Former Iglesia minister: I was illegally detained
Lowell Menorca 2nd, an expelled minister of the Iglesia ni Cristo (INC or Church of Christ) on Sunday claimed that officials of the religious group ordered him killed in July this year.
Menorca, accompanied by his wife Jinky, said he and his family were illegally detained by the INC for three months.
Recounting his ordeal to media, the former minister said he and his family were abducted in Bulan, Sorsogon, and taken to Dasmariñas City in Cavite where two attempts on his life were made.
He said he was handcuffed for 17 hours during the trip from Sorsogon to Cavite.
According to Menorca, he was forced into an empty car and a grenade was tossed inside but it did not explode.
A police officer was then sent to finish him off but Menorca said he pleaded for his life.
“Sabi ko, please don’t kill me. Maawa ka na sa akin. Ang katunayan po ay ministro ako ng Iglesia ni Cristo at may asawa po ako at isang anak [I told him, have mercy on me. I am a minister of the Iglesia ni Cristo, and I have a wife and a child]. I was already crying. Sabi ko I am not a bad person. Huwag niyo naman po sanang hayaan na lumaki ang anak ko na walang ama [I told him please do not allow my child to grow up without a father],’” Menorca said.
He said the policeman took pity on him and agreed not to kill him on condition that criminal charges will be filed against the minister.
“He [police officer]said he will let me live if I can promise that I will agree to whatever charge he will give me in prison, and that I will not make a scandal,” Menorca added.
Charges of illegal possession of firearms were later filed against the minister in a Cavite court.
Menorca, whose petition for a writ of amparo filed in his behalf by his brother was recently granted by the Supreme Court, blamed the INC’s Council of Elders for his torture.
He, however, refused to identify them, saying they will be named when he files criminal charges against them in court.
Menorca said his travails started in July when he was ordered to report to the church’s district office for some incursion while officiating a worship service.
He was then directed to write a statement accusing the estranged sibling of INC executive minister Eduardo Manalo as the person behind several blog posts critical of the INC.
Menorca refused. Several days later, a group of armed men, which included some policemen, accosted him.
“Habang papasok sila at nakita nilang nakita ko na sila ay patakbo silang pumunta sa akin na sumisigaw ng ‘Dapa! Dapa kung ayaw mong masaktan.’ Nakatutok ang lahat ng kanilang baril sa akin [I saw them coming. They were running and they told me to get down if I did not want to be hurt. Their guns were pointed at me],” he said.
From Cavite, Menorca said he and his family were taken to the INC compound in Quezon City where they were detained for three months.
He claimed that they were forbidden to communicate with other people and that he was allowed to go out under heavy guard to deliver statements prepared by church officials to make it appear that all is well.
The former minister said he was suspected to be one of the persons critical of the INC leadership.
“For three months we were there, for three months we were incarcerated. We were never free to go out,’” he told reporters.
Last week, the Supreme Court ordered Manalo to appear before the Court of Appeals (CA) and to bring with him the members of his congregation who were allegedly being held by the church against their will.
The High Court’s order also directed the CA to hear and decide on the petition filed by Anthony Menorca and Jungko Otsuka. Anthony is the brother of Lowell.
A writ of amparo is a remedy available to any person whose right to life, liberty and security has been violated or threatened.
Trixie Angeles, lawyer for the Menorca camp, said charges of illegal detention will be filed against some officials of the religious group.