Let CH settle issues on Salva Me: Vidal

Sun Star/January 13, 2003

Cebu, Philippines -- Archbishop Ricardo Cardinal Vidal is leaving the issues of the "cult" in Barangay Buhisan, Cebu City to the City Government, but he asked local officials to help Salva Me Pater Omnis Oculos Meus members who reportedly suffered because of their leader.

Following reports that children were made to work and women were sexually abused, Vidal said the City Government should assist residents of Buhisan and investigate the sect that a former military volunteer, Alfredo Verano, heads.

Vidal also asked the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to examine the excavations the cult allegedly created, lest it damage the environment there.

"I do not know what their purpose is& If that is the case (that people are being maltreated), then it is up to the government to do something about it. The government must try to do something, especially the DENR, because it might affect our watersheds," he told Sun.Star.

Fr. Gerardo Matela, former parish priest of Barangay Lamac in Pinamungajan town, said cults usually develop in mountain barangays, "where the people's innocence and ignorance are easily taken advantage of."

Speaking from his experience in Lamac, where the religious cult Sagrada de Familia was in conflict with the Roman Catholic Church, Matela said it is sometimes better to let cults be to avoid conflict.

He stressed, however, that their activities should not be tolerated.

"Tarongon lang gyud ni sila og dala. Para malikayan ang kasamok, what I did was gipasagdan na lang nako sila but the cult and their activities should not be tolerated. Also, we were always cautious of their every move," he said.

While some people may be lured to these cults, Vidal said they should be wary of what the leaders ask of them, recalling that there was once a kind of sect that predicted an upheaval in their community.

The leader and members then agreed to sell all their properties and left for another place.

"But nothing happened. You see, the Catholic Church, of course, is always respectful of the rights of the people but if it is a sect, then we expect that they are supposed to serve the people to the best of their ability, as we also try to do in the church. But not by asking unreasonable things from the people," Vidal added.

Since he does not have first-hand information on the activities and the nature of the cult in Buhisan, the cardinal said he will ask the Buhisan parish priest to brief him on the existence of Salva Me Pater Omnis Oculos Meus.

Some residents of Buhisan have asked the City Government to force the cult to relocate, accusing them of various illegal acts in a petition signed by at least 147 people.

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