INC wants Manalo doctors accompanied by New Era staff

MANILA, Philippines – Citing security concerns, the Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) wants doctors entering the contested 36 Tandang Sora compound in Quezon City to be accompanied by medical staff from the INC-run New Era Hospital.

During proceedings at the Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 222 on Wednesday, February 24, INC lawyer Serafin Cuevas Jr said the church is presenting its final proposal to Lottie Manalo-Hemedez, the estranged sister of INC executive minister Eduardo Manalo. 

The church's offer: to allow doctors chosen by Hemedez to enter the compound with prior notification, and accompanied by personnel from the New Era Hospital.

"Other than that, there is no other option acceptable to the petitioner," Cuevas told Judge Edgar Damacio Santos.

Cuevas said the church earlier offered to have the residents of the compound be treated at the New Era Hospital.

Hemedez' counsels were no-shows at the hearing.

The issue involving the entry of doctors to 36 Tandang Sora is part of the case currently being heard by the Quezon City court, in relation to the petition for injunction earlier filed by the INC in September 2015, asking the court to ban visitors to the compound.

In a February 9 hearing, the church withdrew its prayer for a temporary restraining order. It also agreed with the Hemedez camp's request to allow doctors and dentists to enter the compound to examine and treat members of the Manalo family.

The INC only asked for the names of the doctors to be provided at least 24 hours before a scheduled visit. The doctors must also show proof of identification.

Fears of inaccurate diagnosis

Cuevas assured the court that the presence of New Era medical staff would not affect doctor-patient confidentiality, after Damacio noted that it was a "complicated matter" to have a doctor's diagnosis and medical examination be observed.

Asked to explain why medical staff should accompany doctors chosen by Hemedez, Cuevas said they have concerns that any medical findings "may not be accurate."

"We hate to sound suspicious, but they might exaggerate the diagnosis," Cuevas said.

To this, Santos asked: "If that's the case, what's the fear?"

Cuevas said that the issue might get "blown out of proportion," recalling how Hemedez' camp has repeatedly claimed that they were living in "inhuman" conditions inside the compound.

Since being expelled from the church in July 2015, the Manalo siblings have been living inside the compound. But they have cried harassment from the INC, saying they are being walled in with the construction of high fences, and their electricity and water supply cut off.

Santos then asked: "So your concern is not so much security?"

Cuevas answered that their fears of inaccurate medical diagnoses are additional concerns.

The INC has raised this same argument before, asking from the respondents a list of the people going in and out of the compound.

But Hemedez' camp had earlier refused these requests, pointing out that the church has not complied with their demands to restore electricity and stop construction of high walls within the compound.

They also said that the ownership of the property is being contested. While the INC claims that the property has been theirs since the 1970s, Hemedez has also set her own claim through the land title she owns and the precedent set by her father. (READ: Who owns 36 Tandang Sora? Manalo sister questions INC claims)

She has also filed a complaint for falsification of public documents against her own brother over an allegedly falsified deed of sale that supposedly transferred the Tandang Sora property to the church. –