The Manila Military Ministry – Pt.1 ...

April 19, 2001

Dear Hugo,

You recently sent me 3 or 4 e-mails reminding me that since you responded to my “Open Letter to Family Members in Argentina” I owed you a response. Thank you for your patience in waiting while I’ve been busy. You yourself took a long time to answer my initial letter, so I trust you will be patient while it takes me time to get back to you, answering the points you raised, one at a time.

The very next paragraph in your rebuttal to me was:

“Going back to the Philippines, I'm sure that you remember our conversations with Watchman in your presence; it was commented that if the Philippines intent had not failed, a series of similar coups would have followed in Thailand and Indonesia using the same tactics. The political implications for the South East Asia would have been obvious and there is no need to enlarge on that particular aspect.”

Actually, there IS a need to enlarge on that subject, because I no longer agree that “the political implications for the South East Asia would have been obvious.” What I told you about my involvement in military coups in Manila was true, but any statements I may have made beyond my actual experiences would have been mere speculation. Also, please remember what I stated in one of the first paragraphs in my “Open Letter:”

“I had no business flying to Argentina to give my deposition. The Family there was not in any way involved with the military trying to overthrow the government, were they? What we in WS did in the Philippines was illegal, but I have not heard any evidence that the Family members in Argentina were involved in a similar ‘military ministry.’ Have you?”

In another paragraph in your response you said:

“I agree in the sense that all what you said to have happened within the COGs belong to the near past and to other places and wasn't related to the activities, structure and behavior of the cult in Argentina.”

This is true. So, re: the conversation about WS being involved in military coups and the danger of that spreading to other countries in Southeast Asia, I vaguely remember that there was such a conversation, though not the actual words. At the time, yes, I would have agreed with the view that there was the potential of the Family meddling in the military of other nations beyond the Philippines. It was well known that one brother, B. in Thailand, did have many contacts with top military officers, and I had also heard that FFers in Latin America were cultivating friendships with military officers.

BUT despite my nearly 2 years of involvement in the Manila Military Ministry (and particularly the 10 months when I was living with Mo and Maria) I have never heard even one word indicating that what we attempted to do in the Philippines was being considered or duplicated in any other country—not even in Thailand, where there were very close ties with the military. The Philippines was a unique situation, and that it only happened because Mo (David Berg) was living there and had made it a personal project. He eventually lost interest in Philippines military issues, and to my knowledge, had NO similar interest in the internal affairs of any other country.

All I ever heard about B’s close involvement with the Thai military was that he was using his contacts as a means to get in to otherwise-restricted refugee camps on the Thai border, and was going in to take clothes, pass out Family literature, and witness. I never heard even the slightest whisper of an attempt to prod the Thai military into throwing a coup. The only other incident I heard about the Family and the military in Thailand was when once an American man who was against the Family came to Thailand, looked up a friend of his who was a ranking military officer, and had all the members of a Home arrested. However, since the Family knew a Thai officer who outranked the first officer, the Home members were quickly released. So the Family wasn’t the only one playing that game.

Re: South America, I have heard from another ex-member that the Family was “involved” with the military in Brazil, but the only specific detail I heard was that a woman in the Family once was given a ride in a military helicopter. My guess is that the officer who took her for the ride was thinking more about her breasts than overthrowing his government.

Re: Indonesia, I had heard years ago that Family women had FFed military officers, but the Family was kicked out of Indonesia in a nationwide deportation years before the Philippine experiment took place. Mo told the Family in his Letter, “Esther—Queen of FFers” that they should have worked harder to develop contacts amongst men of influence, including the military, who could possibly have prevented them from being deported. But that’s about the extent of it. I have never heard about the Family being involved in any coup attempts in Indonesia. Frankly, given that it is a Muslim nation, it would have been very dangerous for them to have gone in as Christian missionaries, then gotten involved in any military/political issues. Had the Muslim press gotten hold of anything like that, it would have backfired on the Family in a big way. So as far as I know, they simply weren’t involved in that in Indonesia.

