'No knowledge of missing ministers' - INC spokesman
MANILA - It is not just Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) ministers who have allegedly gone missing. The wife and child of INC minister Lowell Menorca II, who is in jail in Dasmarinas, are also missing and were allegedly abducted, according to a former member of the religious group.
Speaking to Karen Davila on radio DZMM, Joy Yuson, a former administrative coordinator of the TV arm of the INC and a former member of the INC for over 20 years, said Menorca was "abducted" right in the middle of an INC service in Sorsogon by members of the INC's Sanggunian.
Menorca is the son of the late Bro. Lowell Menorca, the former spokesman of the INC.
He said that after the "abduction," Menorca's wife went to a "tagapangasiwa" or an INC official in charge of the ministers in the area to report the crime, not knowing that the official had approved the alleged abduction.
"Siya po ay kinuha ng Sanggunian panahon ng pagsamba at nasaksihan ng mga miembro ng Iglesia ni Cristo. Ang asawa, nung nabalitaan, ay pumunta po sa tagapangasiwa...sila po ang may hawak ng mga ministro sa isang malaking lugar. Hindi niya po alam na ang tagapangasiwa ay kasabwat dun sa pagpapadampot sa kanyang asawa," he said.
"Pati siya po ay hindi na nakaalis sa opisina. Pati siya at pati ang anak nila na isang taon (gulang) pa lang ay nawawala din hanggang ngayon. Hindi sila lumulutang. Si Ka Boyet nakita sa Cavite."
Yuson said that from Sorsogon, Menorca was jailed in Dasmarinas, Cavite for violation of Republic Act 8294 or illegal possession of firearms after allegedly threatening two people with a grenade.
Earlier reports said Menorca was arrested last July 17 and a case filed against him on July 20.
However, Yuson pointed out that it is only the INC leadership who is speaking for Menorca, and that an INC lawyer visited the minister in jail and said Menorca had denied that he was abducted.
"Kunwari nagmamalasakit ang Iglesia ni Cristo at binigyan siya ng abogado pero alam na po namin yun. Cover-up po yun para ang abogado ang magsasalita sa media. Ang abogado ang magbabantay kay Boyet at magpapaalala na wag kailanman magsasalita laban sa Iglesia ni Cristo," he said.
WHAT THE LAWYER SAID
Allen Blair Boy, a lawyer sent by the INC leadership, earlier said he met and spoke with Menorca for the first time on Thursday.
"Base sa pakikipag-usap ko sa kanya kanina, hindi po totoo 'yon. Hindi totoo na na-abduct siya (Based on my conversation with him a while ago, it's not true. It's not true he was abducted)," Boy told reporters.
Boy, however, could not say why Menorca was in Dasmariñas at the time of his alleged crime, when he is a resident of Sorsogon in the Bicol region.
Journalists were not allowed to interview Menorca and take pictures of him.
Menorca issued a statement on Friday, saying that there was no abduction and that he went to Cavite to seek support.
At least 9 INC ministers have reportedly gone missing and were reportedly detained illegally, according to various reports.
Cristina "Tenny" Manalo, widow of the late INC Executive Minister Eraño Manalo, and son Felix Nathaniel "Angel" Villanueva Manalo, have also posted a YouTube video, saying Angel's family was under threat. Both mother and son have been expelled by the INC.
Suspended INC Minister Isaias Samson Jr. earlier said he escaped his armed guards in his own home in Tierra Bella subdivision in Quezon City Thursday. He said his own cellphone and passport were taken from him during his family's one-week detention.
INC spokesman Bro. Edwil Zabala said Samson must show proof of his accusations. He also denied any knowledge of the alleged abductions of INC ministers.
He said there were "glaring inconsistencies" in the sweeping accusations against the INC such as a heavily tinted vehicle full of guns right outside the Manalo home.
Asked if the INC has firearms, Zabala said: "Yes, we have security guards in the compound. Wala pong [private army]."
He reiterated the INC's position that the church under Bro. Eduardo Manalo is following the teachings of the Bible.
'INC SENDING ARMED MEN'
Meanwhile, Yuson said he was first removed from his job and deployed to Capiz after he started asking for prayer over the perceived threats against the family of Erano G. Manalo in 2009.
He said he and his family have been in hiding for nearly a year after receiving threats and harassment from INC members when he started speaking out about the alleged corruption inside the church including alleged misuse of funds by INC ministers.
He also claimed that his family hid under the bed after INC members tried to enter his home.
"Nung malaman po nila na ang aking asawa ay nagkwento sa mga nangyayaring katiwalian ngayon sa Iglesia sa ibang tao, pinuntahan po nila kami sa aming bahay. Pinasok po nila ang aming compound kahit nakasara ang gate. Walang search warrant. Pagkatapos, kanila pong kinabog ang aming pintuan sa main lobby, pinuntahan po nila ang aming dalawang pintuan sa likuran na napakarami nilang tao. Kinabog po nila yun at sinisigaw: 'Buksan niyo kami! Kakausapin namin kayo!' Pero di kami kumikibo sa loob ng bahay, nagtago ang aking mga anak sa ilalim ng kama sa takot. Ginawa po nila yun ng four times sa loob ng tatlong oras. Hindi po namin sila kinausap. Ayaw namin sila kausap," he said.
Yuson said that as a former member of the INC for the past 20 years, he knows what is going on inside the organization.
"Ako ay mahigit 20 taon na sa opisina. Alam ko ang ginagawa nila higit sa ibang tao dito. Kilala ko silang lahat," he said.
Yuson said the INC has a pattern of harassment such as sending armed men to "guard" the home of an INC member. This is what happened to suspended INC minister Isaias Samson Jr. who said he escaped his armed guards in his own home in Tierra Bella subdivision in Quezon City.
He said many INC members are fearful of speaking out against the church for fear of being excommunicated.
"Sa loob ng Iglesia ni Cristo, malaki ang takot sa mga salitang ititiwalag ka," he said.
ANGEL'S BEST FRIEND?
For his part, Zabala said Yuson is the best friend and classmate of Angel Manalo, the younger brother of INC executive minister Eduardo Manalo. Angel and his mother were excommunicated by the church on Thursday.
He said Yuson was removed from the church because he abandoned the flock entrusted to him.
The spokesman said there are people inside the church who have become disgruntled with the present leadership because they are not being allowed to interfere with how the church is being run.
"Meron lang ilang tao na hindi napagbigyan marahil sa gusto nila na mapakailaman ang pamamahala sa Iglesia ni Cristo, mapasunod sa gusto nila sa personal nilang gusto. Dahil dun, minamasama na nila ang Iglesia," he said.