MANILA, Philippines – No evidence, no probable cause. With these, the justice department exonerated members of the Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) Sanggunian or Council in connection with the alleged illegal detention case of expelled minister Isaias Samson Jr.
Samson, former editor in chief of the INC’s official publication Pasugo, and another expelled INC member Jose Norlito Fruto, had filed separate complaints of harassment and intimidation against members of the Sanggunian.
Samson filed before the Department of Justice (DOJ) harassment, illegal detention, coercion, and grave threat charges against senior church officials after he was charged with libel by the Iglesia on July 24. He was also expelled as minister for “disobedience” and “refusal to submit”.
Prosecutor General Claro Arellano signed two separate resolutions dated November 13, dismissing the harassment, illegal detention, threats and coercion complaints filed against the 8 Sanggunian members.
Named respondents in Samson’s complaint were Glicerio Santos Jr, Radel Cortez, Bienvenido Santiago Sr, Mathusalem Pareja, Rolando Esguerra, Eraño Codera, Rodelio Cabrera and Maximo Bularan Jr, members of the INC’s highest administrative body.
According to a report by the Inquirer, the Department of Justice said Samson “failed to offer proof that he was compelled to do something against his will when he was allegedly forced by respondent to execute a written statement admitting his culpability and complicity in the [Antonio] Ebangelista blog.” Ebangelista has been exposing alleged irregularities and abuses committed by some members of the Sanggunian.
Samson, according to the same report, also failed to present an “iota of evidence” on charges of intimidation and confiscation of personal property.
A Department of Justice (DOJ) insider said Arellano’s resolutions were signed after recommendations were made by Senior Deputy State Prosecutor Theodore Villanueva, Assistant State Prosecutors Olivia Torevillas and Mark Roland Estepa, to absolve the Iglesia respondents.
The DOJ source said that Samson “failed to offer proof that he was compelled to do something against his will” when he was supposedly forced to execute a written statement that admitted he had something to do with the controversial Antonio Ebangelista blog.
Quoting from the resolution, the Inquirer reported, “There is nothing in the recitation of facts made by complainant which show that respondents resorted to threat, violence and intimidation when the said articles were taken allegedly upon orders of the Sanggunian.”
As for Fruto’s complaint, the DOJ said there was no probable cause for illegal arrest, arbitrary detention, and violation of abode as he was not even in his house when the supposed robbery took place.
Fruto’s complaint covered 17 individuals, including members of the Sanggunian. He accused them of coercion, harassment, threats, and arbitrary detention. He also alleged that several police officers went to his house and confiscated phones, laptops, and even cash and jewelry.
The DOJ resolution, however, said his claims of harassment should be raised as a matter of defense in the proper courts when the cases filed against him by INC officials are heard in the proper courts. Fruto claimed that INC officials were bent on silencing him by filing a string of criminal cases against him. – Rappler.com