‘Cult leader’ arrested in Cebu-A A +A
Wednesday, March 26, 2014
CEBU CITY -- The house of a suspected cult leader, who allegedly detained a woman for more than five years and buried a boy in a tunnel, was raided by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI)-Central Visayas in Balamban.
NBI supervising agent Rey Villordon said that the team arrested Casiano Legaspino Apduhan, 45, Wednesday morning inside his house in Sitio Laray 3, about four kilometers from the national highway in Barangay Buanoy.
Apduhan, who is known as Tatay Loloy Jr. by his followers, tried to hide when the agents entered the house. Villordon said that the alleged cult leader hid behind a door, then behind a refrigerator, then a sofa.
The NBI team rescued a woman in her 30s. They were assisted by the Provincial Women’s Commission, whose help the woman’s parents had sought. (Under the law against trafficking, the identity of an alleged victim has to be kept confidential.)
A body, believed to be that of Angelo Repuela, a teenager, was unearthed from an underground tunnel reportedly being dug by Apduhan’s followers in search of treasure. Conflicting reports placed Repuela’s age at 14 or 17.
NBI-Central Visayas medico-legal officer Dr. Rene Cam said they cannot determine yet what caused Repuela’s death.
Based on the body’s condition, “he’s been dead for over a year already,” said Cam. “We were looking for injuries that would suggest foul play but we were not able to find any. We can’t see any signs of strangulation or any incision in the neck.”
But Cam said they are not ruling out foul play yet.
“The investigators will be looking for witnesses to shed light on whether the boy was maltreated or not,” he said.
A witness to Repuela’s burial was instrumental in finding the boy’s body.
‘Not a cult’
In an interview, Apduhan denied detaining the woman or killing Repuela, 14. He said he had tried to cure Repuela’s illness.
“Wala ko kahibaw naa’y gilubong diha (I didn’t even know he was buried there),” he said. “Inosente ko. Wala ko nang slave ug wala pud ko magdapat (I am innocent. I have never enslaved nor hit anyone).”
He said his group is not a cult; that they still hear masses in Catholic churches and believe in saints.
“Wala’y relihiyong makaluwas,” he said. “Kondili pag-ampo lang (Religion does not save. Only prayer does).”
The group is known in the neighborhood as “Diyos Amahan (God the Father).” Apduhan said they are registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
When he grew up in the 1970s, Apduhan said, the religious group was led by his grandfather Casiano Lebron Legaspino.
Balamban Mayor Ace Stefan Binghay, in a separate interview, said that some members of Dios Amahan left the group after they were allegedly molested or beaten up.
“Uban ana mga minors pa gyud (Some of them were minors),” Binghay said.
Binghay visited the Capitol on Wednesday to inform Cebu Governor Hilario Davide III about the raid. He said that Apduhan, a former councilor of Barangay Buanoy, is already the third-generation leader of Dios Amahan.
There was no problem when his grandfather and then his father led the group, said the mayor.
Toledo City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 59 Judge Hermes Montero issued the search warrant for Wednesday’s operation after he “found probable cause and sufficient reason to believe” that Apduhan detained the woman for more than five years inside his house.
Judge Montero issued a separate search warrant for Repuela’s body.
Villordon said that the NBI has invited Apduhan’s driver, Victor Fajardo, 35, for questioning.
Agents found Apduhan’s identification cards from the Highway Patrol Group (HPG)-Central Visayas, guns, cell phones and documents.
Heddah Largo, a consultant of the Provincial Women’s Commission (PWC), said they rescued the woman after the latter’s parents asked for their help. She said that the woman will undergo stress debriefing.
The woman’s mother cried when she saw her daughter. She had been made to believe her daughter was working in Italy.
“Wa gyod ko magdahom naa ra diay siya diri (I never thought she was just here in our neighborhood all along),” the mother. The family lives in Barangay Buanoy.
Vice Governor Agnes Magpale, co-chairperson of the PWC, said it was a month ago when the woman’s parents came to her and asked for help.
“Kahibaw mo among role rescue ra man gyud (You know that our role is to organize the rescue). We never expected to bump into something deeper,” Magpale said.
Around 6 p.m. Wednesday, the rescued woman was presented to Davide, chairman of the PWC, in the governor’s office.
Accompanied by a social worker, the woman immediately left after the brief visit.
Davide asked members of any cult to come to the Province for help if they are molested.
But Apduhan, in an interview, said that it was the woman who had asked him to take her in because she was having problems with her family back then.
“Nihangyo siya nga ipa-deny ang iyang pag-anhi (She told us to tell everyone she didn’t come here),” he said. “Gitagaan namo og honor kay gipalakaw niya nga mo-abroad siya (We honored her request to have people believe she was abroad).”
The alleged cult leader further said he did not know about Repuela’s death. He said the boy’s parents were his followers, and that the father and another follower had admitted burying the boy in the tunnel.
A rival cult and his former followers framed him, Apduhan said.
Apduhan said he had received military training, before working as a “union-buster” in Balamban. He said he had also ventured into the livestock business.
He denied recruiting members, saying the people he healed would tell others of his “miracles” and “they would come to me.”
Aside from serious illegal detention and possible violations of the human trafficking law, Villordon said they are still considering what other complaints they will file against Apduhan. The alleged cult leader is now in their custody.
In a press conference Wednesday, Buanoy barangay captain Clyde Seblos said that former leaders of the cult merely led faith healing sessions, unlike what Apduhan is doing now.
Seblos said that most of the followers do not come from the barangay.
Mayor Binghay had heard there were members who worked for the cult but were not paid and were not well-fed. Instead, the members allegedly gave all their money to their leader.
These members were the ones tasked to dig the tunnel that was found in the compound, make cement blocks and clean the area. (Sun.Star Cebu)
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on March 27, 2014.