The Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) denied any hand in the arrest of its former minister, Lowell Menorca on Wednesday, which led to an altercation between the minister’s family and members of the Manila Police District.
“We did not serve the warrant. It was the Philippine National Police who served it,” INC spokesman Edwil Zabala said.
Menorca was on his way to the Court of Appeals to testify on petitions for writs of habeas corpus and amparo filed by his relatives when his vehicle was blocked by the police.
The Manila policemenmade the arrest on the strength of a warrant issued by a court in Kapatagan town, Lanao del Norte.
Menorca’s wife Seiko fought the arresting policemen who were not in uniform.
“I tried to stop them from getting my husband because they were not in proper uniform,” she told reporters. She admitted that she took the copy of the warrant of arrest from Insp. Deejay Burgos.
Police Station 10 commander Supt. Ed Leonardo said his officer was reading the warrant of arrest when Seiko grabbed the paper, slapped one of the police officers and left the scene.
MPD Director Chief Supt. Rolando Nana had to fetch Menorca and took him to Police Station 5 where the former minister was booked.
Nana said Menorca’s arrest was ordered by Judge Alberto Quinto of Kapatangan town.
Zabala denied allegations from Menorca’s camp that the INC did not want Menorca’s cross-examination at the Court of Appeals to proceed.
“We would like to clarify that the INC’s legal team is currently at the Court of Appeals.
They are fully prepared for that hearing and have been waiting for Mr. Menorca to appear in court,” he told reporters.
He said that they were dumbfounded upon learning that the church’s name was again dragged in Menorca’s arrest.
“Mr. Menorca is alleged to have made defamatory statements against some INC members who are part of our medical and rescue units. These members were offended and filed the complaint against Menorca,” Zabala explained. “We implore the public to be more circumspect with their assessment. The Iglesia Ni Cristo has confidence in the legal process and we trust that we will eventually be vindicated.”
Zabala said the INC will not meddle in the judicial process but that Menorca should face the charges.
“An arrest warrant would not have been issued if it did not undergo the required processes. So he should face the charges,” he said.
At the same time, documents have surfaced showing that members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) may have a hand in the property dispute between the INC and the group of Angel Manalo and Lottie Manalo-Hemedez, siblings of Executive Minister Eduardo V. Manalo.
The documents, which detail the schedule, movements, and possible scenarios on the day Hemedez held a press briefing on January 15, mentioned “Marines” in obvious reference to her security detail.
The documents showed that Reuben Santiago, a member of the Marines, appeared to be the security team leader of Hemedez, while Menorca appeared to be the main organizer.
Members of the marines were seen accompanying and providing security for Hemedez several times. They also figured in an altercation with INC security guards when Hemedez attempted to enter the disputed property in Quezon City.
Both sides have accused each other of drawing their weapons during the clash.
Zabala said he had no knowledge of the documents but admitted that the INC “had received reports that armed masked men were seen entering the compound.”
“The presence of these suspicious masked men is one of the reasons we asked Ms. Hemedez and the other expelled members to leave the premises,” he said, referring to the compound near the INC headquarters in Quezon City.
He claimed that the church had even exercised “maximum tolerance” by allowing Hemedez and her family to stay at the property after their expulsion from the INC.
“The presence of armed men at the compound, however, made the arrangement untenable,” Zabala said.
He noted that “the mobilization of marines” as well as the “organized media events” of the Hemedez family “show that there is really a systematic, planned, and concerted effort to taint the reputation of the church.”
“It’s saddening because this is a legal matter for the courts to decide, but the other party is intent on making a media circus out of the case—at the expense of the image of the church and its members,” Zabala said.