Corruption in the Philippines

Jefferson David Tant

11550 Strickland Road

Roswell, GA 30075


April 29, 2008

Dear Brethren and Fellow Preachers.

Greetings from Georgia in the U.S.A. I hope this finds you doing well, and the work of the Lord prospering. “Beloved, I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers” (III John 1:2).

My wife and I arrived home safely just a few days ago, and we are still working to adjust our “internal clock” to the time change. It is now 10 a.m. Wednesday, while it is 10 p.m. Wednesday where you are.

In thinking about the work in the Philippines, there are various things that come to mind, and I thought it good to write you and share my thoughts with you. I hope they will be received well, and that you will give serious consideration to them.

Division among brethren

My first trip to your country was in 1997, and I was encouraged to see the love and unity that existed among the preachers there. You had a relationship that was to be admired, and I spoke of it often to our brethren in the USA. This continued for some time, until my trip in 2002. At that time, I observed a divisive spirit, which evidently had been introduced by some American preachers who were exporting American problems to the Philippines. These are some things I worked on during my 2004 stay in your area. Preachers were calling each other “false teacher,” and in one meeting, I am told that a preacher was cursing another, but in the Ilocano dialect, so that I could not understand. I wonder how happy our Lord was about that.

One preacher did not have a good understanding of the forgiveness of sins under the Old Testament, and others were pointing the finger at him and saying “False teacher!” Give me a break, brethren. Consider two things: (1) Is everyone a false teacher who does not have exactly the same understanding that I have? Can we not sit down and study with someone and calmly resolve differences without resorting to childish name-calling? (2) How does a misunderstanding of an Old Testament principle affect the gospel or anyone’s salvation today?

During my 2004 visit, it seemed things were better, but since then, it seems a divisive spirit has arisen again, although not as bad as before. Various Filipino preachers have spoken to me about this and have expressed their concern and their regret over this.

Part of this can be resolved by yourselves. You have the power and the right to decide whom you invite or allow to come into your area to preach. It is not my desire to go where I am not wanted, or where I am not invited. If there are any who do not desire me to come, all they have to do is let me know. I have plenty of other places where I have an open invitation. I do not set my schedules in the Philippines. That is determined by you brethren.

I have been made aware that recently a preacher in Cagayan province sent Ron Halbrook’s schedule to Ilocono. I was wondering who made that preacher the “bishop” of your area. I would not presume to tell Venerando Mangrubang or Rolando Azurin to send my schedule to La Union telling them when and where I would be preaching.

Another thing that has been mentioned is that some in your area said they did not want Ron Halbrook to come where they are, but then when he told them he was coming, he was allowed to do so. I have been told that Filipinos are not confrontational, and rather than say “No” to someone, they would go ahead and agree.

I have known Ron Halbrook since he was a teenager. He grew up in a church where two of my brothers-in-law were preachers. I know that he preaches much truth and has much ability, and I am thankful that he has brought many good books to distribute among preachers in the Philippines. I don’t have access to that kind of money. Basically all I have to bring is myself and a few dollars to help when there are special needs.

False Charges

It is sad that division has come to the Philippines. Ron Halbrook has charged Wallace Little with various things, including that Wally teaches it is OK to eat blood, and that Wally has a false position on marriage, divorce and remarriage. I understand he has made these charges in Truth Magazine. Wally has denied these charges, and has written to Truth Magazine asking that his reply be printed. He has been denied the opportunity to refute the charges. I do not believe this is honorable conduct. I have asked many if they have ever heard Wallace Little teach these things, and NOT ONE PERSON has said they have. Not one person has ever told me of hearing Wally teaching ANY false doctrine.

Wally has been charged with teaching false doctrine concerning “One Covenant.” It is charged that he and Jim Puterbaugh teach this in order to bring in Moses’ teaching on divorce in Deut. 24. Wally has flatly denied this. His One Covenant teaching has nothing with Moses. His view is that God made a covenant with Abraham in Genesis 12:2-3: “and I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make they name great; and be thou a blessing; and I will bless them that bless thee, and him that curseth thee will I curse: and in thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed.”

