MANILA, Philippines – Leaders of the badly fractured Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) are preparing for another EDSA rally after the Supreme Court issued writs of habeas corpus and amparo on October 23, compelling INC leaders led by executive minister Eduardo Manalo to appear before the Court of Appeals on November 3.
A writ of amparo is a remedy available to any person whose right to life, liberty and security has been violated or threatened. A writ of habeas corpus is a legal action sought on behalf of a person who has been unlawfully detained.
In a one-on-one interview with Rappler on Sunday, October 25, former Iglesia minister Lowell Menorca – kidnapped and rescued recently – said he was told countless times before he was rescued that the inclusion of Manalo in the petition filed before the SC is agitating the century-old church. (READ: Ex-minister Lowell Menorca recounts Iglesia 'detention' ordeal)
Menorca said in Filipino, "They told me several times, you have angered the Iglesia, you have angered the brethren that's why for certain, they will go [to EDSA] again, they will rally again, and you will be unable to stop them. They were already insinuating that if they were able to paralyze Metro Manila when cases were filed against Sanggunian members, how much more if Ka Eduardo [Manalo] were involved? So expect, expect the worst of what they can do."
Menorca was told by insiders that Iglesia administrators have asked pastors to instruct each household to have a "devotional prayer" or pledge each day. It's no different from a loyalty check, according to Menorca, with those who do not follow, threatened with expulsion.
It does not help that misinformation – about the life of the executive minister Manalo being in danger, and the state interfering in affairs of the church – is also being spread.
Iglesia brethren will do everything, Menorca said, to shield Manalo and members of the Sanggunian from cases and stop them from speaking up and showing video surveillance that they did. Submission to the courts would be tantamount to interference by the state.
When asked if he knew anything or had a hand in the case filed with the Supreme Court, Menorca told Manalo's son-in-law Theoben Jerdan Orosa, also INC legal counsel, he did not. Lawyer Trixie Angeles explained that because the case is against a "corporation sole"* its head would necessarily have to represent it. Manalo's inclusion, according to Menorca, was not his design.
"It was a procedural and technical thing na hindi talaga puwedeng pigilan (that couldn't be stopped). Pero (But) it was directed at Ka Eduardo and I know that this will be the fuel that they will use to fuel the anger of the brethren."
Appeal not to use brethren
During the press conference, Menorca appealed to the leadership of the influential church not to call brethren to EDSA and clarified that what they are doing is neither a fight against the church nor against the executive minister.
"This is a fight against wrongdoing being done in the church by those people entrusted to care for the flock," the former minister said.
He appealed to them to not call on Iglesia brethren to go to the streets once again as they did last August. He asked them not to call on district ministers to take their flock to EDSA and provide free transportation like buses and jeeps, and even have the "audacity" to check attendance.
"Please do not insult the integrity of the church. Please stop insulting the intelligence of the brethren all over the world," Menorca appealed.
In the interview with Rappler, he said the apparent plan of the Iglesia leadership is to rally and paralyze government with its show of force – as it did in the previous rally.
The Iglesia lawyer sent by the church to Menorca when he was still in a Dasmariñas jail, Allen Blair Boy, reportedly said government officials will see for themselves that they cannot interfere with the Iglesia, sounding like the church was above the law.
"Kaya sabi niya, makikita nila sinong susuko. So i think they have dealings with the government and according to him, it was a show of force para makita nila kung ano ang kaya ng Iglesia ni Cristo."
(That's why he said they will see who will blink first. So I think they have dealings with the government and according to him, it was a show of force so they can see what the Iglesia ni Cristo is capable of.)
They seem to be threatening government with being kicked out of power if leaders push through with the illegal detention case filed by expelled minister and former editor-in-chief of the INC's official publication Pasugo, Isaias Samson Jr.
Samson had accused members of the Sanggunian of corruption and wrongdoing, and faces libel charges for the accusations.
Menorca said, "I hope that the government and especially those in positions right now, I hope they will not be coerced to submit to the whims of the Sangguanian."
With elections coming in 2016, candidates should be able to show they are willing to stand by what is right and what is true, he said, adding that this is a time for them to show courage. – Rappler.com
Editor's Note: In a previous version of this story this was wrongly referred to as "soul corporation". This has been corrected to "corporation sole".
Chay Hofileña is editor of Rappler's investigative and in-depth section, Newsbreak. Among Rappler’s senior founders and editors, she is also in charge of training. She obtained her graduate degree from Columbia University’s School of Journalism in New York.