Where is Filipino ‘faith healer’ now?

BANGALORE: Even doctors agree that faith can heal. But when faith healers become brands bigger than the faith itself, they tend to court controversy.

The Benny Hinn episode, which is still unravelling itself in Bangalore, is mired in a controversy not the first of its kind in Karnataka.

In August 2002, a controversy rocked Bangalore when Reverend Alex N. Orbito, a Filipino, claimed to have the powers to heal any disease under the sun with his ‘psychic surgery‘ methods.

Orbito did not stand on religion; his methods bordered on modern medicine. During his performances, he dug his fingers into stomachs of ‘patients’ mouths or any other ‘affected’ body part, and fished out tissue-like substances. Incidentally, Orbito and his organisers did not run into trouble with religious fundamentalists. Rationalists proved to be his nemesis.

Having got wind of the suspect nature of ‘psychic surgery’, Jagadish Sadam and other rationalists filed a complaint with the principal city civil and session’s judge alleging that the healing event was a trick. The court ordered the organisers not to hold the ‘psychic surgery’.

But, with Orbito’s organisers, including medical professionals, wielding political clout, the ‘psychic surgery’ went ahead. Orbito also worked his ‘magic’ in Vidhana Soudha, the homes of ministers and film stars, Town Hall and a 5-star hotel. Then health minister Maalaka Raddy, police commissioner H.T. Sangliana, politicians M.V. Venkatappa, P.G.R. Sindhia were among those ‘treated’.

Finally, the rationalists filed a contempt of court petition against Orbito and his organisers, and an arrest warrant was issued. However, the Filipino managed to elude arrest and leave the country. After he fled, the govt officially declared him a quack and buried the issue. A follow-up of his patients showed those with serious illnesses continued to be ill.

Like Orbito, there are plenty of home-grown healers who have courted trouble for their dubious distinctions. Bagalkot ‘spiritual healer’ Aslam Baba is one recent case. Arrested on charges of quackery, he was recently asked by the HC to prove the efficacy of his methods.

Of course, for every faith healer in the dock, there are a dozen more performing tricks unabashed, even as a four-decade old anti-quackery Bill for Karnataka remains in cold storage.

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