If I understand Wally’s view on this, he maintains that Christ is the object of that promise, and since we are the recipients of the blessings that Christ brought, we are still the recipients of that covenant. While I might not state it that way, I see no difference in where we end up at this time in history. If people continue to charge Wally with teaching the One Covenant in order to bring in Moses’ law on MDR, they are making false charges, and that amounts to lying. It’s just that simple.

Keith Burnett was recently in the Philippines. I have known Keith for over 50 years, as we were in school together. He and I have both worked in Jamaica. While I was with you, I heard reports that Keith is now being called a false teacher. Will someone please tell me what false teaching he has presented? No one I talked to when I was there could give me an example. So do we have another person being charged with false teaching without evidence?

Some have told me they believe they have had their support cut because they did not go along with Halbrook and his companions. Is this why some continue to allow him to come to their area? Are they afraid their support will be cut? If so, they are preaching to serve men rather than God. “For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? or am I striving to please men? if I were still pleasing men, I should not be a servant of Christ” (Gal. 1:10).

Recently word has come to me that the word is going around that Mario Companano is receiving support from Wallace Little. If this is the gossip that is being spread, then so far as I know, it is a lie. Let the teller of this gossip present the evidence. And even if it were true, what is the problem with that?

Exercising control

I know that preachers there have been told not to go to any of Little’s seminars or lectureships. Who has the authority to tell you what to do and what not to do? Who has the authority to tell you to whom you can listen? Is there a Diotrephes there in the Ilocos region? John had to deal with such a person many years ago. “I wrote something to the church; but Diotrephes, who loves to be first among them, does not accept what we say. For this reason, if I come, I will call attention to his deeds which he does, unjustly accusing us with wicked words; and not satisfied with this, he himself does not receive the brethren, either, and he forbids those who desire to do so and puts them out of the church” (III John 9-10).

I know that there have been occasions where a preacher was about to send his son to Manila for one of Wallace Little’s preacher training sessions, but he was told that his support would be cut off if his son went. By what reasoning was that threat made? Such threats would not be tolerated in the U.S. If a preacher in the U.S. sent his son to some denominational college to get an education, I cannot think of a single instance where that preacher would be fired or get his support cut off. Why do some American preachers have so much authority in the Philippines which they do not have in the U.S.? Can someone explain this to me?

I am aware that some time ago Ron Halbrook had a Filipino brother write a letter of repentance for having attended a lectureship conducted by Little. Wallace was teaching on The Sermon on the Mount. Halbrook evidently demanded the same thing of preachers in other provinces where Little had gone. Who made Ron Halbrook the archbishop of the Philippines? WHY DO BRETHREN TOLERATE THIS BEHAVIOR? The preacher who sent the letter later told me he was sorry for having sent it, and said the words were not really his, but Ron Halbrook’s.

Back in March, Little and Hayuhay had a lectureship around Laoag, but not many preachers attended because they are “FALSE TEACHERS.” Will SOMEONE please tell me what false doctrines they teach? If this cannot be done, then those who are accusing them are guilty of slander, and they will have to give answer for this. “He that hideth hatred is of lying lips; And he that uttereth a slander is a fool” (Prov. 10:18). I have repeatedly asked Filipino preachers if they have EVER heard false teaching from the lips of Little or Hayuhay, and NO ONE has been able to give me an example.

Another matter that has come to my attention is the fact that some preachers in Cagayan were being supported from some people in the US that Halbrook had contacted, but the checks were made out to Rody Gumpad. Thus the preachers had to take their checks to Gumpad in order to get them cashed. What is the point in this? Is this an effort to keep control over preachers? I can understand that sometimes for security reasons some checks may be sent to one preacher for distribution. Thus the preacher becomes a “messenger” to deliver the funds, as Paul was the messenger for funds sent from Macedonia, etc., to Jerusalem. But when the checks are made out to a single individual, I question the wisdom and intent of this.

