INC: We’re ready to disprove Menorca’s allegations
MANILA, Philippines — Iglesia ni Cristo leaders are ready to face in court allegations that they kidnapped and detained expelled minister Lowell Menorca, according to the religious sect’s legal counsel.
In a statement on Monday, INC legal counsel Patricia-Ann Prodigalidad said the INC officials have been praying for the “enlightenment” of their former colleague, and have been more concerned with the possible “exploitation of the issue” by certain parties than the cases that Menorca had threatened to file against them.
“The officials of the INC are servants of their Church, and their primary concern is the welfare of their members, and this extends even to those who were once part of their flock. That is why even in the face of these allegations, they continue to pray for Mr. Menorca and his family,” Prodigalidad said.
In his press conference in Manila last Sunday, Menorca accused members of the INC Sanggunian or the governing council as the ones behind his kidnapping in Bulan, Sorsogon, last July on the suspicion that he was the mysterious blogger who had been exposing and writing about corruption and other anomalies in the church.
Meanwhile, Court of Appeals clerk of court Teresita Rigonan-Marigomen said the tribunal’s Seventh Division would hear the petitions for the issuance of the writs of amparo and habeas corpus that were filed by Menorca’s brother and sister-in-law against INC leaders, namely executive minister Eduardo Manalo and Sanggunian members Radel Cortez, Rolando Esguerra and Bienvenido Santos, also the church’s general evangelist.
The Seventh Division is chaired by Justice Magdangal de Leon with Justices Elihu Ybañez and Victoria Isabel Paredes as members. Paredes is the assigned ponente or writer of the division’s decision on the case.
Last week, the Supreme Court accepted petitions after finding them sufficient in form and substance. The high court also ordered the Court of Appeals to conduct hearings beginning November 3 and decide the case within 10 days after the case is submitted for resolution.
Menorca’s lawyer Trixie Angeles said they would eventually file other criminal cases before the lower courts against Sanggunian members, other INC officials and even Quezon City policemen, whom he claimed were involved in the alleged abduction, torture, attempted murder and detention of the ex-minister but she said their priority for now would be the Court of Appeals hearings.
After he was kidnapped, Menorca was surfaced in Dasmariñas City, Cavite a few days later where he was reported as being charged with the illegal possession of a grenade. He was later transferred to the INC Central Temple complex in Quezon City, where he and his family, he claimed, were held virtual prisoners for three months.
After news broke out about the Supreme Court cases, Menorca said the INC leadership moved him and his family to a house in Sitio Seville Neapolitan in Fairview, Quezon City, where they were eventually rescued by National Bureau of Investigation operatives.
Prodigalidad said the INC leadership would address the allegations in the proper venue and would cooperate with authorities. They expressed confidence of proving their innocence in fair proceedings.
She also stated that she and the INC trust that the “courts will act, decide consistent with jurisprudence and obey the rule of law.”
Prodigalidad said that INC officials were also concerned with the timing of the accusations.
“With the elections just six months away, they cannot help but worry that there may be personalities that may politicize this issue given the media coverage it has attracted,” the lawyer said.
“All they ask for is a fair shake, that this case be treated just like any other case,” she added.
The INC leaders “also pray that they will be extended the same rights as those enjoyed by us all, especially the “presumption of innocence.”
Commenting on the narrative by Menorca during his press conference last Sunday, Prodigalidad simply said that the “the allegations are false, and we will prove them to be false.” She added that the issues have become “sub judice,” or should no longer be discussed as the court has started proceedings on the case. SFM