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Trip to Japan for Iglesia ni Cristo's Eduardo Manalo?

REVERED LEADER. Iglesia ni Cristo Executive Minister Eduardo V Manalo, the church's third leader, follows in the footsteps of Iglesia founder Felix Manalo.

File photo by Mark Cristino/Rappler

(UPDATED) Will they or won’t they? That is, show up at the Court of Appeals (CA).

Many are guessing whether the Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) leaders led by no less than the executive minister Eduardo V. Manalo will follow the orders of the Supreme Court to appear before the CA on Tuesday, November 3. None of them did.

Instead, INC through counsel Patricia Ann Prodigalidad, asked the Court of Appeals (CA) to dismiss the petition for writs of habeas corpus and amparo filed by the relatives of former INC minister Lowell Menorca for being "moot and academic."

On October 23, Manalo and Iglesia officials Radel Cortez, general evangelist Bienvenido Santiago, and Rolando Esguerra were the recipients of writs of amparo and habeas corpus from the High Court, following a petition filed by Anthony Menorca and Jungko Otsuka, brother and sister-in-law respectively, of expelled minister Menorca.

Some Iglesia brethren were enraged by the SC order, perceiving it to be interference by the state in the affairs of the influential church. Why include the executive minister himself, they asked. Isn’t this politically motivated? But lawyers explain that as a “corporation sole,” the Iglesia as a legal entity can only be represented by a “sole” person or its head.

In the case of the INC, it is the highest ranking official or executive minister himself, Manalo. Nothing personal, no specific targeting even by the High Tribunal. The court would have issued the same order to Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, had the Catholic Church been involved in a writ of habeas corpus or amparo petition.

Shorn of the legalese, a writ of amparo is a recourse for any person whose right to life, liberty and security has been threatened or violated. A writ of habeas corpus on the other hand is a legal remedy sought on behalf of a person illegally detained.

Menorca was released from alleged “illegal detention” by Iglesia leaders and was, according to some reports, rescued by government operatives. The INC itself has denied any hand in the alleged abduction and detention of its minister, whom it has expelled.

Insiders said Manalo and other church leaders went to Japan and missed the big event over the weekend that recognized Excellence in Visual Media (EVM, also a clever play on the initials of the executive minister himself) among Iglesia brethen.

The event, which was a recognition of the best films produced by INC members, coincided with Manalo’s 59th birthday. It also marked the over 3 months of seclusion of the Eraño G. Manalo children, Angel (Felix Nathaniel), Marc (Marco Eraño), and Lottie (Lolita Manalo-Hemedez). Their brother Eduardo has completely ignored them, despite pleas from their mother Cristina “Tenny” Villanueva for him to speak to them. In a video posted late evening of July 22, Angel appealed for help and said their lives were in danger.

But why travel to Japan? Perhaps just to celebrate a birthday? Or perhaps to speak to the parents and relatives of Jinky Otsuka-Menorca and her twin sister Jungko to try to convince them to withdraw what they had filed with the Supreme Court?

During the Sunday press conference of Menorca on October 25, a tearful Jinky quietly sat beside her husband, while he recounted his harrowing experience being abducted from faraway Sorsogon and being brought by land to Dasmariñas, Cavite. – Chay Hofileña/Rappler.com