Eli Soriano, the founder and leader of the Members Church of God International (MCGI), passed away on February 10, 2021, at the age of 73. He was known for his popular religious programs, such as Ang Dating Daan (The Old Path), Itanong Mo Kay Soriano (Ask Soriano), and Truth In Focus, which aired on UNTV channel. He was also famous for his Bible expositions, where he answered questions from the audience using the Scriptures. He had numerous debates with other religious leaders, exposing what he believed were their doctrinal errors.
However, Soriano’s death was shrouded in mystery, as the MCGI did not disclose the cause of his death. He died while in exile in Brazil, where he sought asylum after being accused of rape in the Philippines. His death sparked controversy and speculation among his followers and critics alike. What really happened to Eli Soriano? How did he die? And what is the legacy he left behind?
The Rape Case That Forced Him to Flee
Soriano’s troubles began in 2005, when he was charged with rape by a former member of his church, Daniel Veridiano. Veridiano claimed that Soriano sexually assaulted him on two occasions in 2000 and 2001. Soriano denied the allegations and accused Veridiano of being a liar and a rapist himself. He also claimed that Veridiano was part of a conspiracy by his rival religious group, the Iglesia ni Cristo (INC), to destroy his reputation and ministry.
Soriano filed a counter-charge against Veridiano for libel, but the case was dismissed by the Department of Justice. Meanwhile, the rape case against Soriano was initially dismissed by a regional trial court in Pampanga, but was later reinstated by the Court of Appeals in 2007. Soriano appealed the decision to the Supreme Court, but his petition was denied in 2009.
Fearing for his life and liberty, Soriano left the country in 2005 and moved to Brazil, where he continued his preaching activities online and via satellite. He also applied for political asylum there, claiming that he was a victim of religious persecution in the Philippines. He was granted asylum by the Brazilian government in 2009.
The Controversies That Surrounded Him
Soriano’s exile did not stop him from being involved in various controversies, both in the Philippines and abroad. He was known for his outspoken and sometimes offensive remarks against other religions, especially the Catholic Church and the INC. He also had a defamatory word war with another televangelist, Apollo Quiboloy of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ.
In 2009, Soriano was suspended for three months by the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) for using vulgar language against Quiboloy on his TV program. Soriano challenged the suspension order in court, arguing that it violated his freedom of speech and religion. The case reached the Supreme Court, which upheld the MTRCB’s decision in 2012.
In 2014, Soriano was sued by two Brazilian pastors for slander and religious discrimination. The pastors accused Soriano of insulting them and their religion on his TV program in Brazil. They also claimed that Soriano incited hatred and violence against them and their followers. The case is still pending in a Brazilian court.
In 2018, Soriano was declared a fugitive by a Philippine court after he failed to attend his arraignment for the rape case. The court issued a warrant for his arrest and ordered the Philippine National Police and the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol) to locate him.
The Legacy He Left Behind
Despite his controversies and legal battles, Soriano maintained a loyal following among his church members and supporters. He was regarded as a faithful preacher who taught the truth from the Bible without fear or favor. He was also praised for his charitable works, such as providing free education, health care, legal aid, and disaster relief to those in need.
Soriano’s death was mourned by many people who expressed their condolences and gratitude to him on social media. His nephew and co-host, Daniel Razon, announced that Soriano’s remains would be cremated in Brazil and that a memorial service would be held online for his followers around the world.
Soriano’s death also raised questions about the future of his church and ministry. Who will succeed him as the leader of MCGI? How will his church cope with the challenges and issues that he faced? And how will his legacy be remembered by history?
Eli Soriano cause of death remains a mystery to this day. But one thing is certain: he left an indelible mark on Philippine religious landscape that will not be easily forgotten.