SC asked to order Iglesia ni Cristo to produce ex-minister Lowell Menorca

Rappler.com
Lowell Menorca and his family are allegedly being held against their will after he became critical of the governing body of the religious organization

ABDUCTED? Former INC minister Lowell Menorca denies he was abducted in an INC interview, but his brother says Lowell was under duress. Screengrab from Net 25's Eagle News

MANILA, Philippines – The relatives of expelled Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) minister Lowell Menorca have asked the Supreme Court (SC) to order the leaders of the religious group to produce the minister and his family before the court.

In a petition, Jungko Otsuka and Anthony Menorca asked the High Tribunal to issue writs of amparo and habeas corpus against INC executive minister Eduardo Manalo, and church officials Radel Cortez, Bienvenido Santiago, and Rolando Esguerra.

The petition was filed by the minister’s brother, Anthony, and his sister-in-law, Jungko Otsuka.

A writ of amparo is a remedy available to any person whose right to life, liberty and security has been violated or threatened. A writ of habeas corpus is a legal action sought on behalf of a person who has been unlawfully detained.

The petitioners claimed that Lowell, his wife Jinky, their daughter Yurie, and househelp Abbegail Yanson were being held against their will by members of the Sanggunian, the INC’s top administrative body.

“It is manifest that Lowell, Jinky and Yurie Keiko Menorca, as well as their house help Abbegail Yanson, have clearly been subjected to the INC’s unjustified, unlawful and inhumane restriction of their liberty,” the petitioners said.

They said Jungko was able to personally witness the “horribly stressful condition” that the family was experiencing, with INC leaders allegedly barring them from wandering around or leaving their house to buy groceries.

Petitioners also claimed that Lowell had begged the INC to release his family, but was denied.

In July, Lowell was identified as one of several INC ministers who were allegedly abducted because he was critical of the INC leadership.

He was arrested in Dasmariñas for allegedly threatening two construction workers with a hand grenade.

According to a blog post by a certain “Antonio Ebanghelista,” Menorca was allegedly taken away by members of the Sanggunian while he was officiating a worship service in Sorsogon.

The petitioners said this was witnessed by Menorca’s wife, who claimed that she too would have been taken had she not resisted the armed men.

But she was later escorted to the INC compound in Quezon City after allegedly receiving a threatening message that she would never see her husband again unless she complied.

Lowell later appeared in a television interview with INC spokesman Edwil Zabala, which was aired on INC-run television station Net 25.

In the interview, Lowell denied that he was abducted. But Anthony told Rappler that his brother was forced to deny his abduction because the Sanggunian had allegedly taken away his wife and child.

Aside from asking the court to compel the INC to produce Lowell and his family, the petitioners also asked the court to stop the respondents from “further doing harm and even from approaching the persons subject of this petition.”

They also asked the SC to compel INC officials to produce documents and electronic surveillance reports related to the minister and his family. – Rappler.com