Cagayan de Oro City -- They may call their founder the "Divine Master" and be willing to die to protect his son. But members of the Philippine Benevolent Missionaries Association (PBMA) insist Ruben Ecleo Sr. did not found a cult.
The PBMA primer states it is "neither religion nor a sect." It describes PBMA as an association for brotherhood and charity.
"Members have been constantly urged to strengthen their faith and relations with the religion where they respectively belong," the primer adds.
The PBMA defines cult as a "system of religious worship" and a group "devoted to a person, principle, etc." The association does not fall under such category because it "does not practice any form of religious worship."
None of the Ecleos is being worshipped as a god although the PBMA admits its followers give their late founder and his successor, Ruben Jr., a "particular regard." Strong enough to defy cops with an arrest warrant for their leader.
Ruben Jr., PBMA "supreme president," is wanted for the January murder of his wife Alona in Cebu. He is believed to be hiding inside a well-fortified and guarded PBMA shrine in San Jose, a Surigao del Norte town on the impoverished island of Dinagat.
Ruben Jr.'s brother, Allan II is mayor of San Jose. His mother, Glenda, is a representative to Congress. Ruben Jr.'s close ties to power, and his family's friendship with Sen. Robert Barbers, have prompted warnings of a white wash.
Barbers over the weekend put his foot down and ordered cops to arrest Ecleo.
Following a conference with Caraga police Chief Alberto Olario, Barbers also called on Rep. Ecleo to surrender to her son.
Barbers "advised" Chief Supt. Olario to get the ex-mayor of San Jose, Surigao del Norte, after the congresswoman reportedly asked Caraga police not to serve an arrest warrant until the Court of Appeals (CA) decides on a petition for a temporary restraining order. Ruben Jr., through his lawyer, has questioned the arrest warrant issued by a Cebu court. Olario, after meeting with Barbers on Saturday afternoon, said the police would get Ruben Jr. in "a matter of days."
In a letter to this correspondent, Olario said the Caraga police were exhausting "methods and strategies to uphold the law without the necessity of resorting to forceful means".
Cops are wary of tangling with PBMA members, who have threa-tened to protect Ecleo Jr. "with our lives."
Although charged with parricide, Ecleo Jr., like his pa, is seen as a "rallying point in translating the aspirations of promoting world brotherhood, through benevolent practices, into actuality."
However, PBMA members note that calling the late Ecleo "divine master" and his successor-son "supreme president" and "master," does not mean the due are religious leaders.
But the PBMA admits that its members regard its founder as "one (who) is devoted to God", "supremely great", "holy" and "good", not to mention "miracle worker".
The elder Ecleo's "transfigurations," "healing powers," "ability to raise the dead," "accurately predict," and be "omnipresent" are the normal topics at the PBMA.
The group also teaches that, like the biblical Jesus Christ, their late founder was resurrected from the dead and appeared to nearly "half a million of his followers and friends" on two occasions, specifically in the evenings of Dec. 24 and Dec. 31, 1987.
The PBMA even claims Ruben Sr. had predicted the day of his death, his supposed resurrection and re-appearance.
It said the PBMA founder "re-appeared" four days after his death. The exact reason for Ecleo's death remains unclear to this day.
Although it was not clear where Ruben Sr. "re-appeared," the PBMA claims to have recorded the supposedly resurrected group founder "discoursing, admonishing, singing, and embracing close relatives and friends" on tape.
"And (how) do you call a person who, despite his humble origins and unknown beginnings, proved to have sucessfully cured (the) ailments of millions of people?" asks the PBMA.
The primer doesn't quite answer the question. The PBMA also admits that to other people, their late leader and founder gave an impression of being (a) misguided psychophant (sic) or a crazy charlatan, bent on working with invisible denizens from whose powers he made manifest his psychic influence."