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Expelled INC member gets refugee status in Canada

MANILA, Philippines – Citing threats to his life, Canada's Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) has granted refugee status to expelled Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) member Lowell Menorca II.

Rappler on Friday, January 26, obtained a redacted copy of the Canadian authorities' decision on Menorca's case. Canada's CBC News reported on the same decision on Thursday, January 25.

"The Refugee Protection Division determines that the claimant is a person in need of protection. Therefore, the Refugee Protection Division accepts the claim," said the Refugee Protection Division of the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada in a notice of decision dated November 6, 2017.

"The panel finds the claimant is a person in need of protection from a risk of cruel and unusual treatment or punishment and a risk to his life," the panel said.

Menorca, 40, had arrived in Canada on April 1, 2016, and soon after applied for refugee protection. 

The hearings on his refugee claim took place on October 31, November 1, and November 10, 2016.

"When the panel considers the links between the INC and the law enforcement authorities in the Philippines, the general climate of impunity that pervades Philippines law enforcement particularly with respect to the issue of extrajudicial killing, and the level of corruption that exists in the Philippines government and law enforcement apparatus, the panel is satisfied [Menorca] would be unable to avail himself of state protection, from the risks that he fears in that country," the IRB also said, as quoted by CBC News.

CBC News said that INC's lawyer, Roger McConchie, said the INC will not comment in the meantime.

Rappler is also trying to reach INC for comment as of posting time. 

Menorca, a former INC evangelical worker, claimed he had been abducted and charged with illegal possession of firearms supposedly to force him to expose members critical of INC. 

The INC calls him a fugitive. – Rappler.com

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.

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