16 cultists killed in Bukidnon clash

Philippine Star / August 13, 2000
By Roel Pareño and Jaime Laude

At least 16 fanatics of a religious cult, three militiamen and a civilian volunteer were killed the other day in a clash that erupted in a remote barangay in Pangantocan town in Bukidnon as police tried to arrest a cult member wanted for attempted murder.

Two other militiamen were wounded in the fighting. Reports reaching Manila said the policemen went to a colony of the Catholic God Spirit sect, more popularly known as Tadtad, in the hinterland village of Kimanait to serve the arrest order on Roberto Madrina Jr. But the cultists, armed with bolos and home-made guns, intervened, resulting in the clash.

The encounter left Madrina and 15 other cult members dead, along with the three militiamen and the civilian volunteer. Army Capt. Charlemagne Batayola, spokesman for the military's Southern Command, said the incident occurred at about 2 p.m. on Friday at Sitio Kimanait in Barangay Kumanaon.

Batayola said a joint police-military force accompanied by Pangantocan Vice Mayor Manuel Silva tried to serve the warrant on Madrina, but other members of the cult resisted.

The fighting ensued after the law enforcers, upon orders of their superiors, tried to arrest the cultists for illegal possession of firearms. Killed on the government side were militiamen Noli Villanueva, Rodolfo Caburnay and Salonito Periodico, and civilian volunteer Sergio Garcia Jr. who acted as the group's guide in going to Kumanaon. The names of the slain cultists were not immediately available. Wounded were Romeo Bautista and Nicolas Molina, both members of the Citizens Armed Force Geographical Unit.

Tadtad groups gained notoriety at the height of the Muslim insurgency in Mindanao in the late 60s and early 70s for their role as government mercenaries to help the military fight the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) guerrillas.

The MNLF forged a peace treaty with the government in September 1996. The cults were called tadtad because of their ritual of cutting their forearm with a sharp bolo as a test for total absolution after making a confession of sins with their high priest called Ama or Papa (Father) by his followers. They believed that complete absolution would make them invulnerable to knife attacks.

If the knife leaves a wound on the forearm, it indicates that the devotee is not yet totally cleanse, and has to go through the same ritual all over again. Hence, it is not uncommon to see Tadtad followers having numerous scars on their arms. -

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