In Defense of Brother Felix Y. Manalo:
ON THE DECISION OF THE JAPANESE SPONSORED COURT OF APPEALS REGARDING THE LIBEL CASE AGAINST ROSITA TRILLANES
THE Judicial Court of any land must not convict a person unless that person is found “guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.” A court of law must not base their decision on “rumors” but on “facts.” Regarding this, this is how law books define “guilty beyond a reasonable doubt”:
“The standard that must be met by the prosecution's evidence in a criminal prosecution: that no other logical explanation can be derived from the facts except that the defendant committed the crime, thereby overcoming the presumption that a person is innocent until proven guilty.” (Source: http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/beyond+a+reasonable+doubt)
In 1939, a group of expelled members of the Church (Reymundo Mansilungan, Cirilo Gonzales, and Teodoro Briones) conspired to discredit Brother Felix Y. Manalo. The three convinced Rosita Trillanes, another expelled member, to sign a “letter” claiming that Brother Manalo raped her and other women. The three promised Rosita that they willl only show the “letter” to members of the Iglesia Ni Cristo. But, when no one believe them, knowing that they were expelled members only attempting to take vengeance against Brother Manalo for expelling them from the Church, they published the letter in a local newspaper in Pampanga. Thus, Brother Felix Y. Manalo filed a libel case against Mansilungan, Gonzales, Briones, Trillanes and the editor-in-chied of the newspapaer wher the “letter” was published.
In 1941, the lower court (the Court of First Instance of Manila) found Rosita Trillanes and company “guilty beyond a reasonable doubt” of the libel case filed by Brother Felix Y. Manalo. However, In 1942, the Japanese imperial forces invaded the Philippines and declared that all the judicial courts of the Philippines were under the jurisdiction of the commander-in-chief of the Japanese imperial forces in the country:
ORDER No. 1
ESTABLISHMENT OF THE EXECUTIVE COMMISSIONS AND CREATION OF SIX DEPARTMENTS
"…3. The Commander-in-Chief of the Imperial Japanese Forces shall exercise jurisdiction over judicial courts.
"4. A 'Commissioner' for each department constituting the central organization shall be appointed on [the Chairman's] recommendation by the Commander-in-Chief of the Imperial Japanese Forces.
"As regards the appointments of other important officials...you [the Chairman] shall have an approval of the Commander-in-Chief of the Imperial Japanese Forces.
"...COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF OF THE IMPERIAL JAPANESE FORCES IN THE PHILIPPINES January 23d, 1942 (the 17th year of Showa)."
On July of 1942, the Japanese sponsored Court of Appeals reversed the decision of the lower court (the Court of First Instance of Manila) on the libel case against Rosita Trillanes filed by Brother Felix Y. Manalo and even went further in declaring in their decision that Brother Felix Y. Manalo was a “man of low morals.”
Did the Japanese sponsored Court of Appeals found Brother Felix Y. Manalo "guilty beyond reasonable doubt” in saying that he is a "man of low morals"? Did they based their decisions on facts? See for yourself:
“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.” (Emphasis mine)
Take note of what the “decision” said, “a certain Liloy,” “a certain Basilia,” “a certain Protacio.” This only means that these people did not appear in the court. Thus, they accepted only the words of the accused without asking to show evidences.
If person A says that person B raped different women because according to person A he “heard that to a certain Liloy” would you easily accept this as fact? If person A says that person B is immoral because that later “had an adulterous relationship with a certain Basilia”, would you easily accept this as fact? The most logical thing to do is to ask person A to present to you this “certain Liloy” and this “certain Basilia”, and failing to do so, person A’s accussation will be dismissed as only “rumors.”
These words stating “a certain Liloy,” “a certain Basilia,” “a wife called Amada,” “a certain Protacio,” only prove that these people were not presented as witnesses for Rosita because these people certainly did not appeared in the court. Actually, the decision itself shows that Rosita had only one witness. The said decision of the Court of Appeals said, "HER WITNESS" (take note that it's singular, "her witness"). Pioneer ministers and brethren mentioned that Rosita’s witness was “Reymundo Mansilungan” himself (the “mastermind” of the conspiracy against Brother Felix Y. Manalo).
