Coverage of Menorca arrest ‘smacks of religious obscurantism’
I FIND the Inquirer issues of Jan. 21, 22 and 23, which gave inordinate prominence to a relatively minor event (all relating to the arrest of one Lowell Menorca, an expelled member of the Iglesia ni Cristo), completely unjustified. By highlighting the unverified involvement of the INC, the Jan. 21 editorial (“The Iglesia’s long arm?”) admitted that the evidence is at best circumstantial. The paper’s reportage on the case, therefore, comes to us as part of an orchestrated effort to persecute the INC, a minority but successful church. On the whole, the Inquirer coverage of Menorca’s arrest smacks of bigotry and religious obscurantism.
It is bad enough that the reports relied solely on Menorca’s self-serving and malicious accusations that the INC leadership was behind his arrest, and that the service of the warrant was intended to prevent him from divulging his story before the Court of Appeals. It is worse that the editorial used the event to heap loads of lies and libelous innuendoes against the INC and its leadership.
In any case, the Inquirer’s reportage on the Menorca case failed to consider the following: Wasn’t there a warrant of arrest served on Menorca? Was the police “tracker team” to be faulted for effecting the arrest? Should the police officers be choosy as to when they should perform their duties? And if it was not for a heinous crime, could they not use enough force if the subject resisted arrest? How many criminal suspects are being arrested daily but do not merit a space in the Inquirer? And just because one of the three arresting officers happens to be an INC member, does it justify the claim that the INC leadership was behind the arrest?
Further, in relating the arrest to Menorca’s scheduled appearance in an appeals court, did the Inquirer verify what was due for hearing at the Court of Appeals that day? Did it check the veracity of Menorca’s claim that the reason for his arrest was to prevent him from divulging his story? Had the Inquirer’s reporters been diligent enough, they would have known from Court of Appeals records of the proceedings on Menorca’s petition for a writ of amparo that, as early as Dec. 1, 2015, he had finished presenting his evidence, and on Jan. 20, 2016, he was due for cross-examination by the respondents’ counsel. It was already the turn of the respondents, why would the church prevent his appearance at that court?
On this serious matter, allow us to voice our concern: False and provocative reports on the subject event would not help to foster peace and order in our country whose citizens profess different religious beliefs. Religion is a very sensitive matter. The present troubles that beset the world have their root cause in religious intolerance and obscurantism. The INC for a century has endeavored to help promote peace and respect for law. There is no point in provoking its adherents.
It would be more in keeping with the tenets of responsible journalism for media to observe restraint and absolute fairness when covering events concerning religious organizations, be it the INC, the Catholic Church, Islam or any other religious group.
—MOISES S. TOLENTINO JR., atty_ firstname.lastname@example.org
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