Palace: DOJ to ensure due process in INC case
Aurea Calica (The Philippine Star) - October 24, 2015 - 10:00am

Iglesia expels Menorca brothers

MANILA, Philippines – Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) officials accused in the alleged abduction of a former minister and his family are assured of due process in any investigation by the Department of Justice (DOJ), Malacañang said yesterday.

Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said over radio dzRB that was all she could say about the bizarre developments in the case that saw the former minister deny the alleged abduction, only to admit later that he had been forced by the INC to make a “scripted” denial.

“I cannot comment yet on that particular aspect because I have not read the issuance of the Supreme Court,” Valte said.

But she said the DOJ would follow due process, just as it did in the illegal detention case filed earlier by another expelled minister, Isaias Samson Jr., against INC leaders.

In a circular read during last night’s services, ministers announced the expulsion of Lowell Menorca II and his brother Anthony for alledgedly causing chaos within the church. More ministers are set to be expelled in the next few days, a source said.

The Supreme Court on Friday issued writs of habeas corpus and amparo to compel the INC to present Lowell and his family, who had reportedly been detained.

The SC issuance of the writs came a day after Lowell appeared in a video on the INC-owned Net25 denying he was being held against his will. He claimed he had himself, his wife Jingky and his family placed under the religious group’s protective custody because of threats against him. He did not say who or which group was threatening him.

But in a video sent to media outlets Friday night, Lowell admitted he and his family had indeed been abducted.

He said they were detained at the INC main compound in Quezon City from July 25 to Oct. 21.

Valte also said the resignation of Justice Secretary Leila de Lima would not affect Samson’s illegal detention case against the INC as her successor, former chief presidential legal counsel Benjamin Caguioa, would “ensure the process would take place.”

Valte clarified though that the case was not against the religious group but against some of its leaders.

“It was filed against certain individuals in their individual capacities,” she said, adding the clarification was important to avoid misunderstanding.

“Whatever is in the law, that is what will be followed,” she said.

Amparo first

Lowell’s lawyer Trixie Cruz-Angeles said they are readying serious illegal detention charges against INC leaders but would rather focus first on the amparo case.

The STAR tried to contact INC through its spokesman Edwil Zabala, but he has yet to respond to requests for comment.

Cruz-Angeles said based on latest developments, they now have a stronger case against the INC officials involved in Lowell’s abduction and detention.

In a radio interview, Cruz-Angeles said Lowell suffered torture at the hands of his abductors.

She said rescue operation for Menorca was delicate because some members of the Philippine National Police (PNP) were on the side of the INC.

She, along with lawyer Ahmed Paglinawan, also represents Samson in the latter’s serious illegal detention case with the DOJ.

The lawyer said the statement of Lowell corroborated that of Samson’s, who also accused INC’s Sanggunian members of illegally detaining him.

“This is no longer an isolated incident,” she said. “It increases the credibility (of the claims) of Mr. Samson,” she said.

Cruz-Angeles said their priority is the protection of Lowell and his family, who were rescued from INC custody after they were transferred to another location on Thursday. Details of the supposed rescue were not disclosed.

The lawyer said Lowell is set to appear before the hearing set by the Court of Appeals (CA) on Nov. 3 on the petition for writs of amparo and habeas corpus.

The petition was filed by Lowell’s brother Anthony and Jingky’s twin sister Jungko Otsuka.

A writ of amparo is a remedy available to any individual whose right to life, liberty and security has been violated or threatened. A writ of habeas corpus, on the other hand, is a legal action sought on behalf of a person who has been unlawfully detained.  

The SC also directed the respondents from the INC leadership – including the religious group’s executive minister Eduardo Manalo – to answer the petition within five days from receipt of notice, produce Lowell and his wife and appear in hearings.

Also covered by the order are three other members of Sanggunian: Radel Cortez, Bienvenido Santiago and Rolando Esguerra.

Ignore accusers

Meanwhile, an INC member who declined to be named said the church leadership has been urging the faithful during services to strengthen their faith and not to listen to allegations against them.

The INC member, who requested anonymity for fear of being expelled, said that they were told by ministers not to listen to expelled ministers as they have no other intention but to malign the reputation of the sect, particularly its leader executive minister Eduardo Manalo.

The source also said INC services and religious activities have not been affected by the crisis.

The crisis in the religious group erupted just days before it marked its 101st anniversary in July this year after Manalo’s mother Cristina “Tenny” and his younger brother Felix Nathaniel “Angel” Manalo posted a video on YouTube seeking help as their lives were in danger.

Tenny and Angel were expelled by the INC, along with Marco Eraño Villanueva Manalo and Lolita Manalo Hemedez, shortly after the video went viral. The INC leadership accused the group of causing division in the church.

Tenny and Angel alleged other INC ministers had gone missing and are presumed abducted for still unknown reasons.  – Janvic Mateo, Robertzon Ramirez


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