Probe past due
The plot thickens with the unequivocal statement of a former minister of the Iglesia ni Cristo that members of the Philippine National Police, including a “high-ranking officer” whom the other officers were saluting, were involved in his abduction, detention and attempted murder. If there were still grounds to doubt that the long-running crisis gripping the powerful INC is of public interest—and not merely gossip, or, as the church’s officials have long insisted, an internal issue—Lowell Menorca’s emotional narrative of his ordeal compels authorities to pay attention and to look into the matter. PNP Director General Ricardo Marquez is correct to indicate willingness to investigate the alleged involvement of his men. (But he did so only after being asked by reporters on the sidelines of the Monday flag-raising ceremony at Camp Crame.) If his reaction had been to take a cavalier attitude to Menorca’s narrative, perhaps it would be easy for the public to believe talk that the INC had lobbied for his appointment.
As things stand, there have been other accusations of detention and harassment made against top INC leaders, and it’s a source of wonder that these have been generally ignored. (Or perhaps not wonder. The INC has largely behaved as though it were a kingdom unto itself, and certain officials and presidential candidates are loath to dispute that image.) Although intriguing, the allegations of corruption in high places in the church, as made by the mysterious blogger Antonio Ebangelista, are fitting subject for the church’s internal affairs committee. But complaints of harassment and intimidation, indeed of threats and danger to life—as aired as early as July by Cristina and Angel Manalo, INC executive minister Eduardo Manalo’s own mother and brother, and by expelled minister Isaias Samson Jr.—should have been of significant interest to the PNP. But there seems to have been no action by the police apart from a perfunctory look-see at the (locked) gates of the INC headquarters in Quezon City.
Marquez concedes a certain “perspective” in Menorca’s narrative that moves him now to direct the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group to “[find] out if [PNP] officers are involved one way or another in the alleged abduction.” In July, Samson disclosed his own weekend detention and said at least 10 other expelled INC ministers, including Menorca, were being held against their will in different locations. Menorca subsequently denied having been abducted in an interview with the INC spokesperson at the church’s Net 25. But in a press conference last Sunday, Menorca said that his denial was made under duress; that he was taken by armed men in July from his chapel in Bulan, Sorsogon, in full view of other people, and brought to Dasmariñas, Cavite; that he was handcuffed for 17 hours; that he was put in a vehicle into which a grenade, which mercifully turned out to be a dud, was thrown; that he was then charged with illegal possession of the same grenade; that after details of the case came to light he was taken to the INC compound in Quezon City; that he, his wife and child and their house help were held like prisoners there until Oct. 21; and that they were moved to a house in Fairview, Quezon City, when news broke that the Supreme Court, taking cognizance of the petitions of family members, issued writs of amparo and of habeas corpus in their favor.
What is the point to Menorca’s claimed ordeal, and of Samson’s, and seemingly those of the other expelled INC ministers? Apparently, as indicated by Menorca and Samson, the suspicion that any of them is the tell-all Ebangelista, or at least knew his identity. The INC has denied the claims of abduction and detention through its general evangelist Bienvenido Santiago and has, incredibly, cited the separation of church and state in protesting what it said was the Department of Justice’s undue attention to the case of serious illegal detention filed by Samson against INC leaders. Indeed, the horrific, days-long traffic snarl on Edsa in August caused by the mass action mounted by INC members against the DOJ, which hugely inconvenienced and angered the public, displayed the church’s seeming contempt of the rule of law.
A serious investigation is way past due. Away-pamilya (family quarrel)—as vice-presidential candidate Francis Escudero once blithely characterized the abductions and detentions roiling the INC—it’s obviously not.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.