Another abuse I have been made aware of is when Halbrook had a lectureship, he evidently rented a hotel conference room, and then for lunch paid for all the men attending to have a luxurious meal in the hotel at $25 each (P1,000). That would amount to many thousands of pesos, which would have been a great help to some preachers. Brother Mat tells me that Halbrook insists on staying in expensive hotels (P6,000 a night) when he is in the Laoag area. What’s wrong with Filipino brethren? In my trips to the Philippines since 1997, I have always stayed with my brethren except for two nights when I had to stay in the Manila Airport Hotel due to my flight schedule.

Halbrook charges Jim Puterbaugh with false teaching on the question of Marriage, Divorce and Remarriage, and therefore we cannot have fellowship with this “false teacher.” But Halbrook’s position on MDR is considered by most preachers in the US to be false. Ron teaches what some would label the “Mental Divorce,” or “Waiting Game” position. Ron denies that is what he teaches, but some say he is just twisting words.


Who is a False Teacher?

I understand the divorce is not allowed in the constitution in the Philippines, but of course the Bible still needs to be taught on this matter. But it seems some have made it their chief aim in taking the matter to the Philippines from America, and creating division where there was none.

With respect to Matthew 19:9, the majority view is that if a man puts away (divorces) his wife because he is tired of her (or for whatever reason), but not for sexual immorality, then neither has the right to remarry. Even if some years later he marries another woman, his former wife is still not free to marry, because the divorce was not “for fornication.”

Ron’s position is stated in his own words, as he wrote that if a man “has unlawful sexual relations with another (whether before or after he wrongly puts away his true mate), his true mate has scriptural grounds to reject or put him away. That might involve countersuing in the courts if he has a suit for divorce pending. But if he has already been granted a divorce by the courts of man, the laws of man make no provision for her to act. So far as the courts of man are concerned, legal issues such as property rights have already been settled and there is nothing else to be said in the realm of human law. But if he commits adultery (before or after his action in the courts of man), there is something else to be said by divine law—by the moral and spiritual law of the court of God. She now may put away, reject, or divorce him as a moral and spiritual act” (Study Notes by Ron Halbrook).

That’s a lot of words. To sum it up, take the case of a man who puts away his wife because he got tired of her, as mentioned earlier. There was no adultery with another woman. Then perhaps ten years later he marries another woman. Then, according to Ron, she may divorce him “in her mind” and be free to marry another. That is his position, from his own words. I have serious questions about that, and so do the majority of brethren in the US. Even others on the staff of Truth Magazine do not agree with him on that, but they do not call him a “false teacher.”

How is it that Jim Puterbaugh believes some can divorce, not for fornication, but then are free to remarry someone else, while others believe they are living in adultery, and thus he is a false teacher, and we cannot have fellowship with him? But, Ron Halbrook believes some can divorce, not for fornication, but then are free to remarry someone else, while others believe they are living in adultery, but he is not a false teacher, and we can have fellowship with him.

I do not understand the reasoning that calls one a false teacher, but the other a teacher of truth. Can someone please explain this to me?

An unmerciful spirit

And now comes a sad situation. In the past few days I have received emails concerning medical needs of a young Filipino Christian. Bot Hayuhay sent word about Angel Carpio. An American brother passed the appeal on to several in the USA. But Steve Wallace, one of Halbrook’s fellow travelers, put this word out over the internet. “Nehemias Hayuhay is an unworthy man. I suggest that you not forward his requests lest brethren get the idea that you support him. If he has a legitimate need regarding some needy Christian in the Philippines my suggestion would be that you ask him to get some worthy brother or sister to write you on that needy Christian’s behalf.”

I find it hard to believe that this is the spirit of Christ! Steve Wallace is delaying help for this young woman because he thinks Bot is unworthy! Wallace Little has helped many Filipinos with medical needs, and so have I. Neither of us has EVER asked a question about the “doctrinal position” of the one who asks for the help.

