Corruption in the Philippines

Dear Earl,

Glad to make your acquaintance even if only through e-mail. To save time and make clear what I am responding to, I'll just place my comments after your comments and questions.

I am one of the elders serving with the Downtown Church of Christ in Rogers, AR. We had heard reports from Jim Mc Donald, Ron Halbrook, and others of the many conversions in the Philippines, and were amazed at the numbers being saved, especially Denominational preachers. The Lord's church here is very active in supporting faithful gospel preachers who are trying to fulfil the command to go into all the world and preach the gospel. Mt 28:19-20; Mk 16:15-16. We were interested in first hand information, that is why the church sent me to the Philippines, so I could see the situation with my own eyes.

I am very glad you took the time to come and see. Too many churches don't make that effort.

My observations of Jim and Ron during the short time I had with them are as follows. I found them to be very humble in nature, dedicated to saving lost souls at great personal sacrifices, and hard workers who are not ashamed to declare the whole council of God in love. In my 40 years as a christian I have never found anyone with a greater love for the truth and more willing to defend it. In my judgement, they are beyond reproach, men of sincere hearts, honest and trustworthy. I found that they do not falsely charge our liberal thinking brethren without documenting their false teachings from their own writings and tapes. They then confront this person and ask for a discussion and a study of the issues they are not agreement with, as they see things that are not taught in God's word. Some of those who have been chalanged, refuse to meet and study, but rather have labeled them as trouble makers, and "watch dogs". This approach is often taken when teachings can not be supported by book, chapter, and verse authority.

Well, that must be very nice how they treat the liberals. A pity they do not extend the same love and courtesy to other brethren. Neither Ron nor Jim has made any effort to contact Puterbaugh for a personal study. When Puterbaugh invited Jim to study together, Jim gave no response. When Jim was asked why he didn't talk with Jim privately, Jim's answer was "I don't think that would work." When I told Jim I was trying to talk with Puterbaugh so that he could be saved, Jim told me, "Your just being foolish and wasting your time." All Ron keeps asking for is a public debate, even though Puterbaugh has not debated publicly in 25 years. Puterbaugh is willing to have a private one-on-one discussion with Ron if Ron desires one, but Ron has never asked for one. So while what you saw was nice, it is not the way Jim and Ron behave with all their brethren.

Now, Glenn, I have a few questions regarding your email to Charles and Betty Waller.

I'll be glad to answer.

1. You accuse the Filipino preachers of being liars, deceivers, providing false chaims top receive benevolence. The scriptures teach us that before we condemn a person of sinning, we must establish the facts by 2 or 3 witnesses. Num 35:30; Deut 19:15; Mt 18:16; 1 Tim 5:19. Can you prove these charges by 2 or 3 witnesses? I would be very interested in seeing your proof.

First, I did not (or did not mean to if it was taken that way) accuse all Filipino preachers of being liars and deceivers. Can I provide witnesses that the claims are untrue? Sure. Witnesses are not the problem. Credibility will be the issue. You must choose who you will believe. That is why I chose the newspapers as a less biased source (but more about the Press later). I'll put down one American preacher who has managed to stay out of the controversy so far and I'll put down one Filipino preacher who is also a highly successful businessman.

Matthew Raymer

Roman Wanasen

I could put down many others, but you only asked for two and they are the only ones accessible via e-mail.

2. You state that Jim and Ron allow themselves to be deceived, and that the situation in Mindanao is not as bad as they pretend. These are pretty strong words against these men. Do you really think they are that naïve and they are just pretending?

I don't see the words as "pretty strong". I am giving them the benefit of any doubt by assuming they are simply deceived or naive.

3. You stated that the Government is at peace with the Muslims, that they are no big threat, and that the brethren having to flee is a lie. I beg to differ with you. While we were there the rebels had taken a General and his Aide captive and held them for several months, during which time there was fighting between the Rebels and the Government. I served in Viet Nam, so I know the sound of artillery, and I heard it while we were at Midsayap, Mindanao April 17-18, 1999. Also, as we travel in Mindanao, we saw numerous check points, maned by armed soldiers. If there was no real problem, why were they there? We heard from several gospel preachers, not just one, that some of our brethren had to flee. They reported that some were killed in the cross-fire between the Rebels and Government troops.

