Lowell Menorca, who fled the Philippines and came to Canada fearing for his life and that of his family after a falling-out with the powerful Iglesia Ni Cristo (INC), has been granted refugee status.
The Immigration and Refugee Board accepted Menorca’s claim for refugee status, according to a CBC report.
“I cried and I cried and thanked God that finally, this was the vindication I was praying for,” Menorca said in the CBC report.
Menorca arrived in Vancouver on April 1, 2016, and on April 26, spoke with the ReyFort Media Group in a global exclusive interview.
In that 2016 interview, Menorca, who was suspected by the INC hierarchy of being part of a campaign to discredit the leadership with issues of corruption and other irregularities, denied participation in the said campaign.
However, Menorca also said that there are many INC members who are now calling themselves Defenders.
“These are people like me who are standing for the truth, who want transparency,” he said in that 2016 interview.
“My personal advocacy, which is being embraced by a lot of Defenders all over the world, is transparency,” Menorca said. “This is what we and other Defenders pray for for the church we have known as children, the church we know that teaches love, compassion, truth and fairness.”
Menorca has been expelled by the church. The INC rebel has a mother and sister in Vancouver.
Menorca was not able to bring along his two-year-old daughter, and his wife who was pregnant at the time.
His wife, who has since given birth to a baby boy, and his daughter are in an Asian country.
“I am just one man standing for the truth and what is right against a very, very powerful institution,” Menorca also said in the 2017 interview. “I am no match for them. This is why we are begging your good government to grant us refuge. We are in dire need of protection from a government such as yours, whose law enforcement is faithful to its duty to protect and serve its citizens.”
According to the CBC report, the Immigration and Refugee Board has found that the INC “is motivated by a vendetta”, and has “both the means and the motivation to seriously harm or kill” Menorca if returns to the Philippines.
The board ruled that Menorca is “a person in need of protection from a risk of cruel and unusual treatment or punishment and a risk to his life.”
“I was ecstatic. I was overcome with joy,” Menorca said in the CBC report.
The CBC related that Menorca had claimed that members of the INC abducted him, attempted to kill him, and threatened his young daughter.
“When the panel considers the links between the INC and the law enforcement authorities in the Philippines, the general climate of impunity that pervades Philippines law enforcement particularly with respect to the issue of extrajudicial killing, and the level of corruption that exists in the Philippines government and law enforcement apparatus, the panel is satisfied [Menorca] would be unable to avail himself of state protection, from the risks that he fears in that country,” the CBC quoted from the board’s ruling.
The CBC also noted from the board decision that Menorca’s troubles with the INC began “due to an internal division within the church’s leadership”.
The CBC reported that a spokesperson for the INC did not respond to its request for comment following the successful refugee application of Menorca.
Menorca hopes to bring his family to Canada.
“I still haven’t held him in my hands, in my arms,” Menorca said in the CBC report, referring to his son who was born in Asia after the family fled the Philippines.
“I hope there is a way that I can get them here as soon as possible, now that I have been granted protected-person status here in Canada,” Menorca said in the CBC report. “And I will still continue to find ways so I can get them here as soon as possible.”