Authorities express alarm over ‘cult’ activities in Surigao Norte

BUTUAN CITY — Top Surigao del Norte officials have expressed alarm over the recent activities of the group called Bayanihan Services, Inc. (Bayanihan) in the town of Socorro, Bucas Grande Island.

Surigao del Norte Governor Francisco Matugas believes the group is engaged in fanaticism “based on their activities and actions” as reported by authorities and posts on various social media platforms.

In Surigao del Norte, the group is generally regarded as a doomsday cult, whose members believe they must prepare for the end times.

“They are already fanatics. Some left their works just to join the group. We also saw pictures of the group marching,” Matugas told reporters on Wednesday.

A video circulating on Facebook showed Bayanihan members undergoing what appears as military training exercise in an area known as Kapihan View Park in Barangay Sering, Socorro town.

Matugas said the Bayanihan group presence has long been reported in Socorro but their recent activities have worried authorities.

However, the group’s secretary-general, Mamerto Galanida, denied any irregularity in their activities saying they are not forming a militia nor establishing a military camp in the area.

Galanida is a former Sangguniang Panlalawigan member of Surigao del Norte.

In a recent interview with the local media, Galanida said their activities were related to the 87th birthday celebration of their leader Rosalina Taruc.

Rosalina is the wife of the group’s founder, the late Don Albino Taruc. The group has more or less 2,000 members.

Last year, the Bayanihan group was accused of making preparations for the “end of the world” and allegedly required their members to stay at the Kapihan View Park, an elevated area in Socorro town.

Matugas said the activities of the group have resulted in the absence without leave (AWOL) of some police officers, teachers abandoning their duties, and children no longer reporting to their classes.

He added that a task force was already created to investigate the Bayanihan group composed of the Philippine National Police, the Army, the Department of the Interior and Local Government, Department of Education, Department of Health, Department of Social Welfare and Development, and the Department of Justice.

The task force, he said, will look into the accountability of Bayanihan members employed in government agencies who have abandoned their duties.

Matugas said the task force will soon come out with a report and recommendations.  Alexander Lopez / PNA –