Masked men threaten media covering Iglesia conflict

(UPDATED) A masked man tells a Rappler production specialist to leave immediately 'kung ayaw mo ng gulo'

KEEPING WATCH. Police wait outside 36 Tandang Sora. Rappler photo

KEEPING WATCH. Police wait outside 36 Tandang Sora. Rappler photo

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Random masked men and police drove away a Rappler researcher and production specialist at 36 Tandang Sora, the subject of conflicting ownership claims within the Iglesia ni Cristo (INC).

At 8 am Thursday, March 2, police entered the contested Tandang Sora compound supposedly armed with a search warrant. Later in the day, Angel Manalo, younger brother of Iglesia ni Cristo Executive Minister Eduardo Manalo, told Rappler the policemen could not show them a search warrant.

Barangay Councilor Jerry Gonzales said the police alerted them about an "operation" but he did not know the purpose of that operation. More than 20 policemen stood waiting outside the gate of the property Thursday morning.

“Pagdating namin meron nang nakapasok na tropa natin sa loob…Dito lang naman kami sa perimeters…Kasi yung team nila nandoon, hindi naman kami kasama sa team nila sa loob,” he told Rappler.

(When we arrived, they were already inside… We're just here around the perimeter [of 36 Tandang Sora]...Because their team is inside, we are not part of the team.)

At past 9:30 am, Rappler researcher Rambo Talabong was interrogated by barangay officials and was asked to leave. His phone was taken away from him and returned only on condition he rode a tricycle. He was also asked to delete photos from his phone.

"Hinablot po ang phone ko habang papalayo ako. Humingi po ako ng tulong sa police na naka-standby. Wala pong reaction," Talabong said. (They grabbed my phone while I was walking away. I asked help from the police on standby but there was no reaction.)

Talabong rode a tricycle and was escorted by a barangay official to the Templo Central police station.