Cops tagged in ‘kidnap’ of INC couple
(The Philippine Star) - October 25, 2015 - 10:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Former Iglesia ni Cristo minister Lowell Menorca II yesterday claimed he was snatched by members of the Quezon City Police, threatened with death, framed up  and detained at the INC compound in the city for three months.

With his wife Seiko Otsuka or Jingky and lawyer Trixie Cruz-Angeles beside him, the former INC preacher broke down as he bared what some members of the sect did to him during his detention.

“For three months we were there. For three months we were incarcerated. We were never free to go out even though they promised us, ‘OK, we will slowly introduce you to the outside world. Slowly everything will be normal.’ I told them, I don’t want my child growing up knowing that we are prisoners here,” Menorca recounted.

According to Menorca, they were kidnapped in Bulan, Sorsogon by Quezon City policemen on July 17 after a church service.

Menorca said he was told to lie face down, and was handcuffed for 17 hours as he pleaded and begged the heavily armed policemen – also INC members – to loosen or remove the restraints as his hands were hurting and bleeding and he was not going to fight them.

Menorca said he was herded into a six-vehicle convoy that traveled from Sorsogon to Dasmariñas City in Cavite.

He said his wife was able to escape by fighting a policewoman who tried to take her into custody.

After being threatened that her husband would disappear if she did not surrender, Jingky proceeded to the INC central compound in Quezon City.

Menorca said he had the impression that one of the policemen who detained him is a ranking police officer, since “everyone saluted him.”

According to Menorca, he was shoved into an empty car and a grenade was tossed inside the vehicle.

He said the hand grenade he is accused of possessing illegally is the same one that was thrown at him.

“After alighting from the coaster, they made me sit in a car. They locked the door and immediately they left the scene. The driver of another car went to the backside and threw a round thing inside the car, at the backseat. I knew that it was a grenade,” he said.

The grenade however did not go off. He added a police officer was ordered to finish the job.

“When we were already in an isolated area, he was looking for a gun. That’s when I begged him. I said ‘Please don’t kill me. Have mercy. I am a minister of the Iglesia ni Cristo and I have a family,” Menorca said.

Menorca said he was able to persuade the police officer and agreed to face a criminal charge of illegal possession of firearms.

“What was left for me to negotiate? So I said yes,” he said.

Menorca was charged with illegal possession of explosives in Dasmariñas City on July 17. He allegedly threatened two construction workers with a hand grenade.

On July 25, Menorca was freed after the charges against him were dropped. A lawyer from the religious group brought Menorca to the INC compound in Quezon City.

Under duress

Menorca reiterated what he said in his video that he never asked for protective custody and while under detention, he was willing to do or say anything just to have his wife and child freed and left alone.

Menorca said among those who “coached” him on what he was supposed to say in the video was INC spokesman Edwil Zabala along with five other church leaders.

Menorca said the INC leadership wanted to get information from him regarding a certain

Antonio Ebangelista, the blogger who started the trouble inside the INC by exposing several anomalies of the group.

He said he and his family earlier decided to keep their peace “for the sake of the church” but the people behind his detention continued to harass him while other members and ministers suspected him of being behind the attacks against the INC.

“I wouldn’t be talking to you like this if it really didn’t happen. I wouldn’t be saying all of this if it is not the truth and for the greater good of the whole INC. I hope that truth and justice will prevail,” Menorca told the press conference.

He said he was hoping that the magistrates of the country’s court would not give in to the pressure from the INC or the Sanggunian (council).

“I think the Sanggunian and the rest of the church can probably forgive me if I have lost any trust in those ministers who were responsible for our kidnapping and for the act of killing me and my family,” Menorca said.

He said in a press conference that he expects some people to be angry with them as stories that seek to discredit him and his family will come out.

But he stressed the issue is to hold accountable those responsible for their alleged kidnapping and illegal detention at the INC main compound in Quezon City from July 25 to Oct. 21.

