MANILA, Philippines – The camp of expelled Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) evangelical worker Lowell Menorca II questioned the slew of libel complaints filed against him, saying he had not been given notice or presented copies of the formal complaints.
On Friday, March 4, Menorca's lawyers appeared before the prosecutor's office in Imus, Cavite, in response to a subpoena stemming from a libel complaint filed by a Society of Communicators and Networkers (SCAN) member from the Cavite chapter.
This is the 3rd libel complaint against Menorca. In January, he was arrested because of two libel complaints, filed in Lanao del Norte and in Marawi City.
But the former religious worker said the complaints took him by surprise, since he had not received any formal notice or subpoena prior to his arrest.
Lawyers Evelyn Dominguez and Dino de Leon from the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) requested a copy of the complaint from the Imus prosecutor during the Friday hearing.
It was then that his lawyers were informed of another libel complaint – this time filed in Bacoor, Cavite.
"We are yet to receive a copy of the complaint. FLAG lawyers who went to Imus were informed that there is another one in Bacoor, Cavite, but up to this day, no official notice has been served," Menorca said in a text message to Rappler.
"We haven't received anything, that is why I don't even know how to respond to them," he added.
In January, Menorca spent two nights in a Manila jail because of the two libel complaints filed against him in Mindanao. Hours before he was released on bail, Menorca said a lawyer from Imus, a certain Arnel Hanabajal, attempted to serve a subpoena for the Cavite hearing.
Informed via social media
Like the other libel cases, Menorca said he had no knowledge of the complaints against him. He said he read about the supposed cases against him only from Facebook posts and INC-sponsored social media outlets.
In a statement, Menorca slammed what he called a "clear pattern" of complaints being filed against him that result in arrest warrants without any formal notice being sent to him or his lawyers.
"When and where were the subpoenas supposedly served and who received them? Mr Menorca has inquired from owners of his previous and current residences, no one has received anything for him," the statement read.
He also raised questions about the INC's denial of its involvement in the libel complaints.
INC spokesperson Edwil Zabala earlier denied any hand in Menorca's arrest, saying church members who were offended by Menorca's "defamatory statements" had filed the libel complaints.
But Menorca said that the church's own news networks had reported about the libel complaints even before he was arrested.