Missing Methodist lawyer sparks NBI search

By Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 04 2012 04:07 PM | Updated as of Jul 05 2012 12:07 AM

MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Justice (DOJ) will task the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to conduct its own parallel search for missing methodist lawyer Joe Frank Zuniga.

Justice Secretary Leila De Lima announced that a special NBI team will be created to search for Bataan-based Zuniga and investigate his disappearance.

Zuniga has been missing since June 20. His vehicle was found the next day in Botolan, Zambales.

"I will form a special NBI team, kailangan ma-intensify talaga ang search... ang top priority at the very moment is to locate Atty. Zuniga, sabay na siyempre yung imbestigasyon and whatever legal action may be instituted," De Lima said.

De Lima met with Zuniga's wife, Charito, and 2 of the Zuniga couple's 3 children, JF and Caryl this afternoon.

The Zunigas and their supporters, assisted by lawyer Harry Roque, went to the Department of Justice (DOJ) to seek its help and the help of the media in an effort to find the missing lawyer.

Authorities in Zambales are facing a blank wall in their investigation.

Charito Zuniga, meantime, said the motive may be work-related or related to her husband's stand against alleged corruption and injustices in their church, the Iglesia Metodista sa Pilipinas. Her husband participated in a prayer rally against these issues, she bared.

"Sa ngayon po ay marami kaming tinitingnan na anggulo na pwede po sa kaso -- mga kasong hinahawakan niya, pwede din po yung issue sa church pero hindi kami sigurado talaga sa motibo nila sa pagdukot sa asawa ko," she said.

De Lima said the angle about the alleged "internal struggle" within the church will be investigated by the NBI.

"Titingnan din natin yun kasi that is one of the strongest theories as I can see it," De Lima said.

Charito Zuniga also bared that her husband received death threats in 2011 and there was an attempt to torch their house last February.

For any information on the whereabouts of her husband, Mrs. Zuniga called on the public to get in touch with the Philippine National Police (PNP), the NBI, or the DOJ.