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MANILA, Philippines – An expelled member of the influential homegrown church Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) has been arrested over a case filed by his wife, allegedly under the instigation of the church leadership.
Rovic Canono was arrested and detained in Camp Karingal, Quezon City, on Friday, November 11, for violation of Republic Act 9262, or the anti-violence against women and children act.
Canono is accused of violating Sections 5(h) and (i) of RA 9262, which refer to causing emotional or psychological distress to the woman or her child, and causing mental or emotional anguish, public ridicule, or humiliation.
Canono is reportedly suspected of being behind social media accounts critical of the church leadership.
Over the past year, the Facebook account "Sher Lock" and the blog "Silent No More" have been running stories alleging corruption within the church's ranks. The blog and Facebook page have also posted stories on the alleged abductions of church ministers and harassment of the estranged siblings of INC executive minister Eduardo Manalo, in an ongoing issue that has rocked the church since July last year. (READ: Revolt in the Iglesia ni Cristo)
The bench warrant of arrest against Canono was issued by Judge Jacqueline Martin-Balictar of the Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 9.
The charge against Canono was filed by his wife, with whom he has been separated for several years. Rappler learned that Canono was taken from his condominium in Eastwood, Quezon City by armed operatives of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Unit wearing civilian clothing.
Instead of being brought to the nearby police station inside Eastwood, however, Canono was taken to Camp Karingal in Sikatuna Village, about 5 kilometers away from the Central Temple of Iglesia.
According to a joint affidavit of arrest filed by the arresting police officers, Canono allegedly violently resisted arrest and had tried to call for help from his friends instead of contacting a lawyer. SPO1 Luisito Ubias and PO1 Mario Morales allegedly sustained injuries from the incident.
Canono is now facing an additional complaint of direct assault and resistance and disobedience to a person in authority.
Wilfredo Santos from the INC's legal department has taken on the case against Canono. The INC-run news network Net25 was already in Camp Karingal when Canono arrived.
Lawyer Rene Saguisag – also the counsel for the estranged Manalo siblings – is handling Canono's case.
Rappler contacted Bro. Edwil Zabala, spokesman for the INC, for comment, but there has been no reply as of Sunday afternoon. This story will be updated once a statement or comment from the INC is released.
Similar to Menorca?
According to the "Silent No More" blog, the circumstances of Canono's arrest were similar to those of expelled member Lowell Menorca II. In July 2015, Menorca was illegally detained for nearly 3 months under alleged orders of the church's leaders, and was previously arrested in Dasmariñas, Cavite, for alleged illegal possession of an explosive. The charge is a non-bailable offense.
Menorca at the time pointed to the INC's Sanggunian or Council as the perpetrators behind his arrest and illegal detention. Later an adultery case was filed against him.
In March 2016, Menorca left the country with his family, citing an alleged death threat and continued harassment from his critics.
In a message to Rappler, Menorca said that Canono's arrest was "all too familiar" to him, and that the operation had "all the fingerprints of the well-coordinated and influenced efforts of a very powerful institution."
"I know that the pattern will emerge soon enough to reveal the powerful hand behind these series of seemless events and circumstances that can only be possible, as orchestrated by a very influential force that has perfected this craft of inquisition against those whom they consider enemies for being critical of the church," he said.
Menorca added that since Canono's case can be resolved by posting bail, he may be charged with numerous other cases to either keep him in jail or exhaust his financial resources.
The "Silent No More" blog also posted a photo of a letter supposedly written by Canono in July 2015. According to the letter, Canono had been told that he was being "hunted down by a group of men" upon the orders of the INC leaders.
Photo from Silent No More blog
The letter contained a list of names "[to] be held accountable if harm/death" happens to him or his family.
The list included the INC executive minister, his wife, Babylyn; INC auditor Glicerio Santos Jr, and other church officials. – Rappler.com
Note: We initially referred to Rovic Canono as a member of the INC. We have since updated the story to reflect his status as an expelled member.