Ex-INC minister Menorca: I won't file charges vs Eduardo Manalo

MANILA, Philippines – Despite the harassment he and his family endured allegedly upon orders of top church officials, expelled Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) minister Lowell Menorca II said he will not be filing criminal charges against INC executive minister Eduardo Manalo.

“I made it clear [to my lawyers that] for succeeding criminal charges, hindi kasama ang Ka Eduardo (Ka Eduardo’s name should not be included). Because I firmly believe that for him as executive minister, it is only God who can judge him for whatever he has done right or wrong,” Menorca said in a press conference in Mandaluyong City on Friday, January 22.

Menorca was released on bail on Friday afternoon after paying a cash bond of P20,000 for his two libel cases hailing from Mindanao.

Ex-INC minister Lowell Menorca II holds press con after posting bail Posted by Mara Cepeda on Friday, January 22, 2016

Two days earlier, Menorca was arrested by plainclothes policemen as 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. 

A scuffle and a standoff ensued after Menorca initially resisted arrest because the officers reportedly refused to show their badges and merely "flashed" the arrest warrant against the expelled Iglesia minister. (READ: Jinky Menorca slams husband's arrest as ‘overkill’)

Menorca had 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)

In October 2015, Menorca's relatives filed petitions for writs of habeas corpus and amparo before the Supreme Court. The Court of Appeals is currently hearing the petitions.

During Friday's press conference, Menorca explained that the executive minister's name was only included in the petitions because Manalo represented the INC.

So when I got out, nung tinanong ko ‘yung attorney kung bakit kasama ang pangalan ng Ka Eduardo diyan e ‘di ko naman siya gustong idemanda. Ang sabi sa akin is because, what we are petitioning for is 'yung Iglesia ni Cristo, which is a corporation sole, and that should be represented by the head, which is Ka Eduardo,” said Menorca.

(When I got out, I asked my lawyer why Ka Eduardo’s name was included when I didn’t want to file a case against him. I was told that because we are petitioning the Iglesia ni Cristo, which is a corporation sole, that should be represented by the head, which is Ka Eduardo.)

Menorca was supposed to take the witness stand and undergo cross examination last January 20 before he was arrested.

No criminal charges vs guards, too

Menorca said he will also not file criminal charges against Lean Velasco and Samuel Pinca, the two security personnel tasked to watch over the Menorca family while they were being detained at the INC compound last year.

Because even though they were simply instructed na bantayan kami, na ‘di kami puwedeng lumabas, kahit papaano, they made our life there easier. ‘Di nila pinaramdam sa amin kumbaga na preso kami, na ‘di kami puwede lumabas,” said Menorca.

(Because even though they were simply instructed to guard us, to prevent us from going out, they made our life there easier somehow. They didn’t make us feel that we were prisoners just because we weren’t allowed to leave.)

He said the two became “like family" to the Menorcas.

Pero naunawaan ko sila dahil sa sumusunod din sila sa tagubilin sa kanila na ‘di kami puwedeng lumabas ng gate ng Central, hanggang diyan ka lang, hindi mo sila puwedeng payagan na lumabas ng bahay nang walang kasama. Those things, naiintindihan dahil sa they are under strict instructions,” Menorca added.

(But I also understood why they had to prohibit us from going past the central gate or from going somewhere without a guard. I understood those things because they are under strict instructions.)

3 conditions

Menorca has vowed to “put the full weight of justice and the law” against those responsible behind his kidnapping and libel complaints. He is currently being represented by lawyer Trixie Cruz-Angeles and lawyers from the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) led by Mirabel Cristobal. 

In pursuing his next legal steps, Menorca said he is focused on 3 conditions. 

“One, for the whole Sanggunian to step down and allow a transparent investigation of the charges against them,” said the former minister. Menorca and his wife earlier said his arrest was the church's attempt to block his testimony at the appellate court.

“Number two, that all personnel, whether ministers or not, law enforcement or not, who were involved in kidnapping me and my family, should be made liable to whatever they did. They have to answer to the law,” said Menorca.

“Number 3, those people who were unjustly expelled [through] "express expulsion", should be brought back to the church,” he added. – 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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