Yes, there are minor problems here with separatist groups, but the Government has a truce with the major Islamic group. The last major problem with the big group was back in January. There are many splinter groups and factions. The armed soldiers are there to prevent terrorist activities. That is why they stop all busses and jeeps (looking for weapons and/or explosives). Yes, there was some fighting between government forces and an extremist Muslim terrorist group during the week you were in Mindanao. Yes, a general was taken hostage along with his aide. Some people probably left their homes for a night or two, maybe even a few were Christians (although no proof of such has been presented). But that is all a Filipino means by "flee"; they left their homes for a night or two and then returned home because the terrorists are not able to hold any territory other than their
remote bases. Americans interpret "flee" to mean something like what happened to the people in Kosovo where they leave for months and may never return home. How can anyone claim to be a "communication bridge" when they use words which leave the wrong impression on their American audience?

Perhaps you and Ron failed to ask enough questions to realize that the "fleeing" brethren, if any, would be returning home in a few days. Some killed? Perhaps. Did you see some proof? The dead body, for example. This is a violent country, especially in the remote areas, but what are you expecting American brethren to do about it? The Lord's money is not going to bring peace to the region, is it?

4. You stated there can be no christians among the Tribes. We baptized some of them and heard from the Filipino preachers of others, even the whole tribe being converted. We also baptized at least 2 Muslims.

You misquote. I said there can be no Christians among the TRIBALS. Notice the spelling: tribals not tribes. That may seem like a silly distinction to Americans, but it is a very great difference here. There are more than a thousand tribes (watch the spelling), but only 64 groups of tribals. Tribals are a distinct group under law here. They have their own particular rights and privileges so long as they remain tribal. The tribals are largely animal sacrificers, they still wear only g-string for clothing, they hunt with bows and spears, they do not speak any language other than their tribal language. They do not generally associate outside the tribal group. Not all who dress or act in the manner described are considered tribal. The government has a specific list of tribal groups and one must belong to one of those groups to be considered tribal. Yes, there have been a few conversions among tribals, but it is rare.

Now with the distinction made, I can believe a tribe being baptized (assuming you just mean they were placed under water, we'll let God sort out who was saved), but I do not believe an entire tribal group was converted. If so, show some proof. At least name the tribal group, so it can be compared to the government lists.

5. You stated that no deaths were due to starvation, citing the Press as your proof. Do you trust the press to report all the truth all the time? Their government tries to surpress any unfavoirable news that would adversely affect their economy.

The Philippines has had a free press since 1986. News is not censored or suppressed. Do you have some proof of censorship or suppression? I trust the press here about as much as I trust CNN or ABC or CBS or NBC. That does not imply total trust. But if you had spent any length of time reading the national papers here, you would have seen that reporters here (like in the US) love to report news that embarasses the government. When people are accidentally killed in military actions or died by starvation, such items make the news. This government is not as backward as you seem to believe. When people are starving, this government sends millions of US$ worth of food to the affected areas (much of that aid comes from foreign governments but still the government here is involved in making sure people don't starve). During the worst of the drought last year there were deaths by starvation, but mostly among TRIBALS (note the spelling again), because the tribals do not come and ask for government food. Anyone else could get government food for little or no cost. Are Christians supposed to wait to be given money by other Christians when they could simply go and get food from their own government?

6. You accused Jim and Ron of wasting the Lord's money. Also, that many call it the Great Motorcycle Benevolence. Can you give me the names of these many who say this? I only observed 2 preachers who had their own motorcycles, very few had any transportation at all that we saw. They rode Jeepnees or trycycles to the services.

I didn't say that "preachers" were calling it that. But rather many members and some non-saints were calling it that. Do you write and read Filipino, Visayan, and/or Ilokano? I would have to dig to find the names of all the various preachers who have been accused of buying motorcycles, or land, or repairing their own homes, or whatever. I can think of a couple in Palawan, some in Mindanao, and I believe there were a few mentioned in Luzon, but that can wait.

7. You stated that accountability was non-existent, and that multiple receipts were used for the same distribution. Please send me proof of this claim.

Okay, I'm attaching two files called receipt1.jpg and reeipt2.jpg. I assume you can receive file attachments (large ones) and that you have something to view the files with. Receipt1.jpg includes three receipts for P15,000 ($363) for the church at Manag, Conner, Apayao. Receipt2.jpg includes a fourth receipt for that same P15,000 to the church at Manag (so we have quadruple receipts) and double receipts for the church at Guinaang, Conner, Apayao. [Editor: The text of the receipts mention can be read by clicking here.]

