NBI to probe cult scare in Toboso

Bacolod City, Philippines - The National Bureau of Investigation is joining the probe on the activities of suspected cult members spotted in Toboso town who have been sowing fear among school children.

The NBI will send a probe team to the town next week to help address the problem that has scared many children away from schools, NBI Bacolod chief Philip Pecache said yesterday.

The fear of the cult members had also spread to neighboring Escalante City and Calatrava.

Senior Supt. Charles Calima, Negros Occidental police director, yesterday said barangay officials and residents should report the presence of strange looking men in their areas to the police.

Senior Insp. Romeo Leyte, Toboso police chief, earlier said men with long hair and beards who speak a strange language and wear blue shirts have been reported to be chasing children in some Toboso barangays.

Two suspected members of the cult -- Gerald Prado, 40, of Cabuyao, Laguna, and Roberto Engganay, 50 -- were arrested in Toboso during the weekend.

However, Leyte said yesterday that on Wednesday the police only filed murder charges against Prado for the death of a 6-year-old boy in Toboso but had to release Engganay as no eyewitnesses has identified him as involved in the crime.

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 the next day floating in a river in Sitio Curba Hagnaya, Brgy. Tabun-ac, Leyte 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.

Leyte said the police were not able to draw out any information from Prado and Engganay as to why they had suddenly moved to Toboso and what kind of a group they belong to as they remained tightlipped.

Toboso Mayor Evelio Valencia has urged parents and barangay officials to set up a system of accompanying children to and from school to ensure their safety.