|Corruption in the Philippines|
Date: Wed, 06 Nov 1996 13:14:57
Greetings in the name of our Lord and Savior.
I do not know if you know me. My brother Steve in the Parkersburg area mentioned that you had wanted to speak with me, but I had already left that area and was heading back to my home in Baguio City, Philippines, where I teach and preach. I am sorry we did not have the chance to meet, but perhaps we can discuss matters through this channel of e-mail.
I have just returned yesterday from a trip to Cagayan Valley. While there, someone gave me a copy of a report you posted on the internet (to garyslist) on Aug 20, 1996, about Rody Gumpad. I was surprised by some of the statements you made since I have known Rody for four years. So I went and spent an afternoon with Rody and discussed the things you had said. I told Rody why I was asking and told him that I would pass the information to you and anyone else who was interested. Rody agreed that it would be a good thing since even though he speaks English very well, he is still often misunderstood since Americans and Filipinos do not share a common cultural background. So before I share these facts with you let me explain who I am and why I feel capable of bridging the communication gap.
I have been preaching and teaching here in Asia for 3 1/2 years. Three of those years have been in the Philippines. The other six months was in Hong Kong working with a predominantly Filipino congregation. I am married to a Filipina. Her name is Phoebe, and we have been married for 4 years. Rody Gumpad was the minister at our wedding. Phoebe's father is also a gospel preacher and lives about five miles from Rody. Rody was the one who taught my father-in-law the errors of Pentecostalism back in the early 1980's. My father-in-law is a very close friend of Rody's, and Rody helped him in those early years to gain some support from congregations in the US. I have been in Rody's house on many occasions and eaten with his family. Also Rody's eldest daughter is in College here in Baguio and is an active member of the church I work with. So I feel qualified to speak about the things in your letter.
I do not have a copy of Wallace Little's "warning" which you referred to. I do have a copy of a later letter he sent out in September. So I can't speak as to the truth or error of any statements in the first warning. (If you have a copy of that warning and would like my comments on it, please forward a copy to me.)
I know that Rody is a very good and convincing public speaker. I have listened to him on many occasions and have talked with him privately also. But I am sure we know that one's ability to persuade has little to do with the truth of what is said. Paul himself seems to have been a poor public speaker (1 Cor 2:1-5)
Rody seems to have left the impression that he does not own several houses and vehicles. I asked Rody what it was about the report he considered to be a lie. He said it was that he had recently bought two houses and three cars. The truth is that Rody has long owned one house and one jeep (called a Tamaraw here and is really a covered pickup truck). A little more than two years ago he bought a trike (this is a motorcycle with covered side car). Then two years ago he purchased a second car (used). So Rody has three vehicles (not three cars) and they are not all recently bought. I would be remiss if I did not point out that Rody himself told me that the second car was purchased using money that had been raised for his son's chemotherapy. The amount was $3,000. Less than a month later, Rody was again trying to raise money for the chemotherapy.
As for his house, again Rody has long owned one house and began preparation two years ago to build a second house. This second house is now roughed in, but not finished. Again, what Rody was calling a lie was that they were recently "bought" houses. One has long since been bought, the other is still being built and some of the money came from a loan (so Rody does not consider it "bought" -- that is a cultural understanding of "bought" which implies that it was paid for with cash).
I believe you may have been hasty in assuming that churches canceled appointments with Rody without checking into the questions. I was traveling in the States at the same time as Rody, and I received and answered many questions from many churches and individuals. Also Wallace Little was in the states as well as many other men who have been to the Philippines and know Rody. I know you don't agree with Wallace on many issues (and I also have had disagreements with him), but he is an honest man. He has been coming to the Philippines for 30 years to teach, and it was only with great reluctance that he finally decided that Rody was no longer being completely honest. In fact, Wallace was one of the men Rody was using two years ago to raise money for chemotherapy after having used the earlier money to purchase a second car. Wallace did not know about the second car nor about Rody's preparations to build a second house until I told him that he should not be raising money for Rody since Rody could get the money himself by selling the extra car, the trike, or the property where he was planning to build the second house. Wallace then (two years ago) wrote to Rody and asked him to stop deceiving people about his financial situation.
A mistake of fact appears in the next paragraph of your letter. While Rody did have Ron Halbrook in his house, Mike Willis has never been there. In fact Mike Willis has never been in the Philippines to the best of my knowledge or Rody's or anyone else that I have asked. But having Ron in his house says nothing about how Rody feels about Ron's teaching. By Philippine custom, Rody would be required to have a visitor stay in his house. ( In fact if you ever travel in the Philippines, you can stop for the night at almost anyone's house. It would be very rude to turn away someone who stopped by).
