MANILA, Philippines – Expelled Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) church worker Lowell Menorca II is missing, his lawyers said, after he was allegedly held by immigration officials and prevented from leaving the country.
Menorca failed to contact his lawyers or show up at a hearing at the Court of Appeals (CA) on Monday, March 7, for the continuation of his hearing on the petitions for a writ of amparo filed by his relatives.
His lawyer, Trixie Cruz-Angeles told the CA 7th Division that Menorca had called his lawyers from the airport on Sunday, saying he had received a death threat against his family.
"He informed us that he received a death threat, a picture of his family with a date and the face of his daughter marked with an X. It scared him so much that they proceeded to the airport to secure his family," Angeles said.
"At the airport, he informed us that he allegedly had a hold departure order and was on a watchlist. He was held by immigration officials supposedly to be turned over to the Philippine National Police (PNP) and then brought to Crame because he had an outstanding warrant," Angeles added.
Around 8 pm on Sunday, Menorca called up his lawyers to say that he had been allowed to leave. But Angeles said they expressed "reservations" because he should not have been allowed to go if he indeed had a hold departure order.
"Nevertheless, he promised that he would call us no matter how things turned out and he has not been reachable ever since," Angeles said.
She added that they have not been able to get in touch with Menorca's wife Jinky, his brother Anthony, or his sister-in-law Jungko.
During the Monday hearing, however, INC counsel Patricia Prodigalidad raised doubts on the Menorca camp's claims, saying Menorca had put up a Facebook post on his account Monday morning.
Angeles told the appellate court that Menorca had several libel complaints filed against him. In January, the former church worker was arrested over two libel complaints filed in Mindanao, and a subpoena for a 3rd libel complaint in Cavite was also issued against him.
Menorca's camp has maintained that he has no knowledge about the libel complaints and did not receive any formal notice or subpoena.
During the Monday hearing, Angeles said that they learned of another libel complaint that supposedly set bail at P120,000.
Aside from the libel cases, Menorca is also facing an adultery case and an alleged estafa case, but Angeles said they have no details about the latter case.
The appellate court is currently hearing the petition for amparo filed by Menorca's relatives in October 2015.
The petitions stemmed from Menorca's claims that he had been abducted in Sorsogon, brought to Dasmariñas City, and charged with illegal possession of firearms in an effort to force him to expose members critical of the church in July last year. He also claimed that his wife and daughter had been detained at the time. (READ: INC minister Lowell Menorca: The story of my kidnapping)
CA Associate Justice Magdangal de Leon said he will issue an order directing the PNP and the Bureau of Immigration to trace Menorca's whereabouts and submit a report within 5 days. – Rappler.com