Philippine Benevolent Missionaries Association
Philippine Benevolent Missionaries Association, Inc.
The Philippine Benevolent Missionaries Association, Inc. (PBMA) is a non-sectarian and non-profit charitable religious fraternal organization for men and women in the Philippines founded by Ruben Edera Ecleo Sr. (December 9, 1934 – December 20, 1987) in 1965 on the Philippine island of Dinagat, off the coast of Mindanao. Upon the senior Ecleo's death in 1987, he was succeeded by his son Ruben B. Ecleo Jr., who died in prison on May 13, 2021, after being convicted of killing his wife in 2002.
As of 2013, the group claimed to have 140,000 members. It was registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), in Makati, Philippines on October 19, 1965 under Registration No. 28042. Its main office is located at San Jose, Province of Dinagat Islands.
The Manila Times estimates the group has raised at least PHP 35 million in entrance fees from its members since its founding.
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."
Sect leaders also stated that Ecleo Sr. had 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".
Parricide case and raid
Group members, described by local media organizations as heavily armed and willing to die for their leader, made effort to thwart police efforts to arrest Ruben Ecleo Jr. A source for the Manila Times reported that armed PBMA members made an oath to protect the "supreme master" (Ecleo), who was evading police efforts to arrest him for the murder of his wife, Alona Bacolod-Ecleo, a fourth-year medical student. Bacolod-Ecleo was found strangled in a rubbish bag at the bottom of a cliff in Cebu in January 2002.
Ecleo Jr. was arrested after a bloody raid by law enforcement in Dinagat on June 19, 2002. Gunfire had erupted, as a joint force of PNP officers 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 at 9:00 am the following day.
The gun battle during the night left 23 dead, including one police SWAT officer and 16 armed PBMA members. During the raid, four members of his dead wife's family, including Candy Ecleo, 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.
Ecleo Jr. faced the parricide case before the Cebu City Regional Trial Court, Branch 23. However, the case dragged on because six judges recused. On April 25, 2008, the sixth judge, Geraldine Faith Econg, per a 24-page resolution, recused herself amid accusations and her own admission that two women approached her to ask how much would she need in payment for dropping the case.
There is often violence between the PBMA, other Christian groups, and the security forces in the islands. Such an incident occurred in 2000 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.
Graft and corruption case
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 PHP 2.4 million. He was found guilty of three counts of violating 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.
- ^ Musico, Jelly (May 13, 2021). "Cult leader Ecleo dies". Philippine News Agency. Retrieved September 17, 2022.
- ^ Tupaz, Voltaire (May 5, 2013). "Dinagat: The hands that heal hold power". Rappler. Retrieved September 17, 2022.
- ^ "Philippines shoot-out leaves 17 dead". BBC News. June 19, 2002. Retrieved September 17, 2022.
- ^ a b c d "PBMA founder a 'Christ-like' figure" Manila Times Gomez, Herbie June 9, 2002[dead link]
- ^ Serrano, Ben; Echeminada, Perseus (January 20, 2002). "23 Surigao Cultists Killed as Law Enforcers Arrest Ruben Ecleo, Jr". Ross Institute for the Study of Destructive Cults, Controversial Groups and Movements. The Philippine Star. Archived from the original on January 5, 2003. Retrieved September 17, 2022.
- ^ "Another Cebu court judge inhibits self from Ecleo case". GMA News. Retrieved September 17, 2022.
- ^ "Filipino cultists hacked to death". BBC News. December 15, 2000. Retrieved September 17, 2022.
- ^ Cult leader gets 30 years in prison for corruption Manila Times Torres, Tetch October 14, 2006[dead link]