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INC accuses De Lima of double standard

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Justice Secretary Leila de Lima INQUIRER PHOTO

Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) on Wednesday questioned the motive of Justice Secretary Leila de Lima in what it deemed was “extraordinary attention” given to the illegal detention case filed by expelled minister Isaias Samson Jr. against the leaders of the church. Illegal detention is a nonbailable offense.

Samson, a minister for more than 40 years, used to be the Sanggunian member in charge of foreign mission and editor in chief of the INC official organ before he was expelled by the INC leadership.

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Bienvenido Santiago, INC general evangelist, also said De Lima should show the same enthusiasm in resolving the Mamasapano case in which 44 members of the police Special Action Force were killed, including two INC members, in an operation in Maguindanao province.

“The complaint filed by Samson, we learned, is moving because of the guidance of Secretary Leila de Lima, who gave it extraordinary attention. What is the motive? She herself personally attended to the complaint,” Santiago said in a press briefing at the INC central office in Quezon City.

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The INC official wondered why the Department of Justice (DOJ) did not give attention to the case of the 40 policemen who died in Mamasapano like what it did to those who filed a complaint in the DOJ on Tuesday.

“Compared with the 40 policemen who died in Mamasapano, not a single mosquito died in the complaint filed by Samson,” Santiago said.

The INC official said two church members—Nicky Nacino and Ephraim Mejia—were among the Fallen 44 but the church quietly waited for the DOJ to go after the personalities responsible for the bloody operation, including government officials who should be held accountable.

“We want Secretary De Lima and anyone who ordered her to know that Iglesia is requesting, in the name of those left behind by the two men who died in Mamasapano, who were our brothers in Iglesia, that they aggressively pursue the case of the Fallen 44,” Santiago said.

“In short, the justice department should be fair and without bias. [This is] the least we expect from the Department of Justice is justice,” he added.

Against Sanggunian

Samson and members of his family filed in the DOJ a complaint against six members of the religious sect’s Sanggunian, or the highest administrative council—for alleged illegal detention, harassment, threats and coercion following an internal squabble.

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In a complaint, Samson, together with his wife Myrna and son Isaiah, accused Sanggunian members Glicerio Santos Jr., Radel Cortez, Bienvenido Santiago Sr., Mathusalem Pareja, Rolando Esguerra, Eraño Codera, Rodelio Cabrerra and Maximo Bularan of “undertaking a series of planned and concerted efforts to persecute my family and myself, to the great prejudice of our constitutional and statutory rights.”

Illegal detention

“[I] accuse all named respondents (members of the INC Sanggunian), with direct personal participation, while cooperating and collaborating with each other, in the harassment, illegal detention, threats and coercion upon my family and me,” Samson said in his complaint.

“I likewise accuse and hold responsible all the other persons named in this complaint affidavit to be voluntarily complicit in the execution of the illegal acts of the Sanggunian members,” he said, adding that he was also demanding indemnification of all damages from all respondents and compensation of all expenses his family had to shoulder as a result of their ordeal.

Suspicious transactions

During the course of his membership, Samson said he obtained “personal knowledge” of several suspicious transactions entered into by fellow minister and “de facto” Sanggunian leader Santos.

“As a result of this knowledge, I began questioning these transactions and policies set by the Sanggunian, which I felt were against the avowed principles of our faith; not to mention that these activities amounted to serious mishandling of the finances of INC,” Samson said in his complaint.

He recounted an incident about the INC Lingap Pamamahayag program, which collects cash and goods from INC members and for distribution to the poor, particularly victims of calamities.

During the Lingap activity for victims of Supertyphoon “Yolanda” (international name: Haiyan), the donations fell short of the target amount so that Lingap organizers requested P1.7 million from the INC leadership to buy additional rice and to hire transportation for the distribution of the aid.

Samson said he was surprised to learn that Santos, who reported the problem to the INC executive minister, asked for and was given a “terribly jacked-up” amount of P9 million.

Siphoning off church funds

Samson said he later learned of other similar incidents involving “direct deception and siphoning” off of church funds.

“In all of these shameless schemes, the name of respondent Santos would always come up, along with the names of the other current members of the Sanggunian. In a sense, it seemed to me that the current Sanggunian membership has been implementing a pervasive policy of deception, fraud and corruption to serve their own individual greed,” he said.

Samson said talks of the controversies spread among local and overseas INC members, “leaving most people in confusion and anxiety about the status of the political system within INC.”

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TAGS: Bienvenido Santiago, Iglesia ni Cristo, illegal detention, INC, Isaias Samson Jr., Leila de Lima
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