Local church members oppose refugee claim
By Ted Alcuitas
Vancouver, B.C. – A former Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) minister is on the run for his life and is seeking refugee status in Canada.
Lowell Menorca told CBC News he is being stalked and his family members are being threatened by church members in the Philippines.
His CBC interview on June 14 is the second interview he gave to the media after his arrival in Vancouver on April 1, 2016.
According to a local Filipino media, Menorca has a mother and sister in Vancouver.
He filed a refugee claim upon his arrival and was granted a conditional refugee status.
Minorca appeared before the Immigration and Refugee Board in Vancouver on May 26 and according to the UNTV report, most of the people who filed objections to his refugee application were members of the church in Vancouver.
Menorca alleges the INC leadership has wasted vast amounts of money on things such as a private Airbus jetliner (since sold) and the construction of the Philippine Arena, the biggest covered stadium in the world, built to celebrate the INC’s centennial in 2014.
He alleges he was illegally detained by Church officials, arrested by police and then hit with more than 40 lawsuits for libel for speaking out about his alleged treatment from the church.
“This is an orchestrated effort by the church to intimidate me,” says Menorca, “to put me behind bars, ultimately to silence me.”
But officials with the Iglesia Ni Cristo call Menorca’s claims “fabricated” and “devious.”
They say he’s fleeing prosecution, not persecution, in the Philippines, and they expect the Canadian government to deny his refugee application.
The INC flew its San Francisco-based supervising attorney to Vancouver to answer the CBC’s questions about the case.
“It’s so obvious to see that he’s fabricated this whole story”, Rommel San Pedro told CBC.
But Menorca claims he has proof church supporters have threatened his life and the lives of his pregnant wife and two-year-old child.
San Pedro says the numerous libel cases launched against Menorca in the Philippines are from individuals, and church leaders “don’t really care about Menorca.”
“We care about our members. Our Lord Jesus Christ said if one sheep goes off, the shepherd goes after that lost sheep. And we have members who have been affected, confused by his rhetoric, confused by his fabrications,” he said.
“What we’re doing is we’re visiting the members and we’re explaining to them what he’s doing, and we’re encouraging our members to stay strong in the faith.”
San Pedro did not respond to our request for comment.