Spokesperson says sect has nothing to do with the arrest

Philippine Daily Inquirer/January 21, 2016

By Erika Sauler, Nancy C. Carvajal and Jaymee T. Gamil

Contradicting the accusation of Lowell Menorca II that Iglesia Ni Cristo (INC) was behind his arrest, the church on Wednesday urged the expelled member to face the libel cases filed against him.

INC spokesperson Edwil Zabala denied that the serving of the arrest warrant was timed to prevent Menorca from testifying in the Court of Appeals.

“Mr. Menorca is alleged to have made defamatory statements against some INC members who are part of our medical and rescue units. These members were offended and filed the complaint against Mr. Menorca,” Zabala said in a press briefing at Eagle Broadcasting Corp. in Quezon City.

“An arrest warrant was issued and that it was served this morning (Wednesday) is beyond the control of the complainants since that was dependent on the police finding the opportunity to serve it,” Zabala said.

Provincial chapters of SCAN International filed libel suits against Menorca in various courts after he tagged the group the private army or death squad of INC, according to Eagle News Service.

SCAN International (Society of Communicators and Networks) is composed of INC members who help in medical missions and rescue operations during natural calamities, Zabala said.

INC  imprimatur

Despite the denial, top INC officials had a hand in the filing of the libel case and arrest of Menorca, said Isaias Samson, a former INC minister who accused church leaders of corruption.

“The church leaders cannot deny that they have a hand in the filing of the case. Any member of the church, before filing a court case like what the SCAN did, should have the initial approval of the district minister and the final direction comes from top INC officials,” Samson said.

He said it was a harassment case and had the “imprimatur of the church leaders.”

SCAN is composed of INC members from different professions, according to Samson. He said some of the members were law enforcers.

Samson added that SCAN members were usually tasked with ensuring  traffic flow order and security during church gatherings and visits of top leaders in the provinces.

Samson said that as a former minister he knew how the church works.

“There’s no way that they will move without the approval of the top because everything had to be approved by church officials, especially if it will implicate the church image and involves cases in court,” he said.
No church approval

Zabala said that the libel cases did not need the approval of the INC leadership and that the church would not prevent the aggrieved members from pursuing the legal track against an expelled member.

Zabala said Menorca had not been ordained minister. Before he was expelled, Menorca was a student in ministry who was assigned in Sorsogon province as part of the training.

“We were dumbfounded upon learning that our name is again being besmirched by Mr. Menorca,” Zabala said as he pointed out that the INC legal team was waiting and prepared for the hearing at the Court of Appeals.

He noted that Menorca’s lawyer, Trixie Cruz-Angeles, was also the counsel of expelled members Angel Manalo and Lottie Manalo-Hemedez, who are involved in a property dispute with the church.

“To say it’s not (connected) is going to be a stretch. I personally believe it is connected to everything. As far as the actual connections are concerned and how deeply the connections  between Mr. Menorca and those residing at No. 36 Tandang Sora are, I suppose time will show just how the connections came about,” Zabala said.

He said INC had started its own inquiry into the events leading to Menorca’s arrest.
Cops asked to explain

In a briefing on Wednesday, the Philippine National Police spokesperson, Chief Supt. Wilben Mayor, said it was seeking an explanation from the Manila police regarding the circumstances of Menorca’s arrest.

“We will require the director of the Manila Police District (MPD) to submit a report on what happened on the ground,” Mayor said in a  press briefing in Camp Crame, Quezon City.

Regarding the allegations, based on a video of the arrest taken by Menorca’s camp, that the armed arresting officers were in plainclothes and even in shorts and slippers, “we will ask MPD to conduct an internal investigation to determine what really happened,” Mayor added.

He urged Menorca to file any complaints against the policemen at the proper forum.

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