Are the Manalo siblings trying to spy on INC?

SNOOPING AROUND? INC spokesperson Edwil Zabala shows photos of alleged spying equipment hidden inside deliveries to Angel and Lottie Manalo at 36 Tandang Sora

The stand-off at the 36 Tandang Sora property in Quezon City continues.

Both the influential Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) and Lottie Manalo-Hemedez, estranged sister of executive minister Eduardo Manalo, are claiming ownership of the two-hectare compound. 

On Saturday, June 18, INC spokesperson Edwil Zabala revealed that the Manila Metropolitan Trial Court had ordered Hemedez, her brother Angel, and their relatives to “immediately leave” the property after the court ruled in favor of the INC over an illegal detainer case filed against the siblings.

This is a separate case from the falsification of public documents case that Hemedez filed against the church, accusing the INC of faking a deed of sale that transferred ownership of 36 Tandang Sora to the church.

As Hemedez and Angel continue to stay inside their residence, they allege harassment from the INC – from cutting their access to water and electricity, building high fences around the area, to pumping sewage water inside the compound. 

The siblings rely on their supporters outside who deliver supplies to 36 Tandang Sora, but not without the tight inspection from INC-deployed security guards. 

During Saturday’s press conference, Zabala said they have a legitimate reason for doing so, saying they discovered electronic devices and wires hidden among the deliveries. 

SPYING EQUIPMENT? Some electronic devices that INC claims they found hidden inside the deliveries for the Manalo siblings. Photo by Mara Cepeda/Rappler

SPYING EQUIPMENT? Some electronic devices that INC claims they found hidden inside the deliveries for the Manalo siblings.

Photo by Mara Cepeda/Rappler

WIRE. The INC also shows a photo of a wire supposedly retrieved from the supplies being sent to the Manalos. Photo by Mara Cepeda/Rappler

WIRE. The INC also shows a photo of a wire supposedly retrieved from the supplies being sent to the Manalos.

Photo by Mara Cepeda/Rappler

“I have here an example of pizza being delivered. And after the pizza was examined, underneath the pizza, you can see certain ingredients which are not usually used in pizza, but which we later learned are parts of something else,” said Zabala, flashing photos before the media.

He said the photos they took, however, were taken sometime between February and March.

NOT JUST PIZZA? The INC flashes photos of a pizza box beling delivered to the Manalos that allegedly contained electronic devices. Photo by Mara Cepeda/Rappler

NOT JUST PIZZA? The INC flashes photos of a pizza box beling delivered to the Manalos that allegedly contained electronic devices.

Photo by Mara Cepeda/Rappler

INC lawyer Moises Tolentino Jr said they find these items, which they claim are either part of a drone or a listening device, to be “very suspicious." 

“We believe we have to be very careful about any objects being brought inside the premises of 36 Tandang Sora which is very close to the central offices of the church,” said Tolentino.

“We are wondering why they will try to smuggle in listening device that from our study, will have a range of some 300 meters. They seem to be intending to snoop around in the compound through these listening devices,” the lawyer added.

Who’s threatening whom? 

Sought for comment, Hemedez’s lawyer Trixie Cruz-Angeles said they are not aware that materials apart from food, water, and basic supplies are being sent to the Manalo siblings.

“Secondly, our clients own the property. They are entitled to deliveries of any kind that should not be subject to the inspection of the guards,” said Angeles. 

She also questioned why the INC only decided to show the photos months after they supposedly took the pictures.

Zabala said guards need to check the deliveres to the Manalos because 36 Tandang Sora is, according to him, part of the INC’s central office. 

“And if you have the chance to visit the central office compound of the Iglesia ni Cristo, you know that visitors are asked to allow their belongings to be checked before we allow them to enter the compound, to bring in anything to the compound. So those same procedures are applied in securing the gate outside of 36 Tandang Sora,” said Zabala. 

But Angeles does not think the Manalos are posing any security threats to the INC, turning the tables on the church.

“Who has armed guards? Who has dogs? Please lang. It’s very clear which people are making threats,” she said. 

‘Show your evidence’ 

Zabala also commented on the Manalo siblings’ claims that the INC is pumping sewage water inside 36 Tandang Sora to force them out. 

‘Yung sinasabi nila ay malayo sa katotohan na kaya nilang patunayan. Sila ang may alegasyon, sila ang dapat magbigay ng pruweba,” said Zabala. 

(What they’re saying is far from the truth that they can possibly prove. They made the allegations so they should provide the evidence.)

Rappler obtained photos taken inside 36 Tandang Sora from the Manalo camp. In the pictures, black water and mud are seen splattered on the stairs and over the floors inside the Manalo house.  

Zabala said the INC is ready to defend itself should the Manalo siblings bring the photos to court.  

Sino ba ang dapat duminig? Kung ‘yung mga photos na ‘yun na nilagay sa social media ay dadalhin nila sa proper forum, handa ang Iglesia na harapin ‘yun,” he said.

(Who should be the judge? If those photos they posted on social media will be brought before the proper forum, the Iglesia is ready to face them.)

Meanwhile, in a report by the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Zabala claimed that the Manalo siblings refused to allow representatives from the Commission on Human Rights to enter the premises.  

“They actively sought the help of the Commission, yet when the CHR appears at their doorstep these expelled church members always give all sorts of excuses not to let the investigators in,” said Zabala. 

“That is the classic conduct of people who are hiding something. They do not want the truth to be known,” he added. – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the House of Representatives and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.

image