The Philippine Department of Justice has ordered an investigation into allegations that some ministers critical of leaders of an influential religious sect have been abducted as part of an internal dispute.

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said Friday that the government cannot intervene in the squabble within the Iglesia ni Cristo, or Church of Christ, but abductions are crimes the National Bureau of Investigation will investigate.

The feud within the close-knit sect became public this week when the mother and a brother of the group's head, Eduardo Manalo, were expelled after they sought help in a YouTube message, saying they were in danger and several ministers had gone missing.

Political candidates in the Philippines seek the sect's support because its members vote as a bloc.