Yes, the Philippine Military Ministry undoubtedly inspired the Family around the world to start Military Ministries in their own countries, but several churches have ministries toward the armed forces. This is one of the criticisms that Catholics in Latin America bring against evangelicals, by the way. While the Catholic church in many Latin countries is pro-social justice and left-leaning (some even espousing radical “Liberation Theology”), many evangelicals have gone into countries such as Chile on the side of right-wing governments, ministering to the military, emphasizing being born again while downplaying the need for social justice. Some dictatorships actually prefer evangelicals who do not involve themselves in social activism, over Catholics who do.
One notable exception is the Baptist evangelist, Tony Campolo, who challenged Gulf & Western, a huge American corporation exploiting cheap labor in the Dominican Republic, breaking unions, etc. Campolo was instrumental in bringing about sweeping changes, getting G&W to care for the poor workers and even donate $100,000,000, investing in the Dominican economy. Campolo is controversial in that he is pro-Gay and became one of former President Clinton’s spiritual advisors. (He hoped he could help bring the President to repentance after the Monica Lewinsky affair.) At any rate, you have to give Tony credit for the good he’s done, as a social activist who advocates that Christians are responsible to bring about social justice.

It was, in fact, an evangelical church ministry to the Philippine military that inspired Mo in the first place. The whole reason we started going to the military camps (Crame and Aguinaldo) was because shortly after the People Power Revolution in 1986, Mo got excited watching a TV show in which some American evangelists had the top military leaders, Gen. Fidel Ramos and Minister of Defense, Juan Ponce Enrile, kneel down, then laid hands on them and prayed for them. When in WS saw the video of that show. When Mo realised that “churchy” Christians were reaching out to the military and had a ministry to top officers, he asked why couldn’t the Family do the same? And soon it began, with Marianne’s home spearheading the outreach.

To understand what made the Philippine situation unique, you have to understand the history of the Philippines. First of all, Filipinos have been devout Catholics ever since the Spanish colonized the their island archipelago. Today 83% of Filipinos are Catholic, 9% are evangelical, 5% are Muslim (mostly in the southern island, Mindanao), and 3% belong to the influential sect, Iglesias ng Cristo, and other religions. Since the Philippines is made up of many islands, they speak scores of local and regional dialects. Their national language, Tagalog (Ta-GA-log) borrows heavily from Spanish. In 1900, after about 300 years of Spanish rule, the Americans took over the Philippines. Many Filipinos today speak several languages: their local dialect, the regional dialect, the national language (Tagalog), and English.

All throughout the time of the Spanish and American colonial periods, wealthy landed Filipino families have ruled the Philippines with the blessing of the Catholic church. Most politicians come from rich “political” families that own vast estates, and make sure that the Congress “democratically” defend the interests of the rich. The military, whose generals are loyal to the government that appoints them, and whose paychecks are signed by them, kept them in power. There was a huge popular groundswell of discontent amongst the millions of the poor, however, and the Hukbalahap guerrillas (Huks), dominated by communists, tried to violently overthrow the government and force through land reform. They made a premature takeover attempt in 1954, but Pres. Magsaysay crushed them. The Huks later transformed into the communist New People’s Army (the NPA).

Ferdinand Marcos was voted president in 1965, and was re-elected in 1969. In 1972, Marcos declared Martial Law, saying that a Communist takeover was about to happen. He gave himself sweeping powers and curtailed civil liberties, making many enemies in the process. Martial Law lasted until 1981, and was only lifted after new elections which Marcos again “won.” (He was accused of massive fraud and ballot tampering.) During the 15 years Marcos ruled the Philippines, he had the solid backing of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), hence they ended up doing most of his dirty work for him and were responsible for keeping his regime in power.

The truth, however, is that there were savage human rights violations on both sides. The NPA committed mass murders, killing those they suspected of being government informers. They sometimes killed dozens or even a hundred Filipinos at a time, men women and even children, then dumped their bodies in mass graves. Mass burial sites continue to be dug up all over the Philippines, one just this month, chilling evidence of the communists reign of terror.

When my own wife, Amy, was a child in Mindanao, NPA rebels would come to their house, demanding food. Her father wisely fed them. Had he not done so, he and his family would have been killed. Another time, when Amy was nine years old and alone with her younger brother and sister, a large group of NPA came into their village, shooting, burning buildings and killing. Amy grabbed her younger brother and sister and fled into the corn field, lay on the ground, and waited till the communists were gone and the shooting stopped.

The government under Marcos responded with brutal force, committing a long string of human rights violations in their attempts to crush the insurgency. Torture was a common method of finding out information from NPA or NPA sympathizers. One time, in fact, someone stole the expensive car of the Minister of Defense, Juan Ponce Enrile, so he sent some of his aides around Manila and find it. Two of his men were snooping around in a tough part of Manila and were arrested by the military. They said they were working for the Minister of Defense, but the military refused to believe them and tortured them to find out the “truth.” As a young girl, my wife was horrified when she walked past the police station in her village and saw a man’s beheaded body leaning against the outside of the police station. The body remained there one week decomposing, as the police waited for someone to claim it.

As the years went on and human rights abuses continued under Marcos, many Filipinos began to realize just how bad the “good” guys could be. Millions and millions of Filipinos living in poverty agreed that the communists were right in demanding that the rich share with the poor and divide the land. Many Catholic priests, seeing the grinding poverty of their parishioners, became left-leaning. Some literally left their churches, joined the NPA, and picked up machine guns. The church as a whole was very critical of the AFP’s human rights violations. But although the church condemned the military, they and the rich still owned most of the land and worked together to keep the millions of poor Filipinos landless and in poverty. Small wonder that in 1986 Mo would turn against the Catholics, blaming most of the Philippine’s problems on the spiritual blindness and selfishness of the Catholic church. (Up till then, the Family had been quite pro-Catholic. Years earlier, Mo had written “Are we Catholics or Protestants?” stating that the Family should try to be as pro-Catholic as possible. He praised their dedication and said how he had personally attended masses and experienced miraculous healing while receiving communion.)

After years of Martial Law, Marcos tried to put a new face on his regime; he relaxed his grip and re-installed what would have to pass for “democracy.” One of Marcos’ chief political opponents, Benigno Aquino, considered to be very left-leaning, had left the Philippines years before, but in 1983, returned to the Philippines to challenge Marcos. I was living in the Philippines at the time that Aquino returned on August 21, 1983. Police boarded the plane and arrested him. As they were escorting him across the tarmac, Rolando Guzman, a local criminal, allegedly appeared out of nowhere and shot Aquino dead. Guzman was immediately shot and killed by the police. Benigno Aquino became an instant martyr. It was widely believed that AFP Chief, Gen. Fabian Ver, was the one who had ordered the murder at Marcos’ behest. Marcos ordered a Commission to investigate the murder and the Commission found several military officials guilty of a conspiracy to assassinate Aquino. But when those officials went to trial, the judge declared them innocent.

Anti-Marcos rallies began and internal and international (meaning U.S.) pressure for free elections built up until Marcos decided to call snap elections. The opposition scrambled to find a presidential candidate and nominated Aquino’s widow, Corazon Aquino. The elections were held on Feb. 7, 1986, and there were accusations of widespread fraud and ballot tampering. Armed men grabbed entire ballet boxes and carried them off into the jungle. Dozens of computer operators (in possibly a staged rally) walked off the job en masse, saying that the results were rigged.

I’m saying all this from memory, having lived through these events. As WS workers, we faithfully watched Filipino news every evening. In the end, the electoral committee declared Marcos the winner. That’s when the street protests began. Corazon Aquino—who is said to have known more about cooking than politics—insisted she had won. Cardinal Jaime Sin, head of the Catholic church, put his full support behind her. (Marcos belonged to the controversial Iglesias ng Cristo church, and Aquino was a Catholic.)

The street protests wouldn’t have succeeded without the backing of the military, which Marcos believed was on his side. But as early as 1984, Sam Perfilio (leader of the Family in the Philippines) told us that they had heard from contacts in the military that, “One day the military is going to give Marcos his walking papers.” That day now came. Fifteen days after the snap elections, Defense Secretary Juan Ponce Enrile and AFP vice chief of staff Gen. Fidel Ramos planned a coup to take over the presidential palace. A soldier leaked word to Marcos, however, and I saw his confession on national television. Realizing they had lost the element of surprise, Ramos and Enrile along with only two other senior military officers, and less than 400 men, took over Camp Aguinaldo. In an evening news conference, they declared that Marcos had committed massive fraud, demanded that he step down, then called on the Philippine military to join them in their revolt.

It was a bold, last-ditch gamble and their lives were on the line. They were only 400 against the entire 200,000-man Philippine military. Fabian Ver, Marcos’ right hand man, prepared to crush them. While the nation held its breath, a young officer, Col. Gringo Honasan, an admirer of Enrile and head of a crack group of soldiers, secretly bused himself and a handful of men INTO the camp to face death with Enrile. If you want a concise, day by day coverage of what went down, click on Go take a look at it. It’s only two pages long, very easy reading, and worth seeing.

Corazon Aquino was, meanwhile, hiding in a Catholic convent, fearing for her life. At this point Cardinal Sin told Filipinos to get out on the streets and stand between Marcos’ armies and Camp Aguinaldo. Since the military camps were along EDSA, the main boulevard of Manila, Filipinos flocked one million strong into EDSA to present a human barricade to brave the bayonets, the tanks and the attack helicopters. We at WS watched a play-by-play account of this on TV—as long as the stations stayed on the air, that is. There was a very real threat of mass killings, but young girls gave bouquets of roses to battle-hardened soldiers and nuns knelt down to pray in front of rumbling tanks, refusing to move. Slowly but surely, as the army refused to open fire on their own people, Marcos’ power eroded. General after general appeared on TV to announce they supported the revolt. Finally, on Feb.25, 1986, Marcos and his family climbed into U.S. helicopters, lugging suitcases of money, and flew to Guam.

The People Power Revolution was a shock for much of the Family in the Philippines. Mo had spoken highly of Marcos in his Letters, and in a country that had been dominated by Marcos for 15 years, the Family had gone about their business with pro-Marcos leanings. Nevertheless, our friends and “fish” included ranking politicians from both pro-Marcos and anti-Marcos camps. After the EDSA Revolution, the anti-Marcos friends were excited, and the pro-Marcos friends fearful. In WS, when we asked why God had allowed Marcos to fall, the message came back from Mo’s house to read “All Things Change.” God was stirring the pot.

The timing of the EDSA Revolution was amazing. For a couple years Mo had been writing about the “Anti-Antichrists,” whole nations and peoples who would, he said, rise up in the Endtime to fight the AC’s world empire, and Apollos (the other top WS editor) had spent the last few months writing the adventures of Marie Claire, Heaven’s Girl. Just shortly before the EDSA Revolution, his latest story had Heaven’s Girl was in a nation very much like the Philippines. She had just uncovered a plot by the AC to overthrow the government and install his Beast regime, but with the help of the Minister of Defense, she thwarted the takeover. But in real time, the Minister of Defense had taken a stand against the president. Apollos said, “The story is almost prophetic! Except that Enrile is on the wrong side. Instead of exposing the takeover, he’s leading it!” The timing was actually uncanny.

When Marcos finally lifted off from the presidential palace on Feb.25, Corazon Aquino, possibly the most inept and ineffective president who ever took office, became the leader of the Philippines. Ramos and Enrile suggested that they form a new interim government with the military sharing power. Aquino said no; she was the president. They suggested her swearing-in take place at their military base. Again she said no, so Ramos and Enrile flew out to meet her at Club Filipino, a suburban country club just a few blocks from a WS Home, when she took her oath of office. Aquino promoted Fidel Ramos to the position of Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces (in place of Fabian Ver), and Juan Ponce Enrile remained Minister of Defense, but there were clear divisions between them and Aquino from the beginning.

And even though the AFP sided with the people during the People Power Revolution (Feb.22–25, 1986), helped save the day, and installed Corazon Aquino as President, they carried a very tarnished reputation with them into the new era. (This was the reason they later changed their name to the New Armed Forces of the Philippines—NAFP). So it didn’t take long after the EDSA Revolution for the honeymoon to end.

It should also been remembered that though about half the country had voted for Aquino, the other half had voted for Marcos and still insisted that he had won the elections. These “Marcos loyalists” consisted of a large number of very wealthy politicians, not to mention a large potion of the officers and enlisted men in the AFP. In particular, the military officers were unhappy to see a pro-left leader in Malacanang (the presidential palace). They became alarmed as she took a soft-glove approach toward the NPA—released political prisoners and declared her intention to negotiate a cease-fire—and had left-leaning politicians like Ramon Mitra as her ranking advisors. Photos were published of Mitra hugging NPA leaders and declaring, “You can hardly tell the difference between us” alarmed much of the nation. Aquino said she was trying to “bring our brothers back into the fold,” but as time went on, right-wing politicians and military officers began to believe that she was “selling the country out to the communists” and began plotting coups to overthrow her.

The point I’m making here is that the Family did NOT begin a Ministry to the AFP with the intention of egging the military on to overthrow the government. This was the climate that they stepped into when they walked onto the bases. Mo’s inspiration to start the Military Ministry was seeing American evangelists praying over Ramos and Enrile. These two military leaders were so open to the evangelists, so humble that they knelt down publicly to pray, that it hit Mo that the military was a neglected and wide-open field. As things were in the first several months, I don’t find much fault with the Family’s Military Ministry. To condemn it, you would have to condemn the ministries that many Christian groups have towards the military in countries around the world. We went nearly seven full months from the time we began our military ministry before we even published our first pro-military newspaper article or got involved with coup plotters!

And since by this time, the “DFing Revolution” had happened, FFing was discouraged, and our girls going on the bases were instructed to “hook them on the Word.” The officers who hinted they were interested in sex were politely turned down. As Maria wrote in the Intro to ML 2313: “A mere handful of our women (in Marianne’s Home) have been able to reach, influence & win for the Lord not only a few key men in a certain Third World nation’s military organization, but have reach literally the entire Armed forces of that country! (the Philippines)—Yet only one officer has actually gone to bed with one our girls! . . . literally tens of thousand have been led to the Lord—And what started out as individual weekly Bible studies with small groups of the first few dozen officers who originally received the Lord, soon developed into a phenomenally fruitful “Feed My sheep” ministry in which literally hundreds of officers faithfully & regularly receive their “Daily Food” booklets.”

The message in these DF booklets was basic and these men received almost none of the Family’s stranger doctrines. I know this because I was a writer for these booklets and ended up in charge of putting them together on a regular basis. Although I tend to doubt that tens of thousands were saved in the massive “repeat after me” prayers, certainly thousands were led to the Lord, and I believe that I had a share in those soldiers getting saved. If it surprises you to hear me say this, remember that my purpose in talking about the Philippine Military Ministry is not only to show the mistakes and eventual excesses, but to bring out the good we accomplished and the things we should have remained focused on.

The idea for the “Daily Food” booklets came from Marianne’s Home, and began as a way to minister Christian principles to AFP officers. They had led several of them to the Lord, and wanted follow-up material to feed them. WS took over this project and began printing a new DF booklet every couple weeks, containing various readings, including even a poem I wrote about being on guard against NPA “moles” in the military. (Mo was shocked that one officer had a secretary whose cousin was an NPA rebel.) When I went to live with Mo and Maria, I was made head over the entire DF project.

So far you don’t find me disagreeing with what the Family was doing. At the time, I firmly believed in the Military Ministry and put my whole heart into it. Apart from the heavy politics involved, I look back on it as one of the better things the Family has done. Up till that point, was little illegal about our ministry. The main thing you could have faulted us for was that we were there on tourist visas—not missionary or work visas. Our ministry to the military was quite right-wing, more than I now care for, but even most evangelical Christians in the Philippines are anti-Communist and right-leaning, so that stance was not unusual.

