Testimony of ex-minister Menorca postponed as INC raises objections
MANILA, Philippines – Former Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) minister Lowell Menorca II took the witness stand on Tuesday, December 1, but he was unable to testify or go under cross examination after the camp of the influential church objected to parts of his judicial affidavit.
During the proceedings at the Court of Appeals (CA), the INC’s lawyers raised their objections to Menorca's 53-page affidavit, where he detailed how he was allegedly abducted and detained under orders of top church officials.
It was this alleged illegal detention that prompted Menorca’s relatives to file a petition for writs of habeas corpus and amparo in October.
Menorca was supposed to be cross examined on Tuesday, but INC lawyers opposed this, pending the court's decision on the 117 objections they have against the ex-minister's "long-winded" affidavit.
Lawyer Rogelio Vinluan criticized the affidavit for being a broad, open-ended and free-flowing narration, describing it as “more like a scripted melodramatic soap opera complete with tearjerker scenes.”
He also pointed out that Menorca was not asked specific questions, but was prompted to go on with his narration with the question, "What happened next?"
Vinluan asked the court to strike out Menorca’s entire affidavit, but this was denied.
INC lawyer Patricia-Ann Prodigalidad then raised specific objections to Menorca’s affidavit, saying the ex-minister had made several statements and conclusions of fact that were based only on speculation and hearsay.
When the CA justices suggested that the INC counsels proceed with the cross examination and then raise their objections as they go along, Prodigalidad opposed this.
“If we cross examine, we have waived our objections…This isn’t fair to the respondents. Cross examination is not enough because this will remain part of the evidence,” she argued.
But with 117 objections to Menorca’s affidavit, CA Associate Justice Magdangal de Leon said the INC camp should just submit a written motion of their objections. Menorca's camp will have 10 days to respond.
The next hearing on the case is scheduled on January 20, 2016, 3 months since the petitions were first filed.
Delay in proceedings
In an interview after the hearing, Menorca said he was “frustrated” at yet another delay in the case.
“It’s very frustrating because we’ve been here over and over again. I was already there, why did they not just question me? I don’t know what they’re afraid of, why they did not want to continue with the cross examination,” he said.
Menorca added, “Why prolong the proceedings when in fact, if you wanted the truth, you could have it easily because I was already there. I was the firsthand information that they wanted if they really wanted the truth.”
Menorca’s case stems from the petition filed by his sister-in-law, Jungko Otsuka, and his brother, Anthony Menorca, where they claimed that the former minister and his family were illegally detained for 3 months by INC officials.
But in last month’s cross examination, INC lawyers questioned the accuracy of the witnesses’ testimonies, pointing out supposed inconsistences between each person’s account of the incident.
They also sought to debunk petitioners’ claims that the Menorcas and their house help lived in “deplorable conditions” while detained at the INC compound in Quezon City. – Rappler.com