MANILA, Philippines – The Manila Metropolitan Trial Court (MeTC) has ordered Lottie Manalo-Hemedez and Angel Manalo, the estranged siblings of Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) executive minister Eduardo Manalo, to leave their residence at 36 Tandang Sora.
INC spokesperson Brother Edwil Zabala made the announcement in a press conference at the lobby of INC-owned Eagle Broadcasting Corporation on Saturday, June 18.
"This week, we received the decision in favor of the church finding for the plaintiff and ordering the defendants to 'immediately vacate' the premises," Zabala said.
In a 6-page decision, Manila MeTC Branch 12 Presiding Judge Anne Perpetual Rivera-Sia said the Manalos should surrender 36 Tandang Sora to the INC after the church filed an illegal detainer case against the siblings on January 14. (READ: INC mulls ejectment case vs Manalos over Tandang Sora lot)
Sia said the siblings' stay at their residence is no longer legal after they have been expelled from the INC.
"Based on the allegations, defendants' stay in the property is based on tolerance. Defendants' occupation of the property was initially lawful but later on turned illegal due to their refusal to vacate the property after lawful demand," said Sia.
The judge also ordered the Manalo siblings to pay the INC P2,420 for filing the illegal detainer case.
INC lawyer Moises Tolentino Jr said, however, that the court decision can only be fully carried out once the Manila MeTC grants their petition for a writ of execution, which they filed this week.
The Manila MeTC rendered the illegal detainer case decision for the Quezon City MeTC Branch 43. All civil cases raffled to the Quezon City MeTC were forwarded to the Manila MeTC pursuant to a Supreme Court resolution on the designation of assisting courts.
"We gladly welcome this recent decision as another vindication of the church," said Zabala.
Hemedez and Angel were expelled from the INC after Angel, together with their mother Tenny, claimed a threat to their lives in a YouTube video released in July 2015.
It started a series of corruption and abduction accusations against the 101-year-old church, the worst crisis to hit the influential INC in years.
After their expulsion, the Manalo siblings have been cooped up inside the Quezon City compound, a subject of a separate competing ownership claims case before the Quezon City Regional Trial Court (RTC) between Hemedez and the INC.
The INC has repeatedly denied the claims.
'Dangerous mind conditioning'
File photo by Alecs Ongcal/Rappler
Hemedez's lawyer, Trixie Cruz-Angeles, said they have received a copy of the Manila MeTC decision, but called out the INC for holding the press conference.
"We have received the decision, but I also consider the holding of a press con rather a dangerous mind-conditioning on the part of the Iglesia since they know there are other legal remedies available to us," she told Rappler in a phone interview.
Angeles said that the INC move to request a writ of execution from the Manila MeTC "admits that the decision does not stand by itself."
"By holding a press conference in the absence of one is dangerous on their part because it sends a message to state authorities that the INC might ask assistance from. Why are they only doing this now?" said Angeles, who is worried that her clients might be prematurely forced out of their residence.
She added that the illegal detainer case "does not answer" and is "not a threat" to the ongoing ownership case involving 36 Tandang Sora.
Ownership claims over 36 Tandang Sora
File photo by Mark Saludes/Rappler
Hemedez is accusing the INC of faking a deed of sale that transferred the two-hectare Tandang Sora property to the church.
Hemedez said this could not have been done because the document, dated April 2015, supposedly bore her signature and that of her late husband, who died in 2013.
According to a May 24 report of Eagle News, an INC-run news agency, the Quezon City Prosecutor's Office dismissed the complaint for insufficient evidence. The Manalos, however, have not yet received a copy of the resolution.