Editorial: Dealing with religious ‘cults’

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Wednesday, May 7, 2014

WHEN Emma Bocabal, the woman who is said to have been illegally detained by alleged cult leader Casiano Apduhan, returned to Apduhan’s residence in Buanoy, Balamban weeks ago, prosecutors were worried.

Last Tuesday, Bocabal took the witness stand and told the court that she voluntarily stayed in Apduhan’s residence five years ago and was not detained. “Akoang kagustuhan ang tanan,” she said.

That’s a slap on the Provincial Women’s Commission (PWC) and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) 7 that “rescued” Bocabal last March. But this was not surprising because of the circumstances surrounding the operation. It wasn’t Bocabal but her parents who wanted her “rescued.”


With this twist, an interesting phrase that prosecutors seem bent on using in the Bocabal case has surfaced: Stockholm syndrome. “Stockholm syndrome,” according to Merriam-Webster (Merriam-webster.com), “is the psychological tendency of a hostage to bond with, identify with or sympathize with his or her captor.”

But there may be another explanation to Bocabal’s actions. While Apduhan has denied that his group (referred to as “Dios Amahan”) is a religious cult, its practices seem to belie this. The group “controls” its members by inculcating in them a new belief system.

One can get a glimpse of this from the case of Angelo Repuela, the teenager whose remains were reportedly unearthed from a tunnel in Apduhan’s compound. His parents, who were former members of Apduhan’s group, apparently entrusted his life to their “god.”

Bocabal may have, therefore, not only been afflicted with a syndrome, she may have embraced the belief system that Apduhan’s group promoted. One can even say she may have been brainwashed.

Unfortunately, our democratic setup does not allow us to dictate upon anybody how to live their lives. The PWC and NBI 7 may have felt that they were doing a good turn when they “rescued” Bocabal. But the woman seems to “believe” otherwise.

Even then, some lessons can be had in the Bocabal case. And these lessons can be used as guide when government deals again with members and leaders of religious groups or cults in the future.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on May 08, 2014.


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