MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The Supreme Court (SC) on Friday, October 23, directed select leaders of the Iglesia ni Cristo, including executive minister Eduardo Manalo, to "appear and produce the persons of Lowell II Menorca, Jinky Otsuka-Menorca, Yurie Keiko Otsuka and Abegail Yanson" before the Court of Appeals (CA) on Tuesday, November 3 at 10 am.
Two days ago, on October 21, relatives of expelled INC minister Menorca asked the SC to order the leaders of the religious group to produce the minister and his family before the court.
Relatives Jungko Otsuka and Anthony R. Menorca, in a petition, asked the SC to issue writs of amparo and habeas corpus against Manalo, and church officials Radel Cortez, Bienvenido Santiago, and Rolando Esguerra.
Anthony is the ex-minister's brother, while Jungko is his sister-in-law.
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.
The petitioners claimed that Lowell, his wife Jinky, their daughter Yurie, and househelp Abegail Yanson were being held against their will by members of the Sanggunian, the INC's top administrative body.
In a resolution, the SC found the petition by Otsuka and Anthony Menorca to be sufficient in form and substance to issue the writs of amparo and habeas corpus. The High Court also referred the petition to CA Presiding Justice Andres Reyes, who shall cause the immediate raffle of the case among the CA justices.
The respondents from the Iglesia were likewise asked to make a "verified return" of the writs before the CA within 5 working days from the service of the writs. A verified return is a responsive pleading for the writs of habeas corpus and amparo. The CA was also instructed to hear the petition of Otsuka and Menorca on November 3 and decide the case within 10 days after submission for decision.
The petitioners pointed out the following:
The former INC minister was previously arrested in Dasmariñas, Cavite for illegal possession of an explosive, which was supposedly a hand grenade he used to threaten two construction workers.
He was listed as among those allegedly abducted because he was critical of the Iglesia leadership. A blog post by "Antonio Ebanghelista" said Lowell was kidnapped in Sorsogon and brought all the way to Dasmariñas.