I asked Rody about why he did not go to hear Jerry Bassett when he was in the Philippines. His answer was simple. Jerry did not come to Cagayan or any of the nearby provinces. The closest that Jerry came was a 12 hour bus trip away (one way). Rody said that he wanted to go and listen to Jerry, but since the distance was great and he was in the middle of construction on his new house, he simply did not have time. The other preachers in that area who also did not go to hear Jerry all agreed that distance was the reason, not because of any particular teaching. (Jerry was teaching on The Local Church and in some places on Differences Between Christians).
Next let me turn to Rody's activities among churches in Cagayan Valley. First, Rody did not start all 50 churches in the valley. There are around 40 preachers in that province (including my father-in-law) Rody is not required to visit all these churches. He only has one church that he works with regularly. But he has helped start many others (usually with help from other preachers). Rody then assigns a preacher to work with the congregation he helped start. I use the word "assign" because that is the word the preachers used (though Rody says it is just a "suggestion"). The way it works is that Rody tells the congregation which man should work for them and tells the man which congregation he should work for. If the congregation does not accept the man, then they will not have a preacher. If the man does not accept, then he will not have a congregation. I talked with Rody about the fact that the system is unbiblical and denies the autonomy of the churches. He said that he had to do it that way he was the "father" of all these people. (I use the word "father" because that was the term Rody used. To be the "father" of people in this culture, implies the right to control or rule them. A father is not to be contradicted or spoken against). I explained to Rody that he was not the "father" of the preachers or the churches, though he never retracted the statement.
The statement that he MUST have a car in order to work with other congregations is wrong. I have worked with some very remote congregations in the Philippines and it is most definitely NOT necessary to have a car. Public transportation is very available here. I do not have a car and do not feel a car would be a great advantage. (Generally it would be a disadvantage, because the remote places that do not have public transport also do not have roads. They have to be approached on foot.) Saying that Rody must be "supported better than the totally dirt poor Filipinos" is an insult to the people of this nation. While it is true that Filipinos do not have all of the many conveniences of life in America, they do manage to live in a very hostile environment. Yearly there are about a dozen typhoons that pass through the islands, several earthquakes, mudslides, volcanic eruptions, etc. The only thing Rody's wealth shows his neighbors is that he is too lazy to work hard. (I use that statement because it was told to me by several people (mostly non-Christians) in the community who have known Rody for many years). As far as staying with brethren (again you should refrain from insulting these people by calling them "helpless") when he visits, that is generally not true in Cagayan. Most of the congregations are within a distance from his house that allows Rody to return home the same day. Even when he does have to stay, it is not a problem. I have myself stayed in those areas and lived with brethren. The cost of helping them is negligible as long as one is willing to live as simply as those brethren (at least in one congregation the brethren said that Rody would not drink what was offered, but insisted on cold Coke).
Now on to Rody's houses. (I know you said house, but since there are two it should read houses). If Wallace called Rody's current house a mansion, I am sure he is referring to it within the Philippine context. You must understand first how most Filipino's live. The standard home is probably about 500 sq feet or less. The poorer people live in nipa huts. These are huts made from bamboo and and palm leaves. The size of a nipa hut is usually around 100 - 200 sq feet. Most peoples homes are very simple. Many have dirt floors. A large portion of homes do not have running water (including my father-in-law's home). Outhouses are not uncommon. Now Rody's old house is about 1000 sq feet. He has indoor plumbing. Two bathrooms with working toilets (most toilets in the Philippines do not flush, but must have water poured into them from a bucket; that is even true of the toilets in the house I am renting). One of these bathrooms is a private bath off the master bedroom (a luxury that is very rare in the Philippines). Rody's old house has three bedrooms which is not the hardship it would be in the US. Giving children baths from metal buckets or wash basins is not horrifying. My baby often has her bath in the exact same manner. In fact so do most people in the Philippines since indoor showers are rare. I have often had a bath from a bucket. When at my in-laws, that bucket bath was taken in a small bamboo enclosure behind the house with walls that only came to my chest and a lean-to roof to keep the rains away. The floors of Rody's old house are MARBLE and he has two color TVs plus at least one VCR. So within the context the context of Philippine society, Rody's old house is better than the houses lived in by 80% of the population. So I would not say that calling it a mansion (by Philippine standards) is a gross exaggeration.
