Justice dep’t junks expelled minister’s suit vs Iglesia execs
CITING lack of probable cause, state prosecutors have dismissed complaints of threats, illegal detention, grave coercion and harassment filed against top officials of Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) by an expelled minister and a former member.
Prosecutor General Claro Arellano approved the recommendation of a Department of Justice (DOJ) panel to dismiss the complaints of former INC minister Isaias Samson Jr. and former member Jose Norlito Fruto in two separate resolutions dated Nov. 13 but disclosed to media only Tuesday.
The panel, which conducted the preliminary investigation, was composed of Senior Deputy State Prosecutor Theodore Villanueva and Assistant State Prosecutors Olivia Torevillas and Mark Roland Estepa.
In his complaint, Samson claimed that he and his family were detained for almost a week upon orders of the INC governing council and were only able to escape after tricking the guards at the INC Central Temple complex in Quezon City where they used to reside.
He named INC council members Glicerio Santos Jr., Radel Cortez, Bienvenido Santiago Sr., Mathusalem Pareja, Rolando Esguerra, Eraño Codera, Rodelio Cabrera and Maximo Bularan Jr. as respondents in the complaint of illegal detention, threats, harassment and coercion that he filed in August.
The ousted minister also accused them of compelling him to admit that he was the mysterious blogger Antonio Ebangelista and to name other ministers who gave the information used in the blog.
The filing of the complaints triggered a four-day street protest in Metro Manila by INC members who accused then Justice Secretary Leila de Lima of giving “extraordinary attention” to the cases in violating the principle of separation of church and state.
The prosecutors deemed the case submitted for resolution when the respondents failed to show up in the preliminary investigation hearing set on Nov. 6.
In its resolutions, the DOJ panel ruled that the INC leaders could not have been liable for grave coercion.
“Complainant failed to offer proof that he was compelled to do something against his will when he was allegedly forced by respondents to execute a written statement admitting his culpability and complicity in the Ebangelista blog,” its resolution said.
No ‘iota of evidence’
Moreover, it said, Samson did not have “an iota of evidence” on the charge of intimidation when he claimed that his passport, service vehicle, laptop, cell phone and other personal effects were confiscated.
“There is nothing in the recitation of facts made by complainant which show that respondents resorted to threat, violence and intimidation when the articles were taken allegedly upon orders of the Sanggunian,” it said.
The prosecutors said the elements of force, threat and intimidation were also “wanting” in relation to Samson’s complaint of supposed forcible entry into his residence. They noted that the former minister and members of his family were not present at the time of the purported incident.
Charges of illegal detention and restraint on the family’s liberty were also found not to have been “coupled with threat, violence and intimidation.” The DOJ prosecutors repeatedly stressed that “there is no evidence” of physical harm or any form of intimidation against Samson, his wife or his son.
No probable cause
The DOJ prosecutors said Fruto’s complaint of illegal arrest, arbitrary detention and violation of abode against the Sanggunian members had no probable cause.
They dismissed his charges of robbery, pointing out that he was not even in his house when the alleged crime was committed.
As to his allegations that INC officials were bent on silencing and harassing him through the filing of a string of criminal charges, a number of which were already pending in court, the prosecutors noted that these were “already subject of judicial proceedings.”
They said Fruto’s claims of harassment should be raised as a matter of defense in the proper courts when they are being heard.
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