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We were not abducted, say 4 INC ministers

The headquarters of the powerful Iglesia ni Cristo on Commonwealth Avenue in Diliman, Quezon City.

The headquarters of the powerful Iglesia ni Cristo on Commonwealth Avenue in Diliman, Quezon City.

It’s now the word of a former Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) minister against that of four INC ministers.

The four INC ministers, who are based in the INC headquarters in Diliman, Quezon City, denied that three of them and a relative were kidnapped and tortured allegedly on orders of top leaders of the sect.

The denial came amid reports that 11 INC ministers had been abducted, as the expulsion of the mother and siblings of INC head Eduardo Manalo, and allegations of massive corruption in the sect, abuse of power by some leaders and high living of some ministers came to light.

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In an interview at the INC headquarters, ministers Arnel A. Tumanan, Juliusar “Jojo” R. Nemis and Nolan Quiroz Olarte on Tuesday said that they decided to come forward to belie reports that they had been abducted.

Also present in the interview was Joven D. Sepillo Jr., a son of Joven Sepillo Sr., who was among the ministers mentioned as missing and allegedly ordered abducted and tortured by the INC.

Not present in the interview was Lowell “Boyet” Menorca II who was among those alleged to have been missing, but was traced to a police station in Dasmariñas, Cavite province. He was detained at the police station for allegedly threatening two workers with a hand grenade.

Menorca and his wife were reportedly abducted by armed INC members in Bulan, Sorsogon province, on July 17.

“We were not abducted and tortured anytime, anywhere. I strongly deny what had been published and uploaded to social media about my supposed abduction and torture,” Tumanan said.

Tumanan, an instructor at the Evangelical College of the INC, said he was at the Balintawak chapel when he was shown his picture on the Internet as among those supposedly taken by armed men for opposing INC orders.

Denial

Olarte, a minister assigned to the INC headquarters, said one of his children, who watched the news, had told him that his name was among those ministers reported missing.

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“I strongly deny the statement that I was abducted or that I was taken on someone’s orders,” Olarte said.

He said he was never assigned to Cebu province and had not set foot in the city where he was supposed to have been abducted.

Nemis expressed concern about his and the others’ safety as a result of the false information that they had been abducted.

In a sworn statement, Sepillo said his father, a minister assigned to San Roque, Tacloban City, was well and had not been abducted.

“My father is puzzled why his name was included in the list among the ministers missing when he was in his post working,” Sepillo said.

The ministers said a former INC minister, Eliodor “Joy” Yuson, mentioned their names in a radio interview as among those who had been abducted.

Yuson, according to INC staff, was a classmate and good friend of Felix Nathaniel “Angel” Manalo.

Angel, his mother Cristina “Tenny” Villanueva Manalo, brother Marco Eraño Villanueva Manalo and sister Lolita “Lottie” Manalo Hemedez were expelled from the INC to quell dissent in the indigenous Christian group.

On a 1-minute-55-second video they posted on YouTube on July 22, Tenny and Angel appealed for help, saying their lives were “in danger.” Mother and son said there were threats to their lives and some ministers had been “taken.”

The INC staff said Yuson was among the trusted aides of Angel when he was the head of Gemnet, then a broadcasting and media arm of INC.

False info

“We want to stop the lies and false information peddled by former members of the Iglesia,” Nemis said.

The ministers said that due to the incident, they were worried about their safety.

“Whoever is behind these lies might harm us so they could just prove their lies,” Tumanan said.

But Isaias Samson Jr., 65, a second-generation INC minister, confirmed last week the reported kidnapping of at least 10 INC ministers, tagging military and police officials (as the culprits) in the ministers’ detention.

Samson, suspended and removed as editor in chief of the INC’s official publication, Pasugo (God’s Message), also confirmed unrest within the group, with many harboring “resentment” toward leaders for questionable financial practices.

Samson surfaced in a hastily called press conference in Manila on July 23 and detailed his weeklong ordeal at the hands of certain members of the INC Sanggunian (advisory council).

An INC member using the alias Danica Rosales told the Inquirer also last week about the many changes in INC that she thought were no longer in line with the teachings of Felix Manalo, the church’s founder.

Rosales pointed to the decisions of the seven-member advisory council that wielded awesome power in the church.

She spoke about the alleged wanton sale of INC properties, including one near City of Dreams on Roxas Boulevard and those in the United States because the church had financial difficulties arising from the construction of the $200-million Philippine Arena in Bulacan province.

The arena was declared the “largest mixed-use indoor theater” by Guinness World Records.

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TAGS: Arnel A. Tumanan, corruption, Cristina “Tenny” Villanueva Manalo, Eduardo Manalo, Iglesia ni Cristo, INC, Juliusar “Jojo” R. Nemis, Lolita “Lottie” Manalo Hemedez, Marco Eraño Villanueva Manalo, Nolan Quiroz Olarte
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