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‘Manalo kin not abducted, detained’

THERE was no indication of an abduction in the house of Felix Nathaniel “Ka Angel” Manalo and his mother Cristina “Tenny” Manalo inside the compound of the Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) central temple in Quezon City, police said  Friday.

Chief Supt. Joel Pagdilao of the Quezon City Police District said Angel Manalo had given him the assurance that they were “safe, unharmed and free” inside their home on 36 Tandang Sora Ave. despite the alleged threats on their lives.

Pagdilao was barred from entering the compound, but was allowed to speak with Angel Manalo, the younger brother of Eduardo Manalo, the leader of the church.

“We thank Angel for allowing us to talk to him. He peeped through a window. What is important, was that he gave us the chance to talk to him,” he said.

Pagdilao added that he could not seek a warrant to enter the Manalo residence since the occupants themselves had not reported any crime.

“There was no abduction,” he said.

On Wednesday night, Angel uploaded a  1:54-minute video on YouTube exposing threats on his and his mother’s lives.

The voice of a woman who introduced herself as Cristina also appealed to their brethren for help because their lives were in danger, and urged them to rescue her children Angel and daughter Lottie as well as their companions.

Both Angel and his mother were expelled from the church shortly after the video was released, as were Marco Erano Villanueva Manalo and Lolita “Lottie” Manalo Hernandez, Angel’s brother and sister.

Quezon City Mayor Herbert Bautista also tried to enter the premises of the Manalo home  Thursday  night, but no one opened the gate of the premises.

“Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa asked me to monitor the incident. That’s why I am here. I wonder why they do not want authorities to enter. We are just here to maintain peace, ensure everyone is safe and everything is fine, and that there is no harassment. I also want to know what is happening inside,” he told reporters.

Even representatives of the Commission on Human Rights and National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) were not able to enter the compound.

Edwil Zabala, INC spokesperson, also arrived at the Manalo residence but said he had no control over the place.

“We have no control of the gates. The door inside is not also under the control of the INC. The property of INC was assigned to those we had expelled,” he said.

“We did not object when General Pagdilao requested us to enter the INC compound. That’s just proof that we are not hiding anything,” the spokesman added.

Past  midnight  Thursday, Angel spoke to reporters through a window in the gate and told them that they were not being detained against their will. He said it was a child who hung a sheet of paper outside the window of their room saying they were being held hostage.

But Angel also slammed the six-man council of the INC and their ministers for corruption in the construction of the Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan, and called for a vigil in front of their house on Tandang Sora, Quezon City.

“The council has been saying we are contesting our brother Eduardo. That is not true. We are not. We love our brother Eduardo, our executive minister. We appeal to him not to believe the council whom he has trusted too much because all of the tithes of INC are getting depleted for projects that are not needed much. I wonder why the Philippine Arena was built when in fact, our focus must be in the construction of more chapels for the flock,” he said.

“I plead with you to stand by our principle. Let us not be afraid of them. Please, stay here for a vigil so that we could resolve and end this issue. And so that brother Eduardo would be compelled to issue a statement on the many issues of corruption within the church. But what deeply hurts us is the issue of the missing ministers.”

The six council members and 18 others signed the expulsion of Angel and Cristina.

Joy Yuson, an expelled INC minister, accused the council of misusing P1 billion a week from its Lingap sa Mamamayan program to help the Yolanda-stricken areas in Eastern Visayas.

“Every week, members worship and voluntarily donate,” he told a radio interview.

“While some ministers just live a simple life, there are a few who live extravagantly sporting luxury cars and whose wives wear signature clothes and [carry designer] bags, and always travel abroad.”

He identified some missing ministers as Nolan Olarte, Joven Sevillo, Jojo Nemis and Isaias Samson Jr.

He said the relationship of executive minister with his mother and siblings had turned sour.

“I appealed to Brother Eduardo to remove Jun Santos and please talk to your mother and your siblings,” he added, referring to Glicerio Santos Jr., the general auditor of INC and the president of the Felix Y. Manalo Foundation.

He said Cristina is very sick and that Eduardo has neglected her.

But the INC’s spokesman, Zabala, challenged Yuson to substantiate his allegations or to file

an appropriate case “if the INC is on the verge of bankruptcy.”

“I, too, have a mother. Whatever differences we have would never affect our relationship,” he said.

He also hinted that Cristina might have already left the country because she was not in the Manalo residence with Angel.

Another minister, Roel Rosal, told a radio interview that the council has been taking advantage of Eduardo’s poor health.

“I fear that Brother Eduardo is given medicine for him to forget things. I know he cannot expel his mother and brother. He appeared to be sick,” he said.

He also accused the council of corruption and of being “traitors” to the teaching of the church.

“We love you Brother Eduardo. He has not shown up... for a long time,” he said.

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said  Friday  she ordered the NBI to look into allegations that some ministers of the INC had been abducted.

De Lima said the government could also investigate reports that there were threats against Angel and his mother, but would not look into their allegations of corruption within the church because it was a private organization.

De Lima said she received an email message from sender  “[email protected]”  seeking protection for the Manalo family.

“I immediately ordered the NBI to verify what is really happening. Our next step will depend on the initial probe by the NBI, on whether there is a need for a formal probe,” De Lima said.

She said the video posted on YouTube was also e-mailed to her department.

De Lima said the NBI will also verify the signs posted outside the window where Tenny and Angel were holed up in Tandang Sora, expressing concern over the 10 “missing” ministers.

But De Lima said they could not simply enter the Manalo property unless there was sufficient ground to believe that a crime had been committed.

A spokesman for the President distanced the Palace from the row within the influential church, saying it was an internal, organizational dispute.

The INC reportedly supported President Aquino’s campaign for the presidency in 2010. -- With Rey E. Requejo and Sandy Araneta

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