Minister denies abduction, torture charges in INC-run TV show

MANILA, Philippines – Lowell “Boyet” Menorca II, a minister from the Iglesia ni Cristo (INC), denied he was abducted and tortured by the Sanggunian (Council) in a televised interview with INC-owned Net 25 on Wednesday, July 29.

A certain "Antonio Ramirez Ebangelista,” an apparent pseudonym of an Iglesia member who has been exposing alleged wrongdoing in the century-old church, said that Menorca was one of several INC ministers allegedly kidnapped. His wife and one-year-old child were also reportedly abducted.

In an interview with INC spokesperson Edwil Zabala at the church’s central office, Menorca denied these claims, saying, “Wala pong katotohanan ‘yan." (That is not true.)

Nandito po ako. Pinatutunayan ko po na ako po ay ligtas. Kapiling ko po ang pamilya ko," Menorca said in Net 25's news program, Eagle News. (I am here. I am safe. I am with my family.)

“Buo po ang aming sambahayan at kami po ay nasa ilalim ng pagkakakupkop, pangangalaga, at pag-iingat ng tagapamahalang pangkalahatan," he added. (My family is complete and we are under the care of the executive minister.)

Aside from Menorca, 3 other ministers in separate interviews with Zabala – Juliusar “Jojo” Nemi, Arnel Tumanan, and Nolan Olarte – also denied allegations they were abducted.

Minister Joel San Pedro also said he was not expelled from the INC, adding that he was even actively involved in the church’s Unity Games International.


Help from 'Ka Erdy'

Official police reports indicate that Menorca was arrested in Dasmariñas City, Cavite on Friday, July 17, for allegedly threatening two construction workers with a hand grenade.

According to Allen Blair Boy, a lawyer sent to Menorca by the INC, Menorca signed affidavits authorizing him to represent the minister in his case.

Menorca was eventually freed on Saturday, July 25.

During his interview with Zabala, Menorca said his family asked the help of executive minister Eduardo “Ka Erdy” Manalo in relation to his case.

Nagpapasalamat po kami dahil sa kabila ng mga pagkukulang, mga kapintasan ko ay patuloy niyo pa rin kaming kinakalinga, patuloy kaming nililingap,” Menorca said, his voice breaking as he repeatedly thanked Manalo on television. (I am very thankful because despite my shortcomings, you still continue to take care of us.)

Asked to give a message to concerned relatives and friends, Menorca said they have nothing to fear.

Wala po silang dapat ipag-alala at pumanatag na po sila, pumayapa na po sila sapagka't kami ng aking buong sambahayan ay panatag po kami at ligtas po kami." (They have nothing to worry about and they should feel at peace, because my family is also at peace and we are safe.)

‘Under duress’?

Another INC member who professed to be a "close friend" of Menorca, however, said that none of what the minister said on television was true.

Lahat ‘yan fabricated kasi under duress si Ka Boyet," Alyssa Ramos (she requested that her real name not be used for her safety) told Rappler in a phone interview. (Everything he said was fabricated because Ka Boyet is under duress.)

Lahat dikta, lahat kagustuhan ng INC Council (The INC Council dictated everything)," said Ramos. 

According to her, the minister still has not met his wife and child and he was only forced to say what he said on television as well as sign the affidavits mentioned by Boy.

Kasi alam mo si Ka Boyet, kung ‘di lang nila hawak ang pamilya niya, hindi ‘yun magsasalita ngayon at di rin magpapadikta. May prinsipyong tao 'yun,” she said.

(If only they were not holding his family, Ka Boyet wouldn't speak now and allow others to tell him what to do. He is a principled person.)

Ramos said that while Menorca was in jail, he was able to devise a way to communicate with her and other close friends. She said the minister asked her to look for his family because the Council took them away.

Before he surfaced in the Dasmariñas jail all the way from Sorsogon, where he was assigned minister, Menorca was said to be ready to tell all. His father, insiders said, was expelled from the church previously. – Rappler.com

 

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the House of Representatives and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.

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