The tension surrounding the controversial 36 Tandang Sora property seems to be far from over.
On Wednesday, October 12, the camp of Lottie Manalo-Hemedez and Angel Manalo, estranged siblings of Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) executive minister Eduardo Manalo, filed an urgent motion at the Quezon City Regional Trial Court (QC RTC) Branch 88 to let lawyers enter the contested compound.
According to the motion penned by human rights lawyer Rene Saguisag, who replaced Trixie Cruz-Angeles as counsel, they had tried to get access to the compound to talk to the Manalo siblings on September 12, 19, and 23. However, they were either met with silence or blocked by INC security.
“The first time we went a month ago, we stood outside the gate in the wind and rain for hours and left frustrated,” Saguisag wrote. “We went 5 days later and found the gates still barred but without the security we dealt with the first time. There was a light at the left side which was quickly turned off. A voice we heard from the unopened side small gate and we pled for entry, in vain.”
“The following Friday, absolutely nothing, and we left after 20 minutes. No one to talk with at all,” he added.
Manalo and Hemedez claimed they have been harassed as they continue to assert their right to the property: Walls were built to enclose the compound, water supply has been shut down, and electricity bills left unpaid. (READ: After P1M unpaid Meralco bill, power cut in INC Manalo house)
Together with their respective families, the Manalo siblings have remained inside the QC compound since being expelled from the INC, following corruption allegations against the leadership.
The latest incident of harassment, according to a letter received by Saguisag and which was cited in the motion, was that INC security have deprived the families of Manalo and Hemedez of food usually delivered by Manalo’s father-in-law through a window.
“Ngayong araw na ito ay hindi na pinapayagan iabot sa bintana ang pagkain,” the letter stated. “Ang ginawa pong pagpapahirap ng INC ay naglatag sila ng la mesa sa harapan ng bahay at gusto nila ay lumabas ang tao sa bahay at dun sa la mesa sa labas kunin ang pagkain.”
(Today, they stopped allowing food to be given through a window. What the INC is doing now is that they put the food on top of a table in front of the house. They want us to go outside and get the food ourselves.)
The letter added that this is a strategy by the leadership to lure them out of their houses, and not be let back in.
Hemedez and the INC camp have been fighting over the two-hectare property for months.
The INC, however, said that their stay inside 36 Tandang Sora is illegal after the Metropolitan Trial Court Branch 12, in June 2016, ruled in their favor in an ejectment case against the Manalo siblings. (READ: Court orders Manalo siblings out of 36 Tandang Sora)
But in July, QC RTC Branch 43 denied the petition for writ of execution filed by the INC since Hemedez and Manalo were able to file their appeal within the prescribed period and weren’t required to pay bonds. (READ: QC Court: Manalo siblings can stay in 36 Tandang Sora)
Meanwhile, the INC Defenders Worldwide, in an open letter published on August 17, called on President Rodrigo Duterte to intervene and do something about the “human rights violations” involving the Manalo siblings. (READ: INC group asking for ‘Duterte intervention’ in church crisis?) – Jodesz Gavilan / Rappler.com