Menorca said they should be made to answer for the human rights abuses and violations committed.

His lawyer earlier said serious illegal detention charges are being readied against those who abducted, maltreated, and detained Menorca.

Angeles said it was clear that Menorca was abducted and detained at the central officer against his free will.

“We have more than enough evidence to indicate that any instance after he was taken to the confines of the INC or the presence of the men who have caused his kidnapping is already enough reason to doubt that his previous was obtained through coercion and intimidation,” she said.

Menorca, like the other abducted ministers, was forced to sign waivers, affidavits, and conditions, she said.

Leak

The Supreme Court on Friday issued writs of habeas corpus and amparo to compel the INC leadership to present Menorca and his family to the Court of Appeals on Nov. 3.

The high court granted the petition of Anthony Menorca compelling the INC leadership to produce his brother before the court.

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.  

However, the petitions leaked and someone informed the INC central office about the development.

Angeles, who filed the petition, said the filing should have been kept secret and the INC should not have been informed except on the day they were supposed to answer it in court.

The source, an INC member, said the leadership at the central office immediately decided to bring Menorca and his family to a safehouse somewhere in Fairview, Quezon City where he was guarded.

However, Menorca was able to secure a mobile phone and sought the help of some INC members, identifying his location and the people who were supposedly guarding them.

A person close to Menorca told The STAR that the rescue only took several minutes and his rescuers whisked him and his family to a safe place where he is now hiding.

The same does not augur well, however, for at least two to four ministers and their respective families who are still being detained in the INC central office, he said.

The SC had 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 Menorca 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.   

The SC issuance of the writs came a day after Menorca 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, Menorca 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.

Menorca’s allegations would add up to the cases against the INC leadership on the allegations of illegal detention.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) has yet to start its preliminary investigation on the allegations of another expelled INC minister, Isaiah Samson Jr.

Before Justice Secretary Leila de Lima resigned from her post earlier this month to run for senator, she said the preliminary investigation would proceed as part of the process.

The STAR learned, however, that the DOJ has yet to create a panel of prosecutors to conduct the preliminary investigation two months after the charges were filed.

Samson’s lawyer Cruz-Angeles believes that the DOJ “is under heavy pressure to dismiss our case” following the protest rally staged by INC members.

The INC members ended their earlier protest rally, which caused massive traffic gridlock on EDSA, after their leaders reportedly came up with an “understanding” with government officials.

Angeles said they consider the two-month period an “undue delay” and that they would be filing a motion with the DOJ soon on this issue.

“With the increased political interest generated by the respondents (INC leaders) and their insistence on speaking with Malacañang and other wielders of power, we need to be vigilant,” Angeles said.

“While have our own remedies for any eventuality, we are compelled to remind all administrators of justice that a delay, especially a deliberate one, is nevertheless justice denied,” she lamented.

De Lima earlier said the DOJ would summon the INC ministers as part of its “ministerial duty” to accord to them due process and fair play.

She further explained the creation of the panel of prosecutors to investigate the Samson complaint was delayed because of the failure of the complainants to submit required number of copies of documents.

Named respondents in the complaint filed by Samson, his wife Myrna Dionela and son Isaiah are eight members of INC’s Sanggunian: Glicero Santos Jr., Cortez, Santiago, Mathusalem Pareja, Esguerra, Eraño Codera, Rodelio Cabrerra and Maximo Bularan.

It was learned that the complaints of Samson and another expelled INC member, Lito Fruto, have been referred to the DOJ task force on kidnapping for “review and evaluation.”

The task force headed by Senior Deputy State Prosecutor Theodore Villanueva will decide whether to proceed with the preliminary investigation, sources from the DOJ revealed. –Michael Punongbayan, Edu Punay, Rey Galupo

 

ACIRC ATILDE CITY FAMILY INC JINGKY MEMBERS MENORCA NBSP QUEZON CITY SANGGUNIAN
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