Police in pursuit of religious group’s leader

KIDAPAWAN CITY — Military and police authorities in North Cotabato have intensified their manhunt against a leader of a religious sect who allegedly ordered the attack on a remote village in Makilala town that killed one and injured two other members.

Makilala police chief Leo Ajero identified the leader as Felicisima Galope, head of a breakaway group of the Alpha and Omega, a religious group founded in the early 1960s by a certain Moncado in Barangay New Israel, Makilala.

A member of the group that joined the attack last Saturday told authorities that Galope ordered them to launch the assault against one Lovely Paraiso, the ‘supreme master’ of the Alpha and Omega and the village chair of New Israel.

Galope used to work as the group’s pastor an area including the villages of San Vicente and San Nicolas, both in Makilala. Due to alleged ‘irreconcilable’ differences, Galope cut off ties with Paraiso.

Reports said that Galope, one of the original members of the religious group, could no longer ‘swallow’ the policies imposed by Paraiso when she took the position after the death of her father, Pastor Maximo Sandot Gabernas, in 1992. Pastor Gabernas was also called ‘Moncado’.

Paraiso’s father, a former Catholic believer, founded Alpha and Omega in 1942 and claimed that it was God who ordered him to form a ‘new Israel’ in Makilala, then a remote village of Kidapawan.

The site was said to be God’s chosen place for his new 12 tribes. Residents of Barangay New Israel were all believers of Alpha and Omega and called themselves Moncadista, meaning, believer of Pastor Gabernas or Moncado.

Members of the group are ‘vegetarians’ as they are not allowed to eat cooked meat, fish, and even cereals, including rice.

On New Year’s eve, Galope allegedly ordered one of her leaders identified as Andres Alboro and 10 of her followers to attack Barangay New Israel, allegedly to kill Paraiso.

Armed with bladed weapons, Alboro and 10 of his of his men entered Barangay New Israel.

In a bid to convince Alboro’s group to drop the plan, elements of the Citizens Armed Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU) and armed civilians blocked them from entering the village.

Alboro, however, would not heed to their call and instead ordered his men to advance.

Paraiso, when interviewed over radio station DXND, said the CAFGU elements had no choice but to cripple Alboro. Alboro died due to multiple gunshot wounds. Two of his men were injured.

Hours later, when elements of the Army’s 39th Infantry Battalion launched an all-out pursuits against Alboro’s group in Makilala, they arrested eight members identified as Eladio Celes Mella, 65; Ernesto Celes Mella, 47; Erwin Palatas, 20; Godofredo Celes Mella, 55; Favio Marsala, 47; Kenrick Alicos, 17; Joel Galupe Bacalzo, 31; and Macario Curatao.

Two of Alboro’s members identified as Domingo Rato, 70; and Pedro Tormis, 16, voluntarily surrendered to authorities on Sunday, around 3 p.m..

Galope, authorities said, is still nowhere to be found.

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