EXPELLED Iglesia ni Cristo minister Lowell Menorca said Sunday more ministers and their families were being illegally detained like he was inside the church’s Central Temple in Quezon City.
In a press conference, Menorca said he was abducted, threatened, tortured and interrogated, then held with his family for three months in an apartment inside the church’s Central Compound in Quezon City, because they suspected him of creating a blog that exposed corruption in the INC.
“For three months we were there, for three months we were incarcerated. We were never free to go out,” Menorca said, even though they were told that they would be gradually introduced to the outside world and that everything would go back to normal. “I told them I don’t want my child growing up knowing we were prisoners here.”
Menorca denied that he was Antonio Ebangelista, the creator of the blog that detailed anomalies in the church.
“I am not Antonio Ebangelista,” Menorca said. “But all of us are Antonio Ebangelistas—all of us who want a cleansing inside the Iglesia.”
Menorca said other victims like him were also in need of help.
“I cannot divulge right now how many are inside the Central Temple, but they are also in dire need of our help and prayers,” he said.
INC leaders denied Menorca’s allegations in a statement Sunday.
“The officials of INC are surprised and saddened by the recent turn of events, and the statements of Mr. Lowell Menorca II,” the statement said.
The church also said they would address Menorca’s allegations in the proper venue, and that they were confident that if they were treated fairly and given due process, they would establish their innocence and clear their names.
Speaking to reporters, Menorca said he was abducted from his church in Sorsogon on July 16 by three uniformed police officers wearing the badge of the Quezon City Police District and three civilians bearing high-powered firearms, led by Benefrido Santiago, a former member of the church’s powerful ruling council, the Sanggunian.
“While they were entering, they saw that I saw them, they ran towards me and said ‘Drop to the ground if you don’t want to get hurt!’ Their weapons were all pointed at me,” Menorca said.
En route to Dasmariñas in Cavite, Menorca said, the policemen who handcuffed him threw a live grenade onto his seat while he was being transported to a safe house.
“I was thrown a live hand grenade before my very eyes. Luckily, it didn’t [go] off,” Menorca said.
Later on, Menorca said, a police officer was dispatched to finish the job by shooting him, but the minister begged for his life.
“I was begging the policeman to let me live,” Menorca said, telling him that he was a minister of the INC and was innocent of any crime.
The policeman said he was willing to let Menorca live as long as he agreed to any charge that would be filed against him.
In Dasmariñas, Menorca was charged with possession of an explosive device.
After he was detained, top church officials, including Santiago, interrogated him for days to find out who Antonio Ebangelista was, before bringing him to the Central Compound of the INC in Quezon City on July 20, where he was detained for three months.
Menorca said he was only allowed to leave the compound when he would deliver “scripted interviews” to show that he was fine.
During this time, he denied that he had been abducted and detained.
Menorca said the Sanggunian, through the INC’s legal department, forced him and his wife Jinky to sign non-disclosure and waiver documents that would silence him.
After signing the papers, Menorca was transferred to a safe house in Fairview, where he was eventually rescued by his lawyer, Trixie Cruz-Angeles, in October.
Angeles said they are planning to file multiple charges—including illegal detention and grave coercion—against the INC leadership and some members of the Quezon City Police District.
“We have a shopping list of charges but the obvious ones would be illegal detention and grave coercion,” Angeles said.
Earlier, Menorca’s younger brother Anthony and the twin sister of his wife filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus, asking the Supreme Court to order the church to produce their missing relatives.
On Friday, the Supreme Court ordered the INC leadership to produce Menorca and bring him before the Court of Appeals on Nov. 3.
Menorca’s brother has since been placed under the Witness Protection Program of the Justice Department, after saying there were threats to his life.
Menorca also said church leaders were threatening to stage another “show of force” like they did in August, after Executive Minister Eduardo V. Manalo became one of the respondents in the cases filed against the church. With Rio N. Araja