This was how lawyer-activist and Kabayan party-list first nominee Harry Roque described statements of former Justice Secretary Leila de Lima about the arrest of expelled Iglesia ni Cristo (INC or Church of Christ) member Lowell Menorca.
Roque on Monday advised de Lima to “exercise restraint” in issuing statements “without having all the facts.”
“De Lima’s statements are just plain irresponsible, especially coming from a former Justice secretary and Commission on Human Rights chairman. There was a valid warrant of arrest issued by a competent court. In fact, there were two such warrants issued by different courts,” said Roque, also a UP law professor.
Roque said de Lima’s statements were not surprising as this was not the first time she has “thrown out the presumption of innocence” when it comes to the INC.
“What can we expect from de Lima? She has shown a propensity to dip her hands in the affairs of the INC and take advantage of the deep-seated prejudice of the Filipino electorate against the INC to gain media attention and political mileage,” he added.
In an interview, the Liberal Party (LP) senatorial candidate said Menorca’s arrest was “irregular” and “most probably illegal.”
De Lima made the comment immediately after being shown an alleged video of the former INC minister’s arrest.
Police authorities took custody of Menorca on January 20 by virtue of two warrants of arrest issued by the Regional Trial Courts of Lanao del Norte and Marawi City, respectively.
Menorca is facing separate libel cases filed by members of SCAN International, an organization composed of INC members who conduct rescue and rehabilitation missions during calamities.
His libel cases stem from his accusations that SCAN International acts as the INC’s death squad.
De Lima had been accused of bias by INC members after personally receiving a complaint for illegal detention of expelled minister Isaias Samson Jr. against INC leaders.
She was said to have speculated on merits of the case on national television even before the complaint was heard in preliminary investigation.
The case was subsequently dismissed by de Lima’s successor, Benjamin Caguioa, who was recently appointed as justice of the Supreme Court.
Roque said he is “bewildered” by continued attacks on the INC by personalities close to LP presidential candidate Manuel “Mar” Roxas 2nd.
It was previously reported that Roxas will never get the INC’s endorsement in the May 2016 elections.
“The libel cases against Menorca were filed by individuals whom he called hooligans and hired killers. The INC has nothing to do with these cases. I cannot understand why they have to continuously drag the church’s name in these cases, any innocent individual accused of being a hitman would do the same thing,” Roque said.
He also scored de Lima for conduct “unbecoming an officer of the court.”
“As a lawyer, the former Justice secretary should know better. First, disparaging the reputation of the judges who issued the warrants without attempting to know the facts constitutes an affront to judicial integrity. Second, besmirching the reputation of a homegrown Filipino church for legal actions taken by individual members of a separate private organization is outright wrong and malicious.”
Roque appealed to the media and to political personalities not to make a spectacle out of the issue and to let justice run its course.
“The INC leaders conducted themselves in an admirable manner despite the numerous charges thrown against them. They gave their word to cooperate with the proper authorities, and they are making good those words. Let them and the rest of the INC membership go on with their religious life in peace. Let us not meddle in their affairs,” he said.