Furthermore, Rody's house is not deteriorating. I asked Rody what he felt was deteriorating. He took me inside and showed me where he had removed some ceiling tiles (so he could take pictures to send to US brethren). He could only point to two beams in his ceiling that are suffering a small degree of dry rot. Those beams can be replaced at little expense. The rest of the beams are sound and Rody plans to use them in his new house. The rest of the house can't deteriorate since it is made of concrete and cinder block (which is considered the best building material here since wood houses would get blown down in typhoons). Also the house is not "very old". The house was built in 1987 (give or take a year) my wife is from the area and remembers when it was built.
That brings us to his new house. This house is solid concrete and cinder block --even the roof being solid concrete (something I have only seen on office buildings, hotels and the like here in the Philippines). I have toured this house with Rody so I know what is there. He tells me that it is approximately 2200 sq feet. It has 9 bedrooms and 5 bathrooms. Rody claims it only has 8 bedrooms because one of these rooms he has set aside as his office, but Americans would still call it nine rooms. The 5 bathrooms all will have running water, plumbing and fixtures. Two of these bathrooms willbe private ones (one off the master suite i.e., between the master bedroom and Rody's office and the other off a guest bedroom). I might mention that I have never been in a Filipino home where there was a room dedicated as an office. Rody admits that the cost of the house in an unfinished condition is approximately $35,000. (861,000 pesos). This makes Rody a millionaire in his own country's currency (and it is as uncommon here to be a millionaire as it is in the US). Rody's new house, when completed, will be better than 99% of Filipinos could ever hope to enjoy, and it certainly qualifies as a mansion here (and probably would come close to being a small mansion in the US).
Furthermore, Rody told me that there were members even in the congregation where he works that cannot afford adequate shelter or enough food. I suggested to him, that he should leave the old house standing and allow those members to live there rent free. Rody said he would not even consider that because he had made up his mind to tear down the old house and let it be a parking lot for the church building (which is on the same property). I pointed out that he had a large empty lot behind the church building which he owns and could be used for parking. But again he said he would not consider it. One preacher who had visited with Rody said Rody had boasted that he would have the only marble paved parking lot in the world.
Next you mentioned the people who live with Rody. He does indeed have seven children, but the oldest (as I mentioned earlier) is away at a private college (where she lives in a private boarding house -- I offered to let the daughter stay in our house rent free since we live near her school, but so far they have declined our offer). Rody's and Tess's parents do NOT live with them. Both of their fathers are deceased and their mothers have their own places and only visit. (Rody's relatives who live near Rody's mother complain that Rody lives a luxurious life while his mother lives in absolute poverty). The other people who live with Rody are his wife's brother and nephew. They both came to him in order to be close to school. In exchange for room and board, these two young men act as household servants (they cook, clean, wash clothes, etc.). Rody's family has had servants for many years, sometimes relatives, sometimes strangers. Rody's children do not even know how to wash their own clothes or cook a meal. When Rody sent his daughter to college, at first he sent with her a private maid (though the maid was sent home after about one month, when the daughter moved to a boarding house which had laundry service and a cook). Rody now claims that the two young men do not live in his house. In order to accomplish this, Rody put a roof on the pig sty and had the two men move in there. But Rodsy still feeds them and they still work for him (one of them is also required to work Rody's rice fields as a tenant farmer i.e., sharing a percentage of the profits with Rody).
Jay , Rody's son, does have cancer, leukemia to be exact. Rody says that his daughter Kathleen has epilepsy, though no adult (including Rody and his wife Tessie) has ever witnessed her to have had a seizure. Only some other kids said that sometimes she shakes uncontrollably.
Rody has not always acted sincere and true (though he can be extremely convincing when he wants to be). At Rody's request, a confrontation between him and some other Filipino preachers was videotaped. During the meeting Rody admitted to lying to an American preacher (Ken Marrs) to avoid saying how much money he had spent on land and falsifying government documents to avoid taxes. He has apologized to the preacher for deceiving him, but has not said anything about admitting his deception to the government and paying the necessary taxes. Some of those churches in the US which you claim "mistreated" Rody had seen the videotape and based their decision on Rody's own words and behavior during that meeting. (That video is available, if you're interested I'll find the address or phone number for the brother in the states who made the original. He is only charging $10 to cover his costs and shipping).
I thank you for the time it took to read this long response. I pray that it will help you in your decisions with regard to Rody. Everything I have said is the truth so far as I have been able to discover it. I have pictures of Rody's new house and old house and of his vehicles, even a picture of the marble floors. If you have any further questions please feel free to ask. If you know of someone else who may want to read this information feel free to distribute it as you desire (without editing, please)
May God bless you in His work.
Glenn E. Hamilton
[Editor's Note: See addendum to this letter, written 8/4/2000]
[Editor's Note: See McPherson's apology in reply to this letter]