taken by the Muslem rebels, as the military were in hot pursuit. we have seen those people, in one relocation, we pitied those kids and old men who had nothing to eat. Lordy, Julie and I chip-in some P500 each for them to buy foods, we gave it to a brother who informed us and was with those evacuees.
While there we saw about hundreds of evacuees, but not all of them were Christians. We talked with one of the barangay officials and he said that about 50 of those evacuees were members of "Pastor" Julie. A common term used by denominational people referring to those members of the local area being handled by a preacher. About three relocations that we have seen, and it is beyond our knowledge on the reality of the numbers of evacuees. yes, there were tribal members of the church (T'Bolis, B'Laans, Manobos, Bagobos, Tirurays, etc.), but their numbers is lesser, the figures reported by brother Julie was "too good to be true!" (It will be impossible to know the number as the other areas are critical too dangerous to venture-L.S.)
(c) GREAT COVER-UP.
Sometime early this year, I got an email from brother John A. Humphries asking me on those reports sent by brother Jolly Julom to Morris Bowers. The report indicated several churches in those localities, that a total of 782 souls were immersed to the Lord.
Later, when we were there, they informed us that those were tribal people in those areas and have obeyed the Lord. Not only that, they also told us, that when a chieftain of a village obeyed the Gospel, all in his territory has to follow. So, it is not surprising when there are hundreds of baptism along this line, because tribal natives looks to their chieftain and leaders as their "gods". They could not refuse. That's why in most cases, it was easy to convert tribal people; because baptism is by groups. Most "good" preachers make it as a "shop-up" to the American brothers who visit the area; and they let the Americans immerse those natives. So, when these Americans saw bunch of men and women being immersed, they hailed the native brother as one of the best preacher in the world! But the "modus operandi" was a simple "presentation" of show only to them in that area. Bro. Jessy told us one problem would be the attitude of tribal people towards working: they are lazy. This is especially among the B'laan tribe.
A good example in this case was the later former Pentecostal preacher converted to the truth, Benjamin Asas. He was the one who died after fooling brother Ron Halbrook on a supposed chapel he built, but it went to his pocket. Ron asked him to repent, later on , Ron was informed that Ben Asas died as blood came out from his nostrials and ears!
The number of conversions are not always true among dishonest preachers. How to prove it is difficult to answer, but since the beginning of the church, there were men, "whose heart is not right with God!"
(c) GREAT TOLERANCE.
As reported, there were preachers who were involved in womanizing. Such action is worst than an infidel! Any American who support such kind should cut their support at once, as soon as possible! There were names that were given to us. But no one stood to prove it and it is very difficult to have proof on it. Unless, there is a voluntary acceptance of guilt among those who were guilty. However, here are the names who were involved: Jessy Julom, Carlito Abella, Toto Samson, Benjie Mendoza, Socarno Cabca, and maybe others.
On brother Jessy Julom, it was confirmed by his wife, ELDA. I asked Nena to invite her to our room at their house, and there we asked her. She confirmed that few a year ago, Jessy was running away to Negros Occidental and then to Bicol, because the woman's relatives was running after him. Jessy was hiding for three months away from his family. And this is the reason behind why Jessy and the rest of them came forward last January to repent when Ron Halbrook and Harry Osborne were at Gensan.
Jessy's older brother Jerry, has condemned that acts, but Jerry told
us his brother has stopped. Those who spoke were:
NOTE: Jun Apatan of Pagadian City was invited in Davao area recently together with Jonathan Carino and Cip Carpentero, they visited those areas and have seen those evacuation centers. Jun said that there might be more than 500 to 1000 evacuees who were members of the church; but NOT MORE than a thousand or 4,500 to 6,000 people! The same view were expressed by B'laan preachers: Leonardo Maste, Coen Manteng, and Leopoldo Cabca.
Above all these things, let the truth be the truth (2 Cor .13:8). As our report is not infallible we ask you all brethren for your kind hearted understanding. Because what we say on this report is on what we saw, and heard, as we were able to talk to some concerned brethren.
Conclusion and Recommendation
As a whole, our effort in that area was an "awakening" of truth on the part of those who maligned the word, the Lord's work and the Lord's Body. We went there to preach the Gospel, edify the saints, rebuked those who have committed wrong doings, and appealed for repentance; but our efforts on bringing them to repentance was futile.
Brethren, its now in your hands to decide on the verdict; to those who supported brethren in the Philippines, take caution! You might not be aware on the activities of those men. Beware!
This call is yours; "Moreover, it is require in steward that a man be found faithful!" (1 Cor. 4:2). SO HELP US, GOD!
Yours in His eternal service,
[Editor's Note: See the first follow-up on this note by clicking here.]
[Editor's Note: See the second follow-up on this note by clicking here.]
[Editor's Note: Besinga writes to confirm accussations.]