Thus, the statement of the “decision” of the Japanese sponsored Court of Appeals saying: “…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” WAS BASED ONLY ON THE TESTIMONY OF ROSITA TRILLANES AND HER SO-CALLED WITNESS (REYMUNDO MANSILUNGAN). No other witnesses, no further evidences, and the people mentioned by Rosita in her testimony given to the court (and even in her letter) were not called to appear in the court the reason why the court mentioned only “a certain Liloy,” “a certain Basilia,” “a wife called Amada,” “a certain Protacio.”
Also noticeable is that the defendant (Rosita) mentioned "other victims" (that Brother Manalo had other victims beside her) but she failed to produced or named the "other victims." It is very surprising that the said Court immediately accepted as true the words of Rosita that Brother Manalo “raped many women” without naming to the court those "other victims." It is like saying “he killed many people” but failed to produce the victims’ bodies or even the “names” of the so-called victims. Accepting as “true” the statement without concrete evidences, you call that “justice”?
Certainly, if a person will say to the court that “a person raped many women,” the court will surely ask the names of those “women.” If the person will answer, “I don’t know the names because I only heard that to a certain Reymundo,” surely the Court will dismiss that statement as “rumor” and not as fact.
Thus, this decision was based on mere statement of Rosita Trillanes and her lone witness (Reymundo Mansilungan), no other evidences showed, no other witnesses appeared, no other victims emerged.
Take note that this was in the time when the Philippines was under the Japanese imperial army, that Brother Manalo had conflict with the Japanese authorities and was arrested several times by the Japanese (and even ordered by the Japanese army to step down as Executive Minister of the Church), and the Church Of Christ then was a small, poor Church, with no resources and influence. Thus, it cannot be said that no other witnesses or victims emerged because they were afraid of Brother Manalo and the Church Of Christ.
Furthermore, the decision also said that:
“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.” (Emphasis mine)
The “decision” also added that:
“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.” (Emphasis mine)
From the justices, to the prosecutor and up to the Solicitor General, they all believe “…that the offended, Manalo, committed immoral acts with some women, members of his church.” Take note that Rosita Trillanes and company were the accused, thus, the prosecutors and the Solicitor General supposed to prosecute her and not Brother Felix Y. Manalo (the complainant). However, in this case, it seems that the complainant was the one being prosecuted and the accused was the “witness.” WHAT A JUDICIAL PROCEEDING! REMEMBER THAT THIS HAPPENED DURING THE JAPANESE OCCUPATION PERIOD AND THAT THE SAID COURT WAS A JAPANESE SPONSORED COURT.
