The Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) opened the Philippine Arena in 2014, the world’s largest indoor theater, which brought international attention. A megastructure amounting to P8.7-billion ($200 million), it serves as the centerpiece of the 75-hectare Ciudad de Victoria complex in Bulacan.
According to the INC, funds for the construction of the arena came from the donations of its members, a practice that coincides with the teachings of the church’s second executive minister, the late Eraño “Ka Erdy” Manalo.
Claims have been made that INC officials held agreements with two banks to obtain a P1.137 billion loan for the construction of the first phase of the megastructure, and later on asked for additional amounts of up to P3 billion to repay the existing loan.
Is there an anomaly?
The Bureau of Customs (BOC), however, declared on April 26, 2017, that the Iglesia ni Cristo’s massive Philippine Arena was built from untaxed construction materials.
BOC then filed a smuggling complaint against property developer New San Jose Builders Inc. (NSJB) to the Office of the Solicitor General.
The head of NSJB is none other than Jose “Jerry” Acuzar, father of Jelly Acuzar and the husband of Pinky Ochoa. He is also the brother-in-law of the past administration’s Executive Secretary, Paquito Ochoa Jr.
Customs Commissioner Nicanor E. Faeldon said:
“Their tax-exemption was neither approved by the Department of Finance (DOF) nor the Bureau of Internal Revenue.”
Moreover, Faeldon remarked that the building tax due reached P1 billion from importing said construction materials, which has been left unpaid.
“They [NSJB] only used a surety bond, so it’s irregular. When their bond expired and was to be forfeited, we wrote them five times but they did not answer us.”
How would this impact the image of the INC?