MANILA -- Three witnesses against the Iglesia Ni Cristo (INC) have been admitted into the Witness Protection Program (WPP) of the Department of Justice (DOJ).
Joy Yuson, Lito Fruto, and Roel Rosal are former members of INC who were expelled from the church after expressing support to the family of the late executive minister Eraño Manalo.
Angel Manalo and his mother Cristina "Tenny" were earlier expelled from the group for allegedly sowing disharmony among members.
The three claimed to have received threats due to their allegations against the INC leadership.
"Mag-ingat kaming lahat, 'pag nakita kami sa daan ay patayin kami. Sagasaan, o kaya holdapin, patayin o tuntunin 'yung bahay. Ang lalabas sa diyaryo ay namatay kami sa ganoong pangyayari," Yuson said.
They met with Justice Secretary Leila De Lima to seek protection.
Yuson claimed they received information that some INC leaders have formed a "private army."
"Ang natanggap po namin na bali-balita ay 100 na private army, na nakahanda anytime, 'yun ang i-strike sa mga nagsisiwalat ng katiwalian."
Rosal, who used to work for the New Bilibid Prisons, told De Lima that INC can release inmates from prison, while Fruto said an assistant state prosecutor from the justice department was involved in the arrest of one of the "missing" INC ministers, Lowell Menorca, as well as in framing him up for a charge of rape.
De Lima has ordered the three to submit a written statement, while assuring them of the government's protection.
"Napakaseryoso at napaka-sensitive na impormasyon na isiniwalat nila, kaya kailangan ho talaga na isama sa imbestigasyon," she added.
She also confirmed that a new team was formed to investigate the issue, as some of the former investigators are also INC members.
"Meron hong bagong team na tumututok dito para mawala 'yung issue of objectivity and impartiality, kasi 'yung dating team, mayroong din kasing mga members ng Iglesia," De Lima added.
Aside from the three new witnesses, DOJ has also placed Anthony Menorca, the brother of Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) minister Ka Lowell Menorca, under the WPP after he revealed sensitive information about his brother's alleged kidnapping. -- report from Ces Drilon, ABS-CBN News