Philippine church faces legal troubles
A politically influential and secretive Christian church that’s involved in a legal dispute with American R&B singer Chris Brown has been caught in a rising tide of its own legal troubles.
The Philippine government on Friday opened an investigation into allegations that the advisory Council of Iglesia ni Cristo, or Church of Christ, was responsible for abducting ministers critical of some church leaders and misusing funds.
The announcement by the Justice Department caps months of swirling rumours about corruption and internal feuds in the church, which has been controlled by the Manalo family for two generations.
Brown gave a concert in Manila this week but was delayed from leaving because of a fraud complaint filed by a corporation run by the church.
It claims it had paid Brown and a promoter $1 million in advance for a New Year’s Eve concert at its 55,000-seat arena outside Manila, which he cancelled without paying the money back. He left Manila late Friday after obtaining clearance.
The church’s potential troubles with the law are apparently unrelated to its tiff with Brown, but could be far more damaging to its reputation by exposing the depth of internal squabbles in the 101-year-old movement. It is also likely to unmask the strong grip the church has on its 2.3 million members.
The feud within the close-knit church became public this week when the mother and a brother of the group’s head, Eduardo Manalo, were expelled after they sought help from other members in a YouTube message, saying they were in danger and that several ministers had gone missing.
The brother, Felix Nathaniel Manalo, spoke out on Thursday against what he said were various anomalies in the church’s operations, saying funds “are being used up in all sorts of projects which we don’t even need.”