PNP to probe ‘Iglesia ni Cristo plot’ | Inquirer News

PNP to probe ‘Iglesia ni Cristo plot’

Ex-minister ready to identify police abductors

THE PHILIPPINE National Police says it will investigate the alleged involvement of police personnel in the abduction and detention of expelled Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) minister Lowell Menorca II.

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“We will coordinate with the complainant and ask [him] to substantiate his allegations,” PNP Director General Ricardo Marquez told reporters on Monday on the sidelines of the flag ceremony at the PNP headquarters in Camp Crame in Quezon City.

Menorca told a press conference in Manila on Sunday that PNP personnel led by a former Quezon City police chief had abducted him in Bulan, Sorsogon province, in July.

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“I know he is a ranking officer because of his uniform. If I’m not mistaken it was the former QCPD (Quezon City Police Department) chief. If I see his picture I can probably confirm. He is a high-ranking officer because the other policemen were saluting him,” Menorca said.

Pagdilao

When a reporter showed him a picture of the former QCPD chief Supt. Joel Pagdilao, Menorca declined to confirm whether he was referring to the police official, saying he wanted to be shown other pictures so he could be sure.

Pagdilao, now the head of the National Capital Region Police Office, did not respond to calls by the Inquirer last night.

Lawyer Trixie Angeles said her client is willing to identify the police official either in court or from a police lineup, should Menorca decide to file criminal charges against those who abducted him.

At the press conference, Menorca accused members of the INC governing council as those behind his kidnapping so he could be killed on the suspicion that he was the blogger who exposed and wrote about corruption and other anomalies in the church.

Others still held

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He also revealed that “a lot more people” suspected of being dissenters and their families were being held against their will at the INC Central Temple complex in Diliman, Quezon City.

Reminded that reports about abducted INC ministers had surfaced months before, Marquez said that “during that time, there was no perspective like this,” referring to Menorca’s complaint.

Marquez said he would task the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group with “finding out if officers are involved one way or another in the alleged abduction.”

“The cleansing of the PNP is a daily activity. We continue to make sure that appropriate actions are instituted and implemented against our people involved in any illegal activities,” Marquez said.

Without fear or favor

He assured the public that the police investigation would be impartial.

“The PNP conducts law enforcement without fear or favor. We do not need to discuss race or creed on our jobs. If anyone violates the law, the PNP acts accordingly to enforce the law. That’s our mandate,” Marquez said.

After he was kidnapped, Menorca surfaced in Dasmariñas City, Cavite province.

Menorca said the policemen from Quezon City had tried to kill him by lobbing a grenade into a dilapidated car he was riding near a cemetery in Dasmariñas.

The grenade, however, did not explode and Dasmariñas policemen sent to finish him off took pity on him and just charged him with illegal possession of the grenade.

A few days later he was released from the Dasmariñas City jail and transferred to the INC complex in Quezon City, where he and his family, he claimed, were held virtual prisoners for three months until last week.

Habeas corpus, amparo

On Wednesday, relatives of Menorca petitioned the Supreme Court to issue writs of habeas corpus (to produce a detained person in court) and of amparo (protection).

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.

Remanded to appellate court

The Supreme Court granted the writs on Friday after finding the petitions sufficient in form and substance. The high court ordered the Court of Appeals to conduct hearings beginning Nov. 3 and decide the case within 10 days after the case is submitted for resolution.

Clerk of Court Teresita Rigonan-Marigomen of the appellate court said the Seventh Division would be hearing the petitions for the issuance of the writs of amparo and habeas corpus.

The petitions were filed by Menorca’s brother and sister-in-law against INC leaders, namely executive minister Eduardo Manalo and governing council members Radel Cortez, Rolando Esguerra and Bienvenido Santos, who is also the sect’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 writer of the decision that the division would render.

Other criminal cases

Angeles said Menorca would file other criminal cases in the lower courts against INC council members, other INC officials and Quezon City policemen, whom he claimed were involved in the abduction, torture, attempted murder and detention of the ex-minister.

For now, the Court of Appeals hearings are their priority, according to Angeles.

INC leaders, meanwhile, said they are praying for the “enlightenment” of Menorca as they are more concerned with the possible “exploitation of the issue” than the cases that he has threatened to file against them.

The sect’s legal counsel said Monday that INC officials were ready to face in court allegations that they had Menorca kidnapped and detained.

“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,” lawyer Patricia-Ann Prodigalidad said in a statement.

Prodigalidad said INC leaders would address the allegations at the proper venue and would cooperate with the authorities as they were confident that they could prove their innocence if treated fairly.

She said she and INC officials expected the courts to “act judiciously, decide consistent with jurisprudence and obey the rule of law.”

Politicized

The INC officials, however, were concerned with the timing of the accusations, she said.

“With the elections just six months away, they cannot help but worry that there may be personalities who 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 claims made by Menorca at his press conference, Prodigalidad said “the allegations are false and we will prove them to be false.”

She added that the issues were “now sub judice,” or should no longer be discussed as the court was about to hear the case.

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TAGS: Iglesia ni Cristo, Lowell Menorca II, Nation, News, PNP Director General Ricardo Marquez, Trixie Angeles
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