SOCO: Leap of faith
A sect leader lures his members with the promise of salvation and everlasting life. But what they thought was a sanctuary, became their living hell as they become victims of abuse and maltreatment.
The promise of salvation and an everlasting life. This is what Antonio Dumala Faelnar used to lure members to his sect, known as the Global Empire Covenant and Divine Government, with headquarters based in Marikina. Antonio, also known as “Chief” to his members, is the founder and leader of the said sect.
While they were dubious at first, Jess and his sister Rosa (not their real names) decided to join the sect after much prodding from their mother, who was already a member. In 2003, they left their farm in Mindanao and flew to Manila to join her, with their respective families in tow.
At first, Jess and Rosa were convinced by their Chief’s teachings.
“Lunes hanggang Sabado, Bible sharing at Bible study [kami],” Jess said. “Doon ako bilib. Dahil ‘yung Old Testament, doon talaga hinango ‘yung sinasabi niya sa amin.”
At the time, the sect had already grown to more than a hundred members, who blindly followed their Chief’s words.
Men were forbidden to talk to women even if they were related to each other. Members were also asked to give up their belongings.
“Ang sabi niya sa amin, kung may ari-arian daw ami, ibenta na namin,” Jesse recalled. “Kaya may tatlong ektarya ako noon na mana sa mga magulang ko, binenta ko.”
But as time passed, Jesse and Rose gave up more than their material belongings. What they thought was a sanctuary for their family turned into hell.
If at first, he was accommodating to sect members, later their Chief began showing his true colors. He became violent.
“Kaunting mali, [halimbawa] hindi ka nakapag-“po” atsaka “opo”, asahan mo ‘yan, sampung yantok,” Jesse said. “Kahit saan po dumapo, hindi lang sampa, suntok, tadyak ang gagawin niya. Kagat.”
“'Pag kumakain [siya], at dinapuan ‘yan ng langaw, sampal ang aabutin mo,” Rosa added. “Kahit na kumakain, papaypayan mo ‘yan. Buhay prinsipe nga. Para po kaming slave doon. Inalila po niya kami. Lahat po, pati paa niya, papa-trapuhan. Kulang na lang ‘yung ari niya ipapunas.”
They were even required to render service without payment. They were asked to construct what they thought was a center for the sect. But later on, they found out, it was actually a house for the Chief.
Jesse and Rose tried to tolerate the situation, until one day, Jesse found out that his daughter bore the worst of the Chief’s abuses.
On July 16, 2006, Jesse secretly spoke with his daughter Angel (not her real name).
“Sabi ko sa kanya, bakit lagi kang pinapalo? Sabi ko, ano ang dahilan? Magtapat ka nga sa’kin, anak,” Jesse said.
His daughter’s revelation shocked Jesse.
“Sabi niya sa’kin, 'Pinapahilot kami ni Chief.' O, pinapahilot pala kayo eh, anong deperensya?” Jess recalled their conversation. “[Sabi niya], eh kaso Tang, pagkatapos naming maghilot, ginagahasa kami.”
Worse, the Chief had been doing it repeatedly.
“Talagang nagmamakaawa,” Jess said. “Sinusuntok pa nga niya eh. Sinasakal. Atsaka nung matapos na niyang gahasain, sabi niya, ‘Huwag kang magsusumbong sa tatay mo, nanay mo, dahil papatayin ko sