Spirit and Power - A 10-Country Survey of Pentecostals
Historical Overview of Pentecostalism in Philippines
Origins and Growth
- 1920s-1940s: In 1921, missionaries from the pentecostal United Free Gospel Church, headquartered in Pennsylvania, arrive in the Philippines. An American Assemblies of God (AG) missionary arrives in 1926, followed by Filipinos converted in the U.S. The first resident missionary from the Church of God (Cleveland, Tenn.) establishes the church in the Philippines in 1947. Filipinos who attend pentecostal services in Los Angeles establish the Church of the Foursquare Gospel in the Philippines in the late 1930s and 1940s (Benavidez 2005; Seleky 2001; Ma 2003: 201-3; Suico 1999; Anderson 2004: 131).
- 1950s-1960s: Pentecostal missionary activity and revivals increase after the Philippines gains independence in 1946. In 1965, major evangelical denominations form what becomes the Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches, which includes the AG, the Church of the Foursquare Gospel and the Church of God. By this time, the AG and the Church of the Foursquare Gospel are two of the largest evangelical denominations in the Philippines (Ma 2003; Lim forthcoming; Harper 2000: 239; E. Kim 2005).
- 1970s-present: In the 1970s and 1980s, neo-pentecostal and charismatic prayer “fellowships” grow among the urban middle-class. Major neo-pentecostal groups include Jesus is Lord, founded by Eddie Villanueva in 1978, and Bread of Life, founded in 1982 by Cesar “Butch” Conde. In 1983, a network of independent neo-pentecostal and charismatic churches forms the Philippines for Jesus Movement, currently under the leadership of Villanueva (Lim forthcoming).
- In the early 1980s, Mariano “Mike” Velarde starts a radio program in Manila that becomes El Shaddai, a Catholic charismatic ministry, which claims 7 million members by 2000. Couples for Christ is founded in 1981 as a charismatic evangelism program in a Catholic community in Manila; it incorporates separately in 1994 (Ma 2003: 204-7; Anderson 2004: 131-32).
- According to the 2000 census, 81% of the population is Catholic and more than 7% is Protestant. A 2003 survey finds that 15% of Philippine Catholics are charismatic, while more than a third of non-Catholic Christians are pentecostal or charismatic. The survey also finds that Filipinos with higher education are overrepresented in the pentecostal and charismatic population (Kessler and Rüland 2006).
- In the Forum’s 2006 survey, fewer than one-in-twenty respondents indicate they belong to a pentecostal denomination. Four-in-ten identify as charismatic, including more than four-in-ten Catholics. Nearly seven-in-ten Protestants interviewed indicate they are either pentecostal or charismatic.
Religion and Politics
Marcos Period and People Power 1, 1965-1986
- In 1972, President Ferdinand Marcos declares martial law. In 1983, Senator Benigno Aquino, an opposition leader, is assassinated while in government custody. The Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches issues a statement criticizing public protest rallies, endorsing only dialogue and the media as legitimate outlets for activism (Lim forthcoming).
- In 1985, Marcos calls for elections to be held in February 1986. The Catholic Church supports Corazon Aquino, the wife of the assassinated senator. Two neo-pentecostal candidates, businessman Narciso Padilla and radio preacher Roger “Bomba” Arienda, form a new party, the Movement for Truth, Order and Righteousness, to run against Marcos and his party’s vice-presidential candidate. Marcos claims victory in the flawed election and the Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches endorses the results. When Marcos threatens to attack protesting government officials, Catholic Archbishop Jaime Cardinal Sin urges people to join a “People Power” uprising. This becomes known as the first “EDSA” revolution, after Epifanio de los Santos Avenue, the location where this uprising and future demonstrations take place (Lim forthcoming).
- When the EDSA uprising begins, the Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches calls for prayer meetings and its secretary general, Reverend Agustin “Jun” Vencer, sends supplies to evangelical groups operating barricades. Jesus is Lord founder Eddie Villanueva urges people to go as “peacemakers.” An evangelical radio station, in which Villanueva serves as an anchor, provides backup when the government forces Catholic Radio Veritas off the air. At the height of the uprising, the Council issues a statement questioning the Marcos regime’s legitimacy. After four days of protests, Marcos steps down and Aquino becomes president (Lim forthcoming).
Aquino and Ramos Presidencies, 1986-1998
- In 1987, the Alliance for Democracy and Morality, headed by charismatic Baptist Gavino Tica, organizes anti-communist Value Formation Courses in the armed forces with the support of several neo-pentecostal and charismatic churches (Rose 1996: 341-43).
- In the 1992 and 1998 election campaigns, pentecostals and charismatics organize media campaigns, voter education drives and prayer rallies. Though the Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches officially refuses to endorse specific candidates, it devotes an issue of Evangelicals Today to electoral education and organizes prayer rallies with the Philippines for Jesus Movement in support of honest elections (Lim forthcoming).
- A week before the 1992 presidential elections, Villanueva claims divine guidance to endorse Fidel Ramos, a member of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines and a former official in the Marcos administration. Neo-pentecostal leaders such as Bishop Dan Balais also endorse Ramos. When Ramos wins, becoming the country’s first Protestant president, Villanueva becomes his private chaplain and Movement leaders hold an “anointing ceremony” for Ramos (Lim forthcoming).
- Many evangelicals run in the 1992 elections, including four for the Senate, 12 for the House, four for governorships and 15 for mayoralties. Most lose, though evangelicals win seats in local councils. The senatorial candidates run under the Nacionalista Party and include neo-pentecostal televangelist Ramon Orosa of Lord of Glory Ministries and Catholic charismatic Vincent Crisologo (Freston 2001: 72; Lim forthcoming).
- In 1997, Ramos unsuccessfully lobbies to amend the constitution and lift the single six-year presidential term limit. Mass demonstrations follow, known as “Cha-cha 1997” (charter change). Villanueva leads the Philippines for Jesus Movement in petitioning for the change, while neo-pentecostal pastor Cesar Conde opposes the change (Lim forthcoming).
Estrada Presidency and People Power 2, 1998-2001
- In the 1998 elections, the Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches suggests electoral criteria that may imply support for Jose de Venecia, a Catholic and speaker of the House. Villanueva and the Philippines for Jesus Movement actively endorse de Venecia. Villanueva invites more than a thousand evangelical leaders to a meeting in which de Venecia declares that he will support efforts to make the Philippines “born again,” convincing leaders such as Council general secretary Bishop Efraim Tendero that de Venecia is “God’s anointed” (Lim forthcoming).
- Presidential candidate Joseph “Erap” Estrada’s populism and his endorsement from El Shaddai and Iglesia ni Cristo help him win with 40% of the vote. Mike Velarde of El Shaddai becomes President Estrada’s official spiritual advisor (Montinola 1999: 67; Lim forthcoming).
- In 1999, the Philippines for Jesus Movement, Jesus is Lord and the Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches, along with Cardinal Sin and ex-President Aquino, strongly oppose Estrada’s efforts to amend the constitution (Lim forthcoming).
- In 2000, Governor Luis Singson levels corruption charges against Estrada. Former President Aquino and Cardinal Sin call for Estrada’s immediate resignation, and Catholic bishops organize a large anti-Estrada rally. Villanueva also leads rallies against Estrada. Estrada taps El Shaddai, Jesus Miracle Crusade and the Iglesia ni Cristo to hold a counter-rally, which attracts a million people. Despite pressure from the Catholic Church and charismatic organizations, Velarde stands by Estrada (Lim forthcoming; Pimentel, Dec. 5, 2000).
- In January 2001, 11 senators refuse to examine evidence against Estrada during his impeachment trial. Sin and a coalition of activists lead a protest until Estrada resigns. Catholic renewal groups are active in these “People Power 2” demonstrations, along with some evangelicals and neo-pentecostals. On Jan. 20, 2001, the Armed Forces and the Supreme Court transfer presidential power to Arroyo (Lim forthcoming).
Arroyo Presidency, 2001-Present
- In April 2001, Estrada is arrested on plunder charges, prompting his loyalists to demonstrate. El Shaddai backs the pro-Estrada demonstrators, who are largely poor and uneducated. Evangelicals and neo-pentecostals, including Villanueva and Balais, join Catholic leaders and Couples for Christ in condemning the rally. In the May 2001 senatorial elections, El Shaddai supports pro-Estrada candidates. Emmanuel Joel Villanueva, Eddie Villanueva’s son, wins a seat in congress (Lim forthcoming).
- In the 2004 election, Eddie Villanueva runs for president, campaigning for “national moral renewal” with the support of members of the Jesus is Lord Church, the Philippines for Jesus Movement and some leaders of Couples for Christ. President Arroyo runs as the candidate of the Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats, gaining the support of El Shaddai, and she wins the election, while Villanueva comes in last. He rejects Arroyo’s overtures to join her administration. Pentecostal and evangelical church leaders who supported Villanueva meet with Arroyo in July 2004 to express support for her administration and for her decision to withdraw Philippine troops from Iraq (Gulane, Feb. 13 and Feb. 23, 2004; Hookway, April 8, 2004; Manila Standard, May 7, 2004; Labog-Javellana, Jul. 24, 2004).
- In July 2005, Arroyo calls for constitutional changes amid accusations of corruption and election manipulation. The Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches supports Arroyo during impeachment investigations, while Villanueva calls for Arroyo to resign. In December 2005, a commission created by Arroyo recommends changing to a parliamentary system. Tendero, of the Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches, serves on the commission. Velarde supports Arroyo’s proposal for constitutional change, though he favors a congressional assembly rather than a petition to make the change (Salazar, Feb. 6, 2006; Calumpita and Ocampo, July 12, 2005; Esguerra, April 20, 2006; Labog-Javellana and Celino, April 27, 2006; Dolor and Dolor, May 17, 2006).
- In June 2006, immediately prior to an official visit to the Vatican, Arroyo signs a bill abolishing the death penalty, and leaders of the Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches denounce the decision as “unbiblical” (Ortiz and Esguerra, June 14, 2006).
- Arroyo speaks at El Shaddai’s 22nd anniversary service in August 2006, thanking Velarde and his group for supporting her administration. A second effort to impeach Arroyo fails in the House the following week (Panares, Aug. 21, 2006; Reyes, Aug. 25, 2006).