Source of Article: Atty. Marwil Llasos, OP. Read also Did Felix Manalo Rape Rosita Trillanes?
REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES
|God's Messenger in the Last Days: "Committed immoral acts with some women, members of his church"|
COURT OF APPEALS
THE PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES,
April 21, 1942
D E C I S I O N1
The accused-appellant was the object of the prosecution for the crime of libel based upon a letter subscribed, which is of the following tenor:
“Because of my love for the Church, and for your welfare, I wrote you to confess what really happened to me and those things that I witnessed and knew during my two years stay in the central. I am a maiden that became a member of the Church of Christ in Batangas. My parents and brothers hated and disowned me. In my belief that I will find protection I agreed that I be brought to our central office by brother Jacinto Torres. When I was already there I experienced the most bitter and painful in the life of a maiden like me when Manalo, whom I consider as a father, abused me. At first the courted me but when I refused to accede to his wishes he struck me and beat me which rendered me unconscious; and when I was already unconscious he raped me. There I suffered much because of the ill treatment, beating and threat that I received whenever I protested against his lewd designs.
“I also witnessed many who have been raped by Felix Manalo; others are maidens; others are wives of the members while the other one is the wife of the minister. Manalo himself told about the others who were his victims when he was persuading me to accede to his wishes. He told me about thirty women whim he took advantage. I could not reveal their names to cover their dishonor, but they frequently went to the central office. In my presence he attempted to violate a maiden who was then pregnant and who happen to live in the central office also at the special instance of Manalo. Probably the reason why Liloy resigned was because Manalo attempted to rape Amada. All those who have been his victims were afraid to speak because they were threatened that they will be killed if they speak, like he did with Basilia Santos of Paco who pointed Manalo as the father of her two children. This was current in Paco.
“Before Manalo went to America he brought me to the house of the Protacio’s in Pasay, but in less than a month he came to take me back , fearing that I told the Protacio’s all what he had done to me; when I refused to go with him he ill treated me and threatened me with a revolver and by means of force he compelled me to go with him. Later on the members of the Protacio Family were expelled from the Church an accused falsely.
“He spent all his monthly salary of p 1,300.00 for girls and for immoral purposes, while the poor workers of the church received only P5, P10, P15, P20 a month. Practically all your contributions which you offered to God went to him and which he spent for all his immoral acts. I told brother Doro all these things when Manalo was still in America.
“In view of these, could you tolerate that Manalo took advantage of the members and deceived the Church? Your wife and daughter are in danger of being victims of the lewd designs of that men whom you considered and recognized as the teacher of the words of God.
“I am confessing to you all these things, leaving to you the decision which you make if you really love the Church of God. To persuade a woman, whom he desired, whether she is a maiden or married one, he cited many wives of Solomon and he claimed that the man sent by God must be made happy and that to agree to consent to his wishes is a meritorious act in the eyes of God. Could your good sense admit this anomaly. It is up to you to decide.
“Your sister who had been unfortunate because of over-confidence.
After the case had been tried in the lower Court according to the established procedures, the appellant, through her testimony and that of her witness succeeded, to our mind, in showing satisfactorily that while she was faithful, and the offended party a chief of the “Iglesia ni Cristo,” she was abducted by the offended; that for this, she was the object of threats; that the offended had illicit amorous relations with the wife of another minister of the church; that in the presence of the appellant, the offended tried to rape a maiden that the reason why a certain Liloy separated from the said church, was because the offended had tried to abduct his wife called Amada; that the aggrieved parties and victims of the offended due to said motives, were afraid to talk in view of threat that they would be injured and killed if they did so; that such conduct followed by the offended, resulted in the birth of two children by a certain Basilia Santos, of Paco; that when the appellant refused to follow the offended from the house of a certain Protacio, in Pasay, where she already had her as a mistress, to another house, she was the object of the threats through a revolver, thus succeeding in making her stay in another place; and in the practice followed by the offended of seducing devout women of the said church, whether single or married, he cited the many wives that Solomon had, and that the man created by God, as himself, has aright to happiness, for which his desires should be acceded to, for this would be a meritorious act in the eyes of God.
Such are, in synthesis, the principal allegations that, it is said, constitute libel in the letter above transcribed. The inferior court did not give entire credence to the evidence of the defense that tend to prove the truth of said manifestations. We believe, however, that His Honor, the Judge a quo, has erred in this appreciation.
Concerning this aspect of the crime of libel, article 361, paragraph 1, of the Revised Penal Code in force, provides the following:
“In all criminal proceedings for defamation the truth of what is regarded defamatory may be proved, and when its truth be established and, besides, that the publication was done for good motives and justifiable ends, the accused shall be acquitted.”
We have examined with utmost care the evidence introduced in the case and we are persuaded that the appellant has consequently proven the truth of said allegations supposedly libelous, for the testimonies given by the appellant and her witnesses, merit for us greater faith and credence than those of the offended and his witness (see record, op. 80-94) Burgos; 101-176, Santiago; 2-38, Aranzamendez; and exhibits 1,2,3,4, &5).
To bolster the conclusion, it is enough to say that the prosecution on itself, in so far as the credibility of the witnesses of both sides is concerned, could not help but frankly admit in its brief (p.7), that by the testimony of the appellant it appears that the offended, Felix Manalo, took advantage of his position a head of the “Iglesia ni Cristo” succeeding in seducing her and other women, members of the church, with whom he has maintained illicit relations in the central office of the organization; that for this the offended made use of religion as a cloak to cover up his libidinous acts and immoral practices; that the feigned to be the Messiah sent by God; and that in persuading his victims, he cited Solomon and his many wives. The Solicitor General adds that, although the proofs presented by the appellant concerning the said libidinous acts, the Fiscal admits, however, that there is reason to believe that the offended, Manalo, committed immoral acts with some women, members of his church (p.8, supra). And said Solicitor concludes that he is found in the evidence that has taken advantage of his position in the Church to attack and degrade the virtue of some of his women-followers.
Such acts attributed to the offended and conclusively proved by the defense are, to our judgment, not only unfavorably censurable, since the offended was taken for the spiritual leader, and for purposes of good emulation, he should live and truly manifest a virtuous life, but that, in deed, they establish the commission of various crimes of public character, such a those of grave threats, abduction, rape, acts of lasciviousness, adultery, etc. The truth of supposed defamation proferred by the appellant against the offended having been, therefore, proved, and dealing with justified motives and ends, such as to warn her spiritual comrades of the “Iglesia ni Cristo,” we cannot help but arrive at a verdict favorable to the evidence, the present case is the third case of libel in which the offended is the aggrieved party, and, in one of these cases, the accused had been acquitted upon recommendation of the Solicitor General himself. These various prosecutions started by the offended will show that the knowledge of a general character of his immoral behavior, who by this provoked serious troubles in the bosom of his religious community, to such extreme that he had been obliged to institute the said three libel cases. And this circumstance will show, besides, the goodness and justifiable ends of the publication of the latter supposedly libelous subscribed by the appellant. Therefore, under the above-cited legal provision, the appellant has a right to a sentence of acquittal.
In view of all the foregoing, the appealed sentence is revoked and the appellant is acquitted, with costs de officio.
Hontiveros, Briones, and Torres, JJ., concur.
The sentence is revoked.
1 The source of this blog (Atty. Marwil Llasos, OP) has a copy of the Decision of the Court of Appeals in the original Spanish penned by Justice Enage. The Decision was translated by Atty. Santiago M. Artiaga, Jr. of UY & ARTIAGA LAW OFFICES, Suite 309, Samanilo Building, Escolta, Manila.