After the war, the Supreme Court of the Philippines established only the validity of the proceedings and decisions of the Japanese sponsored courts, but the credibility and integrity were doubted. This was what Supreme Court Justice Hilado said regarding the credibility and integrity of the judicial processes of the Japanese-sponsored judicial courts:
“And yet, I am firmly of opinion that whoever was the "judge" of the Japanese sponsored Court of First Instance of Manila who presided over the said court when the proceedings and processes in the dispute were had, in acting by virtue of the supposed authority which he was supposed to have received from that government, did so with no more legal power than if he had acted as a mere lawyer applying the same laws to the case. If duplication of work or effort, or even if confussion, should be alleged to possibly arise from a declaration of nullity or judicial proceedings had before those Japanese-sponsored courts, it should suffice to answer that the party so complaining in voluntarily resorting to such courts should be prepared to assume the consequences of his voluntary act. On the other hand, his convenience should not be allowed to visit upon the majority of the inhabitants of this country, the dire consequences of a sweeping and wholesale validation of judicial proceedings in those courts. Let us set forth a few considerations apropos of this assertion. It is a fact of general knowledge that during the Japanese occupation of the Philippines, the overwhelming majority of our people and other resident inhabitants were literally afraid to go any place where there were Japanese sentries, soldiers or even civilians, and that these sentries were posted at the entrance into cities and towns and at government offices; that the feared Japanese "M. P.'s" or Kempeitai's" were a constant terror to them; and lastly, that the greater number who lived or had evacuated to places for from the Japanese, were found precisely in the cities and towns where the courts were located; and as a consequence, the great majority of the people were very strongly adverse to traveling any considerable distance from their homes and were, one might say, in constant hiding. Add to these circumstances, the fact of the practical absence of transportation facilities and the no less important fact of the economic structure having been so dislocated as to have impoverished the many in exchange for the enrichment of the few — and we shall have a fair picture of the practical difficulties which the ordinary litigant would in those days have encountered in defending his rights against anyone of the favored few who would bring him to court. It should be easy to realize how hard it was for instances, to procure the attendance of witnesses, principally because of the fact that most of them were in hiding or, at least, afraid to enter the cities and towns, and also because of then generally difficult and abnormal conditions prevailing. Under such conditions, cases or denial of a party's day in court expected. Such denial might arise from many a cause. It might be party's fear to appear before the court because in doing so, he would have had to get near the feared Japanese. It might be because he did not recognize any legal authority in that court, or it might be his down-right repugnance of the hated enemy. And I dare say that among such people would be found more than seventeen million Filipinos. These are but a few of countless cause. So that if some form of validation of such judicial proceedings were to be attempted, all necessary safeguards should be provided to avoid that in any particular case the validation should violate any litigant's constitutional right to his day in court, within the full meaning of the phrase, or any other constitutional or statutory right of his. More people, I am afraid, would be prejudiced than would be benefited by a wholesale validation of said proceedings.” (GR L-5, 17 September 1945)
Thus, for those that will again used this “decision” of the Japanese sponsored Court of Appeals to prove that Brother Felix Y. Manalo raped Rosita Trillanes and did immoral acts, PLEASE REFUTE FIRST THE FOLLOWING:
(1) that this decision was made by a Japanese sponsored court, a court under the direct and full supervision of the commander-in-chief of the Imperial Japanese forces in the Philippines, and following the will and mandate of the imperial Japanese forces;
(2) that this decision was influenced by the Japanese forces as an attempt to destroy his integrity and credibility (Brother Felix Y. Manalo had conflicts with the Imperial Japanese forces, and the Japanese knew that executing him will not do them any good but only to arose the members of the Church against them, the reason why the Japanese made attept to discredit Brother Manalo);
(3) that although the Church then was a small group, poor and having no influence, and Brother Felix Y. Manalo even had conflict with the Imperial Japanese forces, but still no witness and “other victims” came out;
(4) that Rosita’s only witness was her fellow accused Reymundo Mansilungan (the one who convinced Rosita to sign the “letter” claiming Brother Felix Y. Manalo raped her);
(5) that this Japanese sponsored court disregarded the facts and the “rule of court”, it based their decision on “hearsay” rather than facts, and persecuting the “complainant” and taking the “accused” as the witness;
(6) that even some of the Justices of the Supreme Court established right after the Liberation questioned the "credibility" of the judicial proceedings during the Japanese occupation period;
(7) that this “decision” (published in Philippine Gazzete on July, 1942) had no effect on the progress and growth of the Iglesia Ni Cristo proving that the people then did not believe this questionable “decision” made by a Japanese sponsored court.
Failure in refuting these arguments is failure in establishing the "credibility" of the said "decision" of the Japanese sponsored Court of Appeals regarding the Rosita Trillanes' libel case.
NOTE: After a decade, Rosita Trillanes and her family went back to the fold. They asked forgiveness from Brother Felix Y. Manalo, and they were forgiven. Rosita then made an affidavit retracting the controversial “letter” she signed in 1939.