A Quezon City trial court has issued a “watch list” order against 24 expelled members of the Iglesia Ni Cristo currently facing criminal charges for illegal possession of firearms and ordered the Bureau of Immigration not to allow all the accused from leaving the country unless permitted by a court order.
In a Jan. 23, 2018 Order, Judge Luisito G. Cortez of RTC Quezon City Branch 84 also ordered the BI to submit reports of past and present travel itineraries of former-INC members facing criminal raps.
Those criminally charged include Felix Nathaniel “Angel” Manalo and Lolita Manalo-Hemedez, younger brother and sister of INC Executive Minister Eduardo Manalo, plus 22 others who were recommended to be prosecuted by the QC Prosecutor’s Office before a court of justice after finding probable cause that they “wilfully, unlawfully and knowingly” committed the enumerated crimes.
According to the police, the younger Manalos and their companions indiscriminately fired at a law enforcement team validly serving a search warrant in an area covered by the INC property in Quezon City last March.
Authorities confiscated 26 shotguns, seven caliber .22 guns, two M-16 rifles and one M1 carbine, all loaded with live ammunition, immediately after last year’s incident.
Two of the younger Manalos’ co-accused, Jonathan Ledesma and Joseph Sabbacula, are also facing frustrated murder and direct assault charges for shooting and wounding two members of a Special Weapons and Tactics team.
A veteran QC-based litigator who spoke on the condition of anonymity lamented how friends and supporters of the accused have used the press and social media to malign those prosecuting the case, including the trial court judge.
“They are willfully undermining the whole judicial process by spreading unfounded lies about the judge and fiscals trying the case,” a veteran lawyer said.
“The supporters or Angel Manalo and company are doing this because they know they have a better chance of winning in the court of public opinion as by now they realize they will have difficulty winning in a court of law. The judge should be left alone to decide on the merits of the case,” added the lawyer,
The latest court order on the travel watch list also noted that “of 24 accused only nine have been apprehended and others might have been intending to abscond to avoid the processes of the Court.”