PAOCTF rescues 2 young girls from religious cult

Philippine Star, January 30, 2000
By Lino Dela Cruz

ILIGAN CITY -- Two young girls were rescued yesterday from a cult group in Barangay Bogongon, this city by the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Task Force (PAOCTF).

This came as government operatives are looking for leads to reports that three other children subjected to abuse by the "Ministry of the Followers of Yawheh" had died in the cult camp. The allegation was made by a minor who had escaped from the camp earlier.

Rescued were Iris Querwina, 12, and Anna Dominique Querwina, 18. Both said they joined the cult, based in a remote mountain camp in Barangay Bogongon, some six years ago.

The raiding team headed by Maj. Leonie Roy Ga and Maj. Celso Regencia said they also found in the camp about 21 children aged from below seven to 13 years old. All looked emaciated, according to the two PAOCTF officials. Col. Graciano Mijares, PAOCTF-Iligan chief, said his men also arrested Fidencio Trani, 68, the suspected leader of the cult, his wife Jazmin, 57, Dr. Alma Buenavista and Lani Canumay.

Social Welfare Officer Necitas Acla said officers of the cult are facing charges of child abuse or violation of Republic Act 7610. She said that among the violations allegedly committed by the cult leaders are employing child labor, labor without pay, physical abuse and other forms of maltreatment of minors.

Acla said most of the children at the camp were emaciated because of lack of food and hard labor.

Trani, however, denied that there is child abuse at the camp. He claimed that the work they had assigned to the children were "part of God's plan." Meanwhile, PAOCTF agents also rescued in Davao City a 15-year-old daughter of a Leyte businessman Thursday after 26 days in captivity. Brig. Gen. Librado Ladia, Marine Forces south and concurrent PAOCTF-Mindanao 1 chief, identified the rescued teenager as Syra Geven Culminar, of Borawi, Leyte.

The victim was kidnapped by five men in Blonaray, Leyte, last Jan. 2 and was taken to Davao City.

PAOCTF elements led by Maj. Ronald dela Cruz who had been tracking down the suspects discovered the kidnappers' lair in a remote village in Davao. However, the kidnappers abandoned their captive after sensing the presence of the authorities.

Ladia said the young victim was immediately taken to a hospital and was later sent back to Leyte where she was reunited with her family. -- With Roel Pareno

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