MANILA, Philippines – The camp of Lottie Manalo-Hemedez has accused the Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) of using force and violence against supporters of the estranged siblings of INC executive minister Eduardo Manalo, as the two camps face a legal battle over a two-hectare property in Quezon City.
Around 6 pm on Friday, January 15, Hemedez returned to her residence at 36 Tandang Sora after coming from a barangay hearing and a press conference with select media organizations. She was accompanied by her son Jem, househelp Lanie, and several supporters.
But a commotion broke out as INC guards attempted to bar entry to Hemedez' companions. A video from the Manalo camp showed one of the guards pulling out a gun.
Former INC minister Isaias Samson Jr, who was expelled last year for exposing alleged corruption within the church, said the INC guard had tried to point the gun at Hemedez' son and a member of the Manalos' security detail.
In a phone interview with Rappler on Sunday, January 17, he also belied reports from INC-owned media outfit Eagle News that said it was the Manalo camp's security who first pulled out a gun.
The Eagle News report also said that the Manalo camp had attempted to smuggle in unauthorized men inside the compound which is now the subject of competing ownership claims between the Manalo siblings and the INC.
But Samson said only Hemedez, her son, and her household help were trying to enter the residence, adding that there was no act that warranted the use of weapons.
He also said that the Manalo camp is now contemplating filing a police report over the incident.
"Why did they have to harass them even before the court gives its decision? Magiging tahimik sana 'yan kung di sila nang-harass at hinayaang umiral ang batas," Samson said. (Everything would have been quiet if they did not harass them and just let the law take its course.)
A day before the incident, the INC said it was considering filing an ejectment case against the Manalo siblings if they continue to defy demands to leave the property.
INC spokesperson Edwil Zabala earlier said the church has been tolerant in allowing the siblings' continued stay at 36 Tandang Sora, despite being expelled from the church last year.
Their brother, Eduardo, expelled them along with their mother Tenny after she and Angel claimed that their lives were in danger.
The religious organization maintains that the Manalos' expulsion also revokes their privilege to stay at the compound which the church claims as its own.
Stressing that the church is not a family corporation, Zabala added that the siblings should not be afforded special privilege just because they are family members of the INC's executive minister.
But Hemedez is questioning the church's claim over 36 Tandang Sora. Aside from claiming that she owns the land title to the property, she said that the argument that they are no longer Iglesia members does not hold because of a precedent set by her father himself, Eraño Manalo. (READ: Lottie Manalo to Iglesia: We are heirs of 'God's Messenger')
The Manalo camp has also accused the INC of falsifying a deed of sale transferring the Tandang Sora property to the church.
In September, the INC filed a petition for injunction asking a Quezon City court to ban visitors from the compound, citing security reasons.
The church said that the presence of unknown masked men poses a security threat to other residents of the compound. The INC has put up a fence as part of its security measures.