NBI to probe ‘kidnap’ of Iglesia ministers

Evelyn Macairan - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - Justice Secretary Leila de Lima has ordered the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to look into reports that 10 Iglesia ni Cristo ministers are missing and may have been kidnapped amid a bitter feud that has rocked the INC.

De Lima said that on Thursday night, she ordered NBI Director Virgilio Mendez to conduct a preliminary investigation on the INC controversy.

She said she got wind of the situation only last Thursday.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) received an email from a certain “kapatid sa Iglesia” seeking help because “the lives of the family of Ka Erdy (Eraño Manalo, former INC head) are in danger” and 10 ministers were missing.

Attached to the email was a link to the YouTube video of Felix Nathaniel “Angel” Manalo, brother of current INC executive minister Eduardo Manalo, and the voice clip of his mother Cristina “Tenny” Manalo asking for assistance.

“We should know where these reports of alleged abduction are coming from and when did it happen. The signs (asking for help) seen at the house, we should look into that. Once this has been verified then we should investigate,” De Lima said.

General evangelist Bienvenido Santiago announced on Thursday that the INC leadership had decided to expel Angel and Tenny Manalo “for creating divisions in the church.”

The announcement was made after a 1:54-minute video was uploaded on the video-sharing site YouTube last Wednesday night.

The video showed Angel calling his brethren to help them as their lives are in danger.

Regarding reports that there were people being kept against their will in the INC compound while the general rule is that it might be considered trespassing if they enter the premises, the DOJ chief cited “an exemption under criminal law if there is probable cause, or a possibility that a crime has just been committed, is being committed or is about to be committed or the plain view doctrine, even if it is a private property.”

However, as to the other controversies in the INC such as the corruption or misuse of funds and expulsion of Angel and Tenny from the religious group, De Lima said that at the moment they are not in a position to intervene.

“That is internal. I don’t see any basis for us to interfere at this point,” she said.

However, she clarified that the government could still intervene if someone, an INC member for instance, will file a complaint.

An NBI source said a team of investigators went to INC’s central office in Quezon City yesterday to coordinate with church leaders and later look into the accusations of irregularities in the church as claimed by Angel Manalo and expelled minister Isaias Samson.

According to Samson, the INC leadership had detained him and his family. Ten other ministers were also in detention for standing up against alleged corruption in the secretive but politically influential organization.

Samson, former editor of INC’s official magazine Pasugo, said their Sangguinian detained him and his family in their house in Quezon City last Thursday over allegations that he has been posting blogs on social media exposing corruption in the INC.

The website www.incsilentnomore.wordpress.com

is maintained by a certain Antonio Ebangelista.

Samson and his relatives allegedly escaped from their house by pretending they would hear mass. He hid in Bayview Hotel on Roxas Boulevard in Manila but left after holding a press conference when he noticed policemen monitoring the building.

In the press conference, Samson said the reason behind the alleged kidnapping boils down to corruption in the INC.

Among the issues he raised were overpricing of rice that INC distributed during their Lingap charity program. He said each sack of rice is overpriced by P200 to P250.

Samson also lamented the alleged order of their leaders to force even their poor members to purchase a shirt worth P250 for their worldwide walk for the benefit of the victims of Typhoon Yolanda, even though most members couldn’t afford it.

Four NBI agents also arrived at the Manalo residence in Tandang Sora but failed to talk to Angel or Tenny.

Special Investigator Job Gayas said they are verifying the alleged serious illegal detention of Angel, Tenny and several ministers inside the house.

The Manalos did not allow the agents to enter the compound. Officials of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) were also barred from entering.

Malacañang had expressed concern yesterday over the feud among members of the Manalo family, saying allegations of kidnapping will be investigated by the Quezon City Police District.

“Reports about events that have transpired involving INC officials indicate an apparent internal organizational dispute,” Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. of the Presidential Communications Operations Office said.

“Be that as it may, the Philippine National Police’s QCPD office and Anti-Kidnapping Group have been deployed to assess the situation and ensure the safety of all concerned and that peace and order is maintained,” he added. – With Delon Porcalla, Aie Balagtas See

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