Mo not only saw this as a tremendous witnessing opportunity, but a chance to save the country from communism and the coming Antichrist government. For many years the Family had been pro-Communist even though Mo identified communism as the forerunner of the Antichrist (AC) government. After Godhafi’s “Third World,” came out, we modified this to a pro-Socialist position. But when we started getting involved with the military, we found ourselves giving moral support to the reactionary right. Mo made a nearly overnight about-face against communism and ordered Apollos to write “The Red Menace”—digging out every Mo-quote that identified the communists with the forces of the AC. Apollos obeyed, though he complained to me that what he WANTED to write was an article blasting the rich and the church for hogging all the land and practically creating the problem of the communist insurgency in the first place. (Within a few months, Apollos would get his wish.)

The AFP changed their name to the NAFP and made changes in an attempt to shed their past, but they continued to get bad press.—Particularly Defense Minister Enrile, who was quite outspoken against the communists. And as Cory Aquino began drafting plans for a total cease-fire with the communists, the military was urged on all sides to be “nice” and stand back while they tried to “bring their communist brothers into the fold.” The officers were alarmed. They knew that it was pointless to think the communists would give up their guns. Meanwhile, THEY were being portrayed as the “bad guys.” They were therefore very thankful for the moral support that the Family began giving them.

I remember seeing videos of Family musicians doing music shows for the military, and entire camps of soldiers sitting in bleachers to listen to a reading of “The Red Menace” and hearing a call to give their hearts to the Lord. Family musicians were flown in helicopters to remote bases, and sang to battle-hardened soldiers with smudged faces and camouflage on their helmets. If you are able to stretch your thinking on this point, you may agree that what the Family was doing was, up till now, a legitimate ministry and a tremendous opportunity to preach the gospel.

Shortly after the EDSA Revolution, it came out that the rebel officers had used a “disinformation campaign” to great advantage between Feb.22–25. They had deliberately exaggerated their numbers, announcing on TV that key generals had joined their cause—when those generals, in fact, were still loyal to Marcos. As the Family began to minister to the military, the question came up whether it was Christian to have lied or not. I was commissioned by Mo and Maria to do a complete search in the Bible of every time that God’s people had used deception, misinformation and outright lies to defend their cause, and to print a study to show the military that they had done the right thing. (Though this research was never used in our Military Ministry, it became the foundation of the “Deceivers Yet True” TK series that I was asked to write for Family children in 1990.)

I and other WS staff were also commissioned to write speeches for our friends in the AFP. I wrote speeches for several Filipino Generals, including one for Fidel Ramos. I even wrote a speech showing that spying was Scriptural, for an officer going to speak before a graduating class of military intelligence. Unfortunately for him, he had been misinformed (so much for military intelligence), and the class he ended up speaking to was composed of graduating cadets. The officer apologized that there had been a mix-up but said that because the speech was so good, he was going to give it anyway, and he did.

A Family musician even wrote the anthem for the Armed Forces, “We Give Our Lives” sung to the tune of the tune, “The Elephant Song.” I could name the musician, but as he may not want to be named, I’ll refrain. “The Elephant Song” was one of Ramos’ favorite tunes, by the way, so when he found out that “We Give Our Lives” would be sung to that tune, he was quite happy.
As the months went by in our Military Ministry, however, things began to get more intense. The more that Family members associated with the military, the more they came in touch with intense anti-Cory sentiments. These feelings ran strong and deep. (I have personally talked with an Air Force officer who said that every time he farted, Cory thought he was shooting cannons.) So the radical right-wing officers were already very disposed to throwing a coup to get rid of her. They not only thought about coups, they soon began actually throwing coups. These right-wing officers didn’t get the idea from the Family. If anything, it was the other way around. Our mistake was to foolishly get involved way over our heads and eventually became an outspoken voice pushing for coups.

