Preacher Flees Own Country to Preach in Others

A preacher preaching twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week to the whole world gets banned in his own homeland and flees to other countries to continue his work.

Pampanga, Philippines – Bro. Eliseo Soriano has a terrible mouth. That is as far as his enemies perceive him. He curses, people say, but that too is a perception. To those of his flock, the Church of God, International, more popularly known as Ang Dating Daan (The Old Path) he is a modern-day Jeremiah with fire in his bones he speaks out without fear the truth that he sees. For example, he incessantly points out the worship of idols as pagan. In sum, he is the nightmare of false prophets.

But he is in television, in radio, and in print, spreading the Word of God. One day in May 12, 2005 he gets banned indefinitely from appearing in TV in his own country. Feeling worthless, he flees to Hong Kong, Macau, and nearby countries to do his preaching. But this is not the first suspension.

The Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) saw fit to put him out on the basis of complaints filed by another church group for calling them “Iglesia ni Manalo” instead of Iglesia ni Cristo. Felix Ysagun Manalo founded the Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) based in the Philippines which church group openly does not believe in the deity of Christ.

National newspaper accounts show that beginning the third quarter of 2004 to the third quarter of 2005 or almost a year, the Ang Dating Daan television broadcasts had been systematically eased off. Chairperson Ma. Consoliza P. Laguardia of MTRCB slapped preventive suspensions against Bro. Eliseo Soriano and his company from 20 days, to 90 days, to an indefinite period respectively due to complaints filed by the influential INC. It will be recalled that this church group is being wooed by politicians every election time for their practice of block voting.

Some quarters believe this was the first time in the history of Philippine religious broadcasting that a regulatory body intervened and silenced a religious broadcast for telling and exposing the truths about faith and religion. They also believe that the decision is tainted with religious influence.

The same accounts show that the MTRCB suspended Bro. Soriano’s television broadcasts after the INC had filed practically the same complaints about the use of harsh words by Bro. Soriano or alleged “bad words” and defamation against the INC. Soriano contested the suspensions at the high court, complaining that the MTRCB violated his constitutional right to free religion, speech, and expression.

"The statements were merely in response to the detestable conduct of the ministers of the Iglesia ni Cristo hosting a television program entitled, Ang Tamang Daan," (The True Way) he said.

In taking Ang Dating Daan off the air, the MTRCB cited Section 3 of Presidential Decree 1986, granting the Board the power to screen, review, and examine all movie and TV programs and to delete materials that it deems morally offensive.

But Soriano countered that Section 3c of PD 1986 "is unconstitutional in so far as it sanctions the censorship of religious TV programs as a form of subsequent punishment."

Section 3c of Presidential Decree 1986 is on powers and functions of MTRCB and is very broad, with eight subtopics. Section 3c of PD 1986 reads -

To approve or disapprove, delete objectionable portions from and/or prohibit the importation, exportation, production, copying, distribution, sale, lease, exhibition and/or television broadcast of the motion pictures, television programs and publicity materials subject of the preceding paragraph, which, in the judgment of the BOARD applying contemporary Filipino cultural values as standard, are objectionable for being immoral, indecent, contrary to law and/or good customs, injurious to the prestige of the Republic of the Philippines or its people, or with a dangerous tendency to encourage the commission of violence or of wrong or crime, such as but not limited to:

i) Those which tend to incite subversion, insurrection, rebellion or sedition against the State, or otherwise threaten the economic and/or political stability of the State;

ii) Those which tend to undermine the faith and confidence of the people in their government and/or the duly constituted authorities;

iii) Those which glorify criminals or condone crimes;

iv) Those which serve no other purpose but to satisfy the market for violence or pornography;

v) Those which tend to abet the traffic in and use of prohibited drugs;

vi) Those which are libelous or defamatory to the good name and reputation of any person, whether living or dead; and

vii) Those which may constitute contempt of court or of any quasi-judicial tribunal, or pertain to matter which are sub-judice in nature.

Soriano’s Church feels that with all of these supposed to be watched for by Laguardia’s group, the information and entertainment world would have been healed - to include the boob tube cleaned of sexy, gyrating dancers and stupid productions which are the daily fare of the family sala, and the movies restricted from smut and filth.

In the latest suspension which initially had no definite date of ever being lifted until last week, Bro. Soriano was banned from appearing in any television broadcast. So when the monitors went blank without him, the people followed Bro. Soriano to his radio programs at RMN-DZXL, to DZRH, then to his bible expositions. To Soriano, it looked like the churches, the homes, the schools seemed to have failed somewhere.