Let me explain what these receipts prove (I am sorry they are so faded. I had to scan them from carbon copies). Jim and Ron went to a central location in each region and gathered the preachers. They had all the preachers write down or tell how many members were in each congregation they worked with as well as the name and location of each congregation. They then passed out a set amount of money per individual in each congregation listed (in some areas as little as P800 ($21) in some as much as P1,400 ($37), but generally around P1,000 ($26)). There was no effort to determine if anyone had a need. The money was handed out on a per person basis. Now that is already unscriptural, but there is more.

Now when a preach received money he was given several receipts. For example using the two churches in Apayao whose receipts are atached, the preacher reported 15 members and was given P15,000 (P1,000 to be given to each member). He was given four receipts to send back to the US indicating he received P15,000, but each receipt lists the whole amount. So each person who receives the receipt would think that he paid the whole amount. So in reality P60,000 worth of receipts (P15,000 x 4 receipts) was given out. The other set from Apayao shows double receipts. Now all of this could just be poor planning and thought by McDonald and Halbrook, but the result is that there has been and can be no accountability. The practice was revealed to me by some accountants who are members of the church here (one of whom is a national auditor and the other a professor of accounting), who said the receipts would be worthless from an accounting point-of- view.

8. You stated that less than a fourth of the benevolence was distributed Mindanao and Palawan. How do you know this? Please give me some creditable names who will verify this statement..

How about Ron Halbrook and Jim McDonald for names? Ask for their accounting of how much money went where. Let them report in public on the internet for all to see, exactly to whom they gave how much money and where that person was located.

9. You stated that many churches divided over how the benevolence was distributed. What churches, please give me the names and addresses, or the preacher's name.

In Pagadian City you could write Sonny Tobias. In Davao City, write Ian Balbin. In Cebu City write Primitivo Repolio. In Manila write Roman Wanasen. In Pamapnga write Arseno Wanasen. In Pangasinan write Hilario Wanasen. In Tuguegarao, write Neo Aglugub. I think that is enough for starters.

10. You stated that Jim and Ron did not really know any work there. The scriptures tell us that we can know a persons work bu their fruit. We saw lots of fruit.

Yes, but the "fruit" we are looking for is "the fruit of the Spirit" (Galatians 5:22-24). The fruit left in congregations who received large amounts of cash was fighting, dissension, bitterness and wrath. Proof? Write the men listed under #9 above. We know them by their fruit. Amen.

11. You stated that you hate to see good people waste the Lord's money. Amen, I do too! You stated that massive benevolence in the hands of incompetent men will not solve any problem. Does this refer to Jim and Ron?

Well, I did not refer it directly to Jim and Ron, but as they say "if the shoe fits". Yes, Jim and Ron were at best incompetent. They distributed money without any thought as to whether there was a need. They violated New Testament authority by doing so, and they violated the trust many brethren had placed in them. None of the other issues you have raised changes anything about this single most important fact. They distributed money on a per member basis not on the basis of any need. Proof? Here it is straight from Ron Halbrook himself in an e-mail dated March 17, 1999 to John Isaac Edwards.

brethren from each church listed the local membership and distribution was made accordingly.

That is it exactly! That is UNSCRIPTURAL!!! That is not what the brethren in the states were giving money for; they expected ALL the money to go to needy saints. Instead the money became a dividend on being a Christian. Is it any wonder that after this massive payment that thousands were "baptized"?

You have made some very serious charges, not only against Jim and Ron, but also the Filipino preachers. I find these charges to be false and groundless. Before you open your mouth and slander God's people, you need to have proof, otherwise your message is evil speaking and evil surmisings. Mt 5:11; Jas 3:8; 1 Tim 6:4-5; 1 Thes 5:21. God hates those who spread discord among the brethren. Prov 6:14.

Interesting that you "find these charges to be false and groundless", BEFORE you asked for the evidence. Hardly the way one should behave, is it? Bias never makes one able to judge fairly.

Please let me hear from you on this matter.

You have now heard. Judge righteous judgment.

Yours in the service of our King,

Glenn Hamilton