I would say that MOST of the military was unhappy with the way Corazon Aquino was dealing with the communists, and enough of them were far-right enough that they actually tried to DO something about it. The most radical of the coup plotters was Gringo Honasan, now leader of a military movement called RAM (Reform the Armed Forces). Though he was only a Lt. Colonel, Gringo had wide support among the military, personally planned and led the most bloody and serious coup attempts, almost taking over the government both times—yet the Family had almost nothing to do with him. He was called “the soldiers’ soldier”, Mr. Macho, yet when the girls went on the bases with the DFs, he would actually run away from them. Once they caught him hiding from them, grinning sheepishly. So if the Family had been the ones actually instigating the coups—instead of just giving moral support from the side—they would have been tight with Gringo. They weren’t.

But to address the issue you raised—about WS’s involvement in military coups spreading to other countries—the answer is No. What happened in the Philippines was an isolated incident. In the final analysis, our involvement with military coups in Manila only happened because Mo was living there and personally involved. It was such a dangerous thing to do that I can’t imagine local Family leaders in other nations being authorized to take such incredible risks. That’s why, to the best of my knowledge, this kind of military meddling has not happened in other nations in the past and isn’t happening now. Neither do I expect it to happen in the future. I believe that Manila was a very foolish experiment and that Peter and Maria are wiser on at least this one point, realizing the danger that such things could potentially pose to innocent Family members. I don’t expect Manila to ever again be repeated, and pray to God that I am never proved wrong.

When we first began to get involved in military issues and gave pro-military articles to Ben Rodriguez, editor-in-chief of the “Manila Bulletin,” to print in his newspaper, Ben was dismayed. He gave us some pointed advice: “Why can’t you stay out of this military stuff and just preach the gospel?” This was very wise advice from a friend of the Family.

As you can see, Hugo, this letter isn’t written just to you, though your question prompted it. I’m writing this to give as impartial an account of the Manila Military Ministry as I can both for ex-members and Family members, preserving this portion of Family history for posterity. I believe that Family leadership is probably nearing the time when they are willing to take ownership of what happened and to integrate is as part of their legacy—mistakes and all. This article is an attempt to start that process. I’m glad that Family members are willing to admit that Mo “made some mistakes,” and what we eventually ended up doing in Manila could hardly be viewed as anything but.

By writing this history, I am not attempting to harm the Family, or—as one ex-member worried—to bring “persecution” upon them. It’s simply not going to happen. Much of this may be news to you, but it’s old news in the Philippines. The military made seven coup attempts against the Aquino government during her six-year administration, and what were the punishments meted out to the coup plotters?—The soldiers had to do pushups! One man lost his government job after trying to pull a coup. The most outstanding example, Lt. Col. Gringo Honasan, launched a bloody ten-day war against the government, killing hundreds. He was forgiven and now sits as a respected member of the Philippine Senate.

I admit that in the past I have cited Mo’s and WS’s involvement in the Manila coup attempts as proof that the Family was a politically dangerous group that should be investigated by the authorities. Over the years I have come to see all the issues in a broader context. Some Family members may consider me “a rose with thorns,” while some ex-members will think I have gone too soft on the Family—dealing with one of the most astonishing episodes in Family history in such a generous, even-handed manner. But in the end, I believe this history will show both the good that was—and could have been—accomplished, as well as the very serious mistakes made.

I am not excusing Mo and WS for our excesses in Manila. I am not saying our involvement in coup attempts was right and I am not justifying my own part in such illegal activities. Nor would I advocate such military meddling again. What I AM saying is that our mistakes and involvement with the military in Manila does NOT make the worldwide Family politically subversive. We started a legitimate ministry and things soon got out of hand, way, way out of hand.

You may feel that I’ve gone to an extreme to portray the “positive side” of the Military Ministry in Manila, but I believe that a fair, impartial assessment of the issues will bring out both the positive aspects and the very serious mistakes that were made, and prevent such mistakes from ever being repeated. I condemn our involvement in the coup attempts—we should simply NOT have gotten involved—and our motivations for getting involved cannot justify it. But as you will see in my next article, there were a number of legitimate issues that had bearing—at least in the early stages. We should have and could have concentrated on those issues, and kept clear of the coup plotters. It would have been so easy to do. If we HAD done that, we could have had a powerful, positive effect on the Philippines. I’ll write about this next week in “The Manila Military Ministry: Y.S. Flores”


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