DOJ sets hearing on ex-Iglesia minister's case vs church leaders

MANILA, Philippines – More than two months since expelled Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) minister Isaias Samson Jr accused top church officials of serious lllegal detention, the Department of Justice (DOJ) is set to hold its first preliminary hearing on the case.

The DOJ has summoned Glicerio Santos Jr, Radel Cortez, Bienvenido Santiago Sr, Mathusalem Pareja, Rolando Esguerra, Erano Codera, Rodelio Cabrera and Maximo Bularan Jr – members of the INC's top administrative body, the Sanggunian – to the preliminary hearing on Friday, November 6, at 2 pm.

They are expected to submit their counter-affidavits to the complaint filed by Samson on August 25.

In his complaint, the former INC minister accused the respondents of harassment, illegal detention, coercion, and grave threat.

Samson, who was expelled from the INC for "disobedience and refusal to submit," said he and his family were placed under house arrest on suspicion that he was the one running a blog critical of the powerful church.

He added that they were barred from leaving their Quezon City townhouse from July 16 until their escape on July 23. 

Samson's complaint triggered a massive street protest, with thousands of the Iglesia faithful staging a vigil outside the DOJ, and later on major thoroughfare EDSA. to protest what they considered the state's interference in church matters. 

Call for disbarment

Meanwhile, Samson's lawyer, Trixie Cruz-Angeles, is facing a complaint filed by the mother of Abegail Yanson, house help of another expelled INC minister.

Angeles, who is also representing former INC minister Lowell Menorca, is facing a disbarment complaint filed by Rosalie Yanson before the Office of the Bar Confidant of the Supreme Court.

In her complaint, Rosalie alleged that Angeles committed "willful violation of her oath as lawyer" for helping Menorca in the alleged detention of her daughter, Abegail.

Rosalie alleged that the lawyer prevented her from approaching Abegail during Tuesday's hearing at the Court of Appeals, which is tackling Menorca's petition for writs of habeas corpus and amparo.

"Complainant was able to force herself and get near Abegail and hugged her. At this instance, Atty Trixie Cruz-Angeles, with the Menorcas and the guards, forcibly pulled the complainant away from Abegail and harshly shoved her away from the group," Rosalie's complaint read. 

During Tuesday's hearing, however, Angeles said a woman, purportedly from the police's Criminal Investigation and Detection Group, tried to forcibly take Abegail away.

Asked to confirm this by CA Associate Justice Magdangal de Leon, Abegail herself denied that the woman who tried to approach her was her mother.

On Wednesday, Rosalie and her husband filed a serious illegal detention complaint against Menorca and his wife, Jinky.

They alleged that the Menorcas prevented Abegail from seeing her family since they brought her to Manila from Bulan, Sorsogon, last July. 

But the Menorcas claim that they, along with Abegail, have been illegally detained for 3 months by members of the INC's Sanggunian. 

Menorca's camp also believes that Abegail's family was being used by top church officials. Rappler.com