MANILA - The Department of Justice on Friday vowed to investigate reports of alleged abductions and torture of ministers of the Iglesia ni Cristo amid a public squabble among the leadership of the religious sect.
Speaking to radio DZMM, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said she has already ordered the National Bureau of Investigation to verify and validate reports that some INC ministers not loyal to the Sanggunian have been abducted or placed under house arrest.
"Hindi pwede itong balewalain...If this is true, these are criminal offenses. Kailangan ho imbestigahan ng maayos," she said.
Isaias Samson Jr., a second-generation INC minister, earlier confirmed that at least 10 INC ministers were kidnapped by the religious group and held in different locations.
At least one minister, Lowell Menorca II, was being held at the city jail in Dasmariñas, Cavite province.
He told media that he and his family were held captive in their own home in Tierra Bella subdivision behind the INC headquarters for a week.
He said he and his family escaped after he told his armed guards that he wanted to go to church.
De Lima noted the expulsion of Angel Manalo and Tenny Manalo, the brother and mother of current INC Executive Minister Eduardo Manalo, from the INC is something internal to the organization.
Tenny and Angel had earlier issued a YouTube video asking the INC brethren for help after receiving threats from fellow INC members.
De Lima said allegations that the INC leadership is mismanaging its funds is an internal matter for the religious group.
"We consider these the private funds of the Iglesia," she said.
However, the justice secretary said authorities cannot turn a blind eye to reports of people putting up signs, saying they were being held hostage.
"We need to find out if there are criminal offenses being committed and if these are still being committed as we speak," she said.
De Lima said she was also surprised that Quezon City Mayor Herbert Bautista was not allowed to enter an INC facility.
"Hindi ho pwedeng dahilan na private property or private premises yun na, hindi tayo pwede pumasok...Of course you need a search warrant or arrest warrant but there is also the plain view doctrine and probable cause. If there is a possibility that a crime is being committed and is still being committed, therefore the appropriate law enforcement body can go in," she said.
On Thursday, ABS-CBN News was able to interview Shirley Rosal, who was a member of the Iglesia ni Cristo for 47 years.
She said she came to offer support and hold a vigil for the family of Angel and Tenny.
Shirley and her husband Roel, a former minister, were expelled from the INC last June after they questioned the group's leadership.
She claimed that a minister tried to extort thousands of pesos from local government officials of Bulacan and Paranaque.
There are also allegations on blogs and Facebook accounts pf corruption and kidnappings of church ministers. - with reports from Ryan Chua and Doland Castro, ABS-CBN News; ANC