Iglesia wins 2 court cases vs critics in US and PH
THE IGLESIA ni Cristo has (INC) won court cases involving two of its critics—an expelled member in the United States and a leader of a rival religious group, Ang Dating Daan.
INC spokesperson Edwil Zabala said a court in Virginia Beach, Virginia sided with the INC in the case filed by an expelled church member, who wanted the weekly offerings she had made as an INC member, returned to her after she was removed from the church.
Zabala said that in a decision handed down last week, Virginia Beach Judge Salvador Iaquinto denied a petition filed by Lilibeth Rose against INC minister Steven Inocencio.
The US judge declared Rose’s testimony “erroneous” after she said in court that her weekly offering “deposits” before her removal should be returned “since the expulsion precludes her from continuing in the weekly offering toward what the INC members refer to as the Annual Thanksgiving Offering.”
Zabala said Iaquinto had reminded Rose that church offerings were made voluntarily and “made to honor God.” The offerings, the court declared, were “also what she would have devoutly agreed to when was still a member of the Church of Christ.”
The judge asked Rose if she would be satisfied if Inocencio gave her what she had already set aside. After she responded “no,” Iaquinto remarked that “it seems like you just want to get back at the church.”
Rose was reported to have been influenced by the Restore the Church movement, a group of former INC members in the United States, which called on INC members to stop making offerings to the church.
The movement campaigned for the filing of a class action suit against the church and its officials, but the plan did not materialize as Rose was the lone plaintiff in the Virginia court case.
In the Philippines, the Court of Appeals upheld with finality its ruling in April that Ang Dating Daan leader Eliseo Soriano could no longer appeal his conviction from the libel case filed against him by the INC.
In a three-page decision dated Nov. 24, the appellate court’s former 16th Division denied Soriano’s motion for reconsideration, which sought the reversal of the decision of the Quezon City Regional Trial Court’s denial of the right to appeal his conviction.
On Dec. 16, 2013, the Quezon City court found Soriano guilty of two counts of libel and ordered him to pay P120,000 in fine and moral damages.
The INC, represented by its general evangelist Bienvenido Santiago, sued Soriano for saying on his television show in April 2003 that the INC was “a church that kills, swindles, terror[izes] and steals.”
Since Soriano was abroad during the promulgation of the case, the Quezon City judge denied his right to elevate his case to the Court of Appeals.
The judge cited Section 6, Rule 120 of the 2000 Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure, which states that a person convicted in absentia must first surrender to the court and explain his absence within 15 days after conviction before he is allowed to appeal.
The Court of Appeals affirmed its finding that the judge did not commit grave abuse of discretion in ruling against Soriano, adding that “a party seeking relief must strictly comply with the rules of procedure or otherwise face the risk of losing the remedies available to him.”
Zabala said INC’s legal victories “only reinforce what we have said from the beginning; that when the facts and the evidence are weighed by a court of law, we have nothing to fear as these charges will be exposed for what they really are: nuisance cases filed in an attempt to besmirch the reputation of the church and our officials.”
“We continue to be vindicated by court and prosecutor rulings here and abroad. Our detractors know they cannot win in a court of law, which is why their only option is to take their baseless and fantastic stories to the media,” he added.
Zabala said the INC continued to receive reports from members and sympathizers that the campaign against the church would continue.
“If the desire of our detractors is to bring the church down and sow disunity within our membership, their baseless tirades are actually doing the exact opposite. We count our legal victories as blessings that strengthen our resolve to defend the church from these planned, sustained and well-funded attacks,” he added.
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