Fear of alleged cult members out to abduct and kill young children has caused attendance in some schools in northern Negros to drop and officials are taking measures to address the problem.
Mayor Evelio Valencia Jr. yesterday said steps are being taken to stop the reduction of school attendance in some Toboso barangays believed triggered by fear of the presence of long-haired bearded men, one of whom has been nabbed for the brutal killing of a 6-year-old boy in his town. Fears of the suspected cult members reported to be wearing blue shirts appears to have spread to neighboring Escalante City and Calatrava town, too.
Two suspected members of the cult — Gerald Prado, 40, of Cabuyao, Laguna, and Roberto Engganay, 50 — were arrested in Toboso during the weekend.
Prado is the suspect in the murder of 6-year-old Jessie Tabotabo, who was reported missing on June 12, and whose mutilated body was found floating in a river in Sitio Curba Hagnaya, Brgy. Tabun-ac, Toboso. Senior Insp. Romeo Leyte, Toboso police chief, said.
His nipples, sex organ two ears, upper and lower lips had been sliced off, and cuts were also noted in his brow, the police noted.
Valencia said reports of the presence of the alleged cult members in his town about two weeks ago have caused a drop in student population in schools in barangays San Isidro and San Jose, and fears in barangays Tabun-ac, San Jose and Salamanca.
“We do not know where they (the men) came from,” he said.
Valencia said he has asked school heads to call for emergency parent-teacher meetings and discuss security measures to ensure that the children go back to school.
The parents and barangay tanods have been told to form groups, and on a rotation basis, accompany the children to and from school, Valencia said.
Valencia said he had received unverified reports that similar bearded men had also been seen in Calatrava and Escalante.
Reports say that about 20 of them have been seen in the Toboso area for about two weeks, he said.
But Escalante Mayor Santiago Barcelona yesterday said the reports are a “false alarm”.
However, he said parents and teachers in the city have been instructed to be vigilant and ensure the safety of the children.
Inspector Mateo Maguate, Escalante police chief, said fear of the cult members caused a drop in school attendance in some schools.
To reassure the parents, we have increased police visibility, he said.
He said no actual presence of bearded cultists in Escalante has been proven yet.
He said the body of an unidentified man with a beard caught in fish trap in Barangay Langub, Esclanate, Tuesday afternoon was not that of a cult member.
The fatality who was about 50 to 55 years old, 5 feet 2 inches tall and with fair complexion, wearing short pants and a stripped shirt did not appear to have died of foul play, Maguate said.
He appeared to have drowned, he added.
Calatrava Mayor Samuel Fabroz yesterday also said while fears of alleged cult member had also spread to his town, but no proof of their actual presence has surfaced.