SC orders Iglesia: Address appeal to produce missing members
The Supreme Court has ordered Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) to respond to the writs of habeas corpus and amparo petitions filed by relatives of its Minister Lowell Menorca.
Early this week, Menorca’s brother, Anthony and sister-in-law Jungko sought the high court’s help to bring their missing relatives before the court.
Named respondents are INC Executive Minister Eduardo Manalo and members of the sect’s Sanggunian, Radel Cortez, Bienvenido Santiago, and Rolando Esguerra.
In a resolution dated Oct. 23, SC ordered the Court of Appeals to conduct a hearing.
INC was also ordered to respond within 10 days upon receipt of the order.
The high court also ordered the appeals court to hear the petition on Nov. 3 at 3 p.m. and resolve the case within 10 days upon its submission for resolution.
The petition was filed not only on behalf of Lowell and Jinky but also of Yurie, their newly born child and househelp Abegail Yanson.
“Although they were not placed inside prison cells, the group [was] not allowed to wander about inside the compound,” the petition stated.
The petition said that aside from the Menorca family, other members of the detained group have been experiencing emotional and psychological stress. One of the detained, a woman in her late seventies [was] under “tremendous physical deterioration, emotional anxiety and psychological stress.”
Last Oct. 15, Jungko said in the petition that she was prohibited from visiting their family. She said Esguerra informed her that there was a security dry-run.
Menorca was earlier identified by Isaias Samson Jr., former editor-in-chief of Pasugo, INC’s official publication as the one taken and detained in Cavite for illegal possession of explosives.
Petitioners said Menorca was among those suspected by INC leadership to be Anthony Ebanghelista, the blogger writing against INC.
They said last July 16, armed men including one wearing a police uniform with Quezon City Police District patch handcuffed and took Lowell.
“His wife, Jinky Otsuka-Menorca, witnessed the taking of Lowell Menorca and would have been taken herself, had she not grabbed a knife and threatened to stab the officers of the church and the policewoman who came to ‘arrest’ her,” the petition read.
The petition claimed that respondent Esguerra called Jinky on the phone and “told her, in a very menacing manner, that she would never see her husband again unless she appeared at the [INC] office in Quezon City.”
Jinky was escorted to the INC Central Office along with her daughter, Yurie, and their househelp, Abegail, according to the petition.
Jinky allegedly called petitioner Jungko to inform her that “this may well be the last time she would be communicating with her as she had just become a prisoner of the respondents and the INC” before Jinky’s phone was confiscated.
The petition alleged that Jinky was able to call petitioner Jungko several times thereafter to give updates on her family’s situation.
Aside from asking the high court to order the INC to produce the family before the court, petitioners also urged the high court to order the INC leadership to release documents including electronic surveillance reports of INC’s internet technology department.
A writ of habeas corpus is a remedy sought on behalf of any person who is imprisoned or restrained of his liberty; a writ of amparo is a remedy available to any person whose right to life, liberty and security are violated or threatened. RAM
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