CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines – The elderly woman who was killed in a brutal cult ritual in Misamis Oriental in late August had identified shortly before she died in a hospital her grandsons as the ones who threw her into a pile of burning wood, prosecutors said in the parricide case they filed against 11 people linked to the grisly murder.
Prosecutors said this as they approved the filing of the parricide case against 11 cult members for the death of their matriarch, Teofila Camongay Cabusas.
The case, a copy of which Rappler secured on Monday, September 26, was prepared by assistant prosecutor Uldah Elisa Rebuta-Bonoan and approved by Provincial Prosecutor Irene Alejado-Meso. The case is now with the Regional Trial Court of Misamis Oriental Branch 41.
The victim’s daughter Erlinda Cabusas, who filed the case against the cult members, said her mother told her exactly who threw her into the fire.
She identified them as cult leader Cresanto Ercilla and his brother Romeo, and Teofila’s other grandchildren Charlie Cabusas and Reymer Carno.
The order came from Cresanto himself, she said.
Romeo subsequently signed an affidavit, stating that he only followed his brother Cresanto’s instructions because he was afraid of what the group would do to him if he refused. He was assisted by lawyer Cristina Teres Moreno-Ociones when he executed the sworn statement.
The four are among the 11 cult members detained and awaiting trial at the Misamis Oriental Provincial Jail in Cagayan de Oro City.
The other suspects are Teofila’s children Nicholas Cabusas, Rosalinda Cabusas, Merlinda Cabusas, and Cresanto’s mother Jocelyn, granddaughter Rochel Ercilla, and non-relatives Jeramil and Jesser Rotula.
Prosecutors said the evidence and sworn statements of the witnesses indicated that the cult members “had unity of intent when they committed the offense.”
Citing a witness’ account, prosecutors said the 21-year-old cult leader and his mother Jocelyn also took turns in throwing punches and hitting their matriarch after she crawled out of the flames.
Jocelyn was one of the children of Teofila who followed Cresanto in performing the cult ritual in the village of Baliwagan, Balingasag town in Misamis Oriental.
For each blow, the cultists told the badly injured matriarch, “Ila-ilaha si Master (Know the Master),” while they held images of the late Philippine Benevolent Christian Missionaries (PBCM) founder Tomas Eugenio Sr., a witness alleged in a sworn statement.
Major Teodoro de Oro, the Balingasag town police chief, said the brutal ritual included the recitation of Latin-sounding words and tribal-like dancing around the flames that were preceded by days of fasting and sleep deprivation.
Eugenio was seen as the embodiment of the Holy Spirit by members of the Misamis Oriental-based PBCM, and Cresanto has claimed to be possessed by the founder, and that supposedly made him their new spiritual leader.
But prosecutors hinted that a fit of deep-seated anger toward the victim by her children and grandchildren factored in the grisly murder that sparked an uproar in Misamis Oriental, and Cagayan de Oro which is more than 50 kilometers away from the crime scene.
They said Teofila’s children and grandchildren blamed her for their family misfortunes.
In an affidavit, Jonathan Cabusas, one of the victim’s grandchildren, said he tried to help the injured matriarch, but Cresanto threatened to have him thrown into the fire, too.
Jonathan, 20, said he cowered in fear and horror as he watched his cousins, uncles, and aunts perform the violent ritual.
He said his relatives were already performing the cult ritual when he was awakened at around 3 am on August 26.
Jonathan said his grandmother was grimacing in pain because of her burns but Cresanto had her dance with the cult leader’s mother while the others surrounded them.
He alleged that as the old woman’s skin began to swell because of her burns, the cultists splashed water on her while shouting that their matriarch was a “sinner.”
Jonathan said he was helpless until their neighbors came, and stopped the cultists, allowing him to bring his badly injured grandmother to his mother Erlinda’s house in a neighboring community.
It was Erlinda who sought help in bringing her mother to a hospital and reported the matter to the Balingasag police.
Erlinda, in her affidavit, said the victim, a devout PBCM member, told her that the cultists were angered by her refusal to acknowledge Cresanto as Eugenio’s successor. – Rappler.com