Ex-Iglesia ni Cristo minister Lowell Menorca confirms abduction
Former Iglesia ni Cristo minister Lowell Menorca on Friday confirmed that he and his family were indeed abducted and illegally detained at the INC Central Compound in Quezon City for almost three months, noting that his statements in past interviews were all lies supposedly orchestrated by the church leadership.
In a video sent to INQUIRER.net, Menorca said he wanted to reveal the truth once and for all amid the supposed acts of oppression being continuously carried out by high-ranking leaders of the influential religious sect.
“Sa pagkakataong ito nais ko pong gamitin ang videong ito para ihayag ang katotohanan. Marahil nakita n’yo na po akong magsalita sa isang video ng Net 25. Sa pagkakataong ito gusto ko pong sabihin na ‘yun po ay scripted,” Menorca said in the almost five-minute video.
In a Facebook post, lawyer Trixie Cruz-Angeles said Menorca and his family “have been rescued.”
Saying that his past statements were scripted, Menorca disclosed that he was supposedly under orders by other INC officials on what to say during interviews, which he followed out of fear.
“Kaya lahat po ng narinig n’yo sa interview na ‘yun at lahat pang mga interview, lahat po ay scripted. Ako po ay nagsalita dahil sa ‘yun po ang pinasabi sa akin, dahil sa nanganganib po ako para sa aming kapakanan, sa kapakanan ng aming sambahayan,” he said.
Detained with wife, daughter
Menorca was previously identified by Isaias Samson Jr., former editor in chief of the INC publication Pasugo, as allegedly abducted in Sorsogon and detained in Dasmariñas City in Cavite for illegal possession of explosives. But his wife Jinky Menorca was able to witness how he was seized by a group of armed men.
Jinky herself ended up being detained with her husband, their daughter, and house helper at the INC compound in Quezon City under alleged threats from the Sanggunian, INC’s highest governing body. Menorca’s mother Fredesminda, having no one else to stay with, also joined the family.
In a petition for habeas corpus filed Wednesday, Menorca’s younger brother Anthony, and Jungko Otsuka, twin sister of Jinky, asked the Supreme Court to compel top INC officials to release their missing relatives. The younger Menorca had been placed under the government’s Witness Protection Program in August after citing alleged threats to him and his family.
Clarifying that his family did not ask the INC leadership to place them under “protective custody,” Lowell said they were detained at the INC central compound in Quezon City from July 25 to Oct. 21 supposedly to extract information regarding the release of damaging articles against the church.
“Hindi po namin kailanman hiniling sa pamamahala na bigyan kami ng pabahay doon, na kami ay ilagay sa protective custody ng Iglesia Ni Cristo. Kaya po nila ginawa ‘yun sapagkat ginamit nila ang pagkakataon na ’yun para alisin ako sa kulungan, ilagay ako sa controlled environment, na kung saan maaari nila akong puntahan anytime, kausapin, i-interrogate at makuha nila ‘yung mga impormasyon na gusto nilang makuha mula sa’kin,” he said.
While admitting that he thought of remaining silent for the sake of the sect’s integrity, Menorca said he decided to speak up because of the human rights violations being committed by church leaders. He shared that they were prevented from receiving guests and visitors and barred from using electronic gadgets.
“Wala kaming kalayaang makaalis o pumunta sa kung saan namin gusto … Lahat ng ito ginawa nila sa amin ng labag sa aming kalooban. Kung ito po ay hindi labag sa karapatang pantao, marahil hindi po ako magsasalita sa inyo,” Menorca said.
Threat of expulsion
“Ang totoo po dumating na sa punto na alang-alang na lang sa kapakanan ng Iglesia, nakahanda ako at ang aking buong sambahayan na manahimik para na lang mawala ang isyu na ito. Subalit dahil hindi pa rin sila tumigil sa kanilang ginagawang panggigipit hindi lamang sa akin kundi pati sa maraming mga kapatid sa buong mundo, ito po ang dahilan kung bakit nagkusa na po akong magsalita para maihayag na ang katotohanan,” he added.
Menorca admitted that he and his family members might be expelled from the church following his revelations, but added that they were ready to face it for the sake of the truth.
He said he would reveal further details regarding the abduction and illegal detention in a press conference next week.
“Ang iba pang detalye tungkol sa naging pagdukot sa amin ay ihahayag po namin sa proper forum. Magkakaroon po ng press conference kung saan ibibigay ko po ang lahat ng detalye. Nababatid ko po na pagkatapos kong magsalita ngayon ay ipatitiwalag kami ng Iglesia, isang bagay na napakabigat sa amin, napakasakit sa damdamin. Subalit handa kaming tanggapin ito alang-alang sa paninindigan sa katotohanan,” Menorca said.
Menorca was among several INC ministers that top leaders suspect were responsible for the publication of antichurch articles. His fellow expelled minister Samson also told the media that he and his family were held under “house arrest” at the central compound, adding that 10 other ministers had also been detained. Yuji Vincent Gonzales/RC
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