Philippine Benevolent Missionaries Association

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The Philippine Benevolent Missionaries Association (PBMA) is a pseudo-Christian cult founded by Ruben Ecleo, Sr. in 1965 on the Philippine island of Dinagat, off the coast of Mindanao. Since being chartered in 1965, the PBMA has virtually turned the entire island into a fiefdom of the Ecleos. Upon the senior Ecleo's death in 1987 he was succeeded by his son Ruben Ecleo, Jr. Considered by followers to be a reincarnation of Jesus Christ, Ecleo has an estimated one million members in the central and southern Philippines.[1] The PBMA has been referred to as a cult by the BBC[1] and the Manila Times.[2] The Manila Times estimates the group has raised at least P35 million in entrance fees from its members since its founding.[2]

Beliefs[edit]

According to sect doctrine, Ecleo Sr. was trained by "voices" to fluently read and write Arabic, Hebrew, Sanskrit, and Aramaic, in order to interpret the ancient mysteries. He also made predictions of the future based on Akashic records. PBMA followers also viewed Ecleo Sr. as a Christ-like figure, who could accomplish anything by reciting the Mantra, and like the Christ of the Bible, was also able to resurrect the dead. Ecleo's healing abilities were stated to have directly come from "our Divine Father by virtue of the sacred or divine prayers which are called in Occultism as Mantras." [2]

Sect leaders also stated that Ecleo Sr. has since his childhood been simultaneously present in many disparate locations, possibly as many different people. An example was his doing missionary work in Agusan del Sur, while also traveling in the province of Samar. All of his different persona possessed the ability to heal like the "Lord Jesus who first applied these powers in Judea..."[2]

Clashes with law enforcement[edit]

Group members described by local media organizations as heavily armed and willing to die for their leader are thwarting police efforts to arrest Ecleo. A source for the Manila Times reported that armed PBMA members have made an oath to protect the "master," referring to Ecleo, who was evading police efforts to arrest him for the murder of his wife, Alona Bacolod Ecleo, a fourth year medical student. Alona was found strangled in a rubbish bag at the bottom of a cliff on Cebu island in January 2002.[2]

Parricide and Graft Cases[edit]

Ecleo was arrested after a bloody raid by law enforcement on Dinaget on June 19, 2002. Gunfire had erupted as a joint force of Philippine National Police and troopers from the Philippine Army's 20th Infantry Battalion moved in to serve an arrest warrant. The raid had begun after negotiations had broken down and approximately 2,000 PBMA followers had surrounded Ecelo's mansion and barred all access. A firefight with Ecleo's elite team of bodyguards, known as the "White Eagles", then erupted and lasted through the night. Ecleo finally surrendered to police the next morning at 9 a.m. The gun battle during the night left 23 dead, including 1 police SWAT officer, and 16 armed PBMA members. During the raid, four members of his dead wife's family were gunned down by a member of the PBMA security force in a possible cover-up attempt; the assailant was killed by police moments later, while attempting to flee the scene.[3]

In October 2006, the Sandiganbayan sentenced Ecleo, Jr. to thirty years in prison for entering a 1993 government contract in which the government lost about P2.4 million. He was found guilty of three counts of violation of the Republic Act 3019. His co-defendants, Anadelia Nalauan-Navarra and Ricardo Santillan, were convicted of twice violating the anti-graft laws and sentenced to six to ten years for each count.[4]

Ecleo faces the parricide case before the Cebu City Regional Trial Court, Branch 23. However, the case dragged because 6 judges inhibited. On April 25, 2008, 6th Judge Geraldine Faith Econg per 24-page resolution inhibited herself amid accusations and her own admission that 2 women approached her to ask how much would she need in payment for dropping the case.[5]

Other violence[edit]

There is often violence between the PBMA, other Christian groups, and the security forces in the islands. Such an incident occurred when approximately one hundred members of the rival Pulahan sect launched an assault on a PBMA shrine on the island of Dinagat, in turn two hundred PBMA members counterattacked and hacked to death ten Pulahan followers as well as their leader Edecio Quinanola.[6]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Philippines shoot-out leaves 17 dead BBC News June 19, 2002
  2. ^ a b c d e "PBMA founder a 'Christ-like' figure" Manila Times Gomez, Herbie June 9, 2002
  3. ^ 23 Surigao Cultists Killed as Law Enforcers Arrest Ruben Ecleo, Jr. Serrano, Ben Echeminada, Perseus Philippine Star June 20, 2002
  4. ^ Cult leader gets 30 years in prison for corruption Manila Times Torres, Tetch October 14, 2006
  5. ^ www.gmanews.tv/story, Another Cebu court judge inhibits self from Ecleo case
  6. ^ Filipino cultists hacked to death BBC News December 15, 2000

External links[edit]