Ex-minister: 2016 bets ignoring INC issues due to bloc voting

WHERE ARE THE CANDIDATES? Ex-INC minister Lowell Menorca II holds a press conference in Mandaluyong City on January 22, 2016 after being released on bail. Photo by Rappler

WHERE ARE THE CANDIDATES? Ex-INC minister Lowell Menorca II holds a press conference in Mandaluyong City on January 22, 2016 after being released on bail.

Photo by Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – Expelled Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) minister Lowell Menorca II said he is disappointed that most of the candidates running for the May elections have been quiet about the latest controversies hounding the 101-year-old church.

"That’s the funny thing about politics. Everything’s happening around them but the politicians, especially the presidentiables, are mum about it," said Menorca on Friday, January 22, just hours after he was released on bail for his two libel cases from Mindanao.

He spent two nights in jail after being arrested by plainclothes policemen while he was on his way to the Court of Appeals to testify on the petitions for writs of habeas corpus and amparo filed by his relatives. (READ: Ex-INC minister Menorca: I won't file charges vs Eduardo Manalo)

"Sino sa presidentiables ngayon ang nag-express ng kanilang concern about the atrocities and oppression natin (Who among our presidentiables now have expressed their concern over the atrocities and oppression being done to us)? I think there’s only one [and that is] Congressman Roy Señeres," Menorca said.

Señeres, presidential candidate and OFW Family party-list representative, reportedly urged President Benigno Aquino III to mediate in the ongoing conflict between the INC leadership and the estranged siblings of executive minister Eduardo Manalo.

Former justice secretary and now Liberal Party senatorial candidate Leila de Lima also questioned how the police served the arrest warrant on Menorca last week.

"The rest of the presidentiables, the senators, the congressmen, it’s very surprising that they’re so quiet about this, and we know why. They’re still eyeing the bloc voting of the Iglesia ni Cristo," said Menorca.

Up to 1.37 million of around 52 million Filipino voters, or 2.6% of the voting population, belong to the INC. Candidates have been known to seek audiences with the church leadership to ask for their endorsement. (READ: How potent is the INC’s vote delivery system?)

The last 3 presidential candidates the INC endorsed – Aquino, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, and Joseph Estrada – all won the elections. (INFOGRAPHIC: What you should know about the Iglesia ni Cristo)

Bloc voting no more?

Menorca, however, said the candidates should not rely as much on the INC bloc voting this time.

"If you would read the many letters and messages coming from the members of the Iglesia ni Cristo worldwide, especially here in the Philippines, they are already expressing their disgust with what is happening and how it is being handled or mishandled, I might say," Menorca said.

"And with that, they are expressing that it is already divided. The bloc voting is already gone internally in the Iglesia ni Cristo," he added.

Menorca previously alleged that he was abducted and illegally detained at the INC central compound, supposedly upon orders of the church leadership. The INC leadership has denied all of Menorca’s claims. (READ: Iglesia ni Cristo eyes case against critics)

His case is only the latest in a string of controversies being faced by the INC, as ministers allege abductions and corruption from within the church.

Felix Nathaniel "Angel" Manalo and Lottie Manalo-Hemedez are accusing the INC of "harassment" as the two camps face a legal battle over a two-hectare property in Quezon City. (READ: Lottie Manalo to brother Eduardo: Why are you keeping us away?)

Members of the INC also flocked to EDSA in August 2015 to protest the illegal detention case that expelled INC minister Isaias Samson Jr filed against the leaders of the church. (READ: Did government go too easy on Iglesia ni Cristo?)

At the time, 3 presidential candidates released statements on the INC protest: Vice President Jejomar Binay and Senator Grace Poe said INC members had the right to express their belief, while former interior secretary Manuel "Mar" Roxas II said the INC should not "impinge on the rights of others." – 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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