This divisive and ugly spirit cannot be what the religion of Christ is all about. If Steve Wallace doesn’t want to help Angel, that is up to him, but for him to hinder others from doing so is just mean. That is a callous and Pharisaical attitude. In the Sermon on the Mount, our Lord said, “"Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy” (Matt. 5:7). If brother Wallace were seriously ill, and Bot asked brethren for some help, I suppose Steve Wallace would turn down any donations that came as the result of Bot’s efforts. Do you really think so? Would he send out a message saying, “Nehemias Hayuhay is an unworthy man. I will not accept any donations that people send as the result of his appeal.”

Now it is July 3, so you can see that I am a bit slow in getting this letter written and sent. Since beginning the letter, our 2-year-old apo has had another surgery several hundred miles away, and my wife spent two weeks helping out staying with his two brothers. Then I went there to see little Eli in the hospital. From there we went 3,000 miles away to Oregon to our son’s home for his oldest son’s graduation from high school.

Now we are busily engaged in preparing for taking a group of 27 to the island nation of Jamaica for our summer work there.

Elevating men

Another matter that concerns me is the tendency I have seen to elevate one man to be the “head preacher” in an area. He is the one always called upon to perform marriage ceremonies and funerals. They may not be what that preacher intends, but others put this upon him. This can lead to dangerous situations, and I have seen it in other provinces. While various men may be worthy of respect because of their age and/or what they have done for the cause of Christ, I find nothing in the Bible that supports this practice.

I have been in the Atlanta, Georgia area (5 million population) for 46 years, and I am just one preacher among the 15 or so that are in the area. I trust that I am respected for my long work here, and for having a part in helping to start new congregations in the area, but I expect no preference or elevation because of this. When a preacher is the one who decides who gets support or who gets cut off, then we have a situation like Diotrephes-- the one John condemned that I mentioned earlier. “For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith” (Rom. 12:3). “It is not good to eat much honey, Nor is it glory to search out one's own glory” (Prov. 25:27). “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves” (Phil. 2:3).

I have seen this practice lead to much abuse in other parts of the Philippines, and I trust that brethren in the Ilocos region will not allow this to damage the work of the Lord there, or in other places. And to brethren who are rightly respected, I trust that you will not allow yourself to become the “bishop” your area. This leads to pride, which has been the downfall of many a man, even preachers. “A man's pride shall bring him low; But he that is of a lowly spirit shall obtain honor” (Prov. 29:23). In Mark 7:21-23, Christ marks pride along with the basest of sins: “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man."

Many years ago we had some visitors to the congregation where I was preaching at that time. One of the visitors was James R. Cope, president of Florida College. He was a man of reputation, and certainly had a high profile as the president. With him were some lesser known brethren. Brother Cope spoke to me before the service, and asked me not to call on him for the prayer, but to call on one of the other visitors. This was a mark of humility that characterized brother Cope, and I certainly appreciated his character.

Do not misunderstand. I do not mean to refuse to recognize the great contributions and good influence certain men have had in furthering the gospel wherever they are, but we must be careful that we do not establish what amounts to a cult following and place men in a position where they ought not to be.

Reverence in worship

One other matter I wish to mention, and this may not apply to all of you. My wife and I have noted how distracting it is when we are with some churches where little children are up and walking around, or going in and out from the services. Little ones can be taught to sit still. In our church services in the US, parents may bring some soft toys or children’s books to occupy the children during the service. Our older children, as young as 9 or 10 years old, often are seen taking notes on the sermons.

We have seen places in the Philippines where the children are quiet and well behaved, but in other places they wander in and out during the service, and this is distracting and disruptive. Please give thought to this.

Sorry to have taken so much of your time to read this, but these thoughts were on my mind. May God bless you as you continue to serve in his kingdom. I hope you will consider the things I have written carefully and prayerfully. If I am mistaken in anything I have said, please call it to my attention.

Yours and His,

David Tant

David Tant

[Editor's Note: Little wrote a letter commenting on Tant's letter.]