Accused INC officials snub DOJ hearings
For the second time this week, officials of Iglesia ni Cristo’s powerful governing council on Friday did not show up at the justice department to answer allegations of detaining and harassing two expelled church members.
Thus, the prosecution panel submitted for resolution the criminal charges filed against council members by former INC minister Isaias Samson Jr., his family and expelled member Jose Norilito Fruto.
Assistant State Prosecutor Mark Estepa called for the respondents twice during the 30-minute proceedings at the Department of Justice (DOJ) but none of those charged was present.
“As much as possible, we at the DOJ resolve cases immediately,” Estepa said in an interview. “We’ll resolve (this) at the soonest possible time.”
Asked if the respondents still had a legal recourse left, Estepa said: “It’s up to them. As far as we’re concerned, we had the hearing, they weren’t here … They can choose not to file anything. We can’t force them.”
Plea for protection
The council (Sanggunian) members were also absent at a Court of Appeals hearing on Tuesday when the court heard a petition from Lowell Menorca II, another expelled INC minister, for protection after he and his family were allegedly held under house arrest at the church’s compound in Quezon City for more than three months.
The council members’ lawyers said their presence was not required in the proceedings.
The Sanggunian members accused of detention, harassment and coercion in Samson’s case are Glicerio Santos Jr., Radel Cortez, Bienvenido Santiago, Mathusalem Pareja, Rolando Esguerra, Eraño Codera, Rodelio Cabrera, Maximo Bularan Jr.
Santos, Cortez, Pareja, Bularan, Cabrera, Esguerra were also charged in Fruto’s case, along with several other Sanggunian members.
Also charged in Fruto’s case of arbitrary detention, threats and harassment were police Senior Supt. Bartolome Bustamante and at least four other police officers.
In interviews, Samson and Fruto said they were both harassed and detained on suspicion that they were behind online articles against the church.
Both expelled INC members are also facing libel charges filed by the church leadership for coming out with their allegations.
‘Not against the church’
Samson, who has been in hiding with his family since “escaping” from a weeklong captivity allegedly by Sanggunian members in July, said their lives remain in danger.
“We are not against the church,” Samson said. ‘’We are not suing the church but certain people who have done me wrong.”
“We’re just trying to defend whatever doctrines we receive, and to restore the church to its former holy state. That’s our goal,” he said.
Habeas corpus plea
Meanwhile, the parents of Abegail Yanson, the househelp of Menorca, yesterday claimed that the camp of the expelled INC member was holding their other child and his family against their will.
In a petition for a writ of habeas corpus and a writ of amparo filed in the Manila Regional Trial Court, Candido and Roselie Yanson asked that Ronald Yanson, his wife Melisa and their two children be produced in court.
“This petition is being filed … because the subjects are being constantly moved and transported … and there is no way by which the petitioners can reasonably determine where the next place the subjects would be moved,” the petition read.
Aside from Menorca, the petitioners named his wife Jinky Menorca and a Dr. Angel Ong as respondents.
They also asked the court to summon Marine Brig. Gen. Rustico Guerrero “to appear and to show the cause of the detention of said aggrieved parties.” With a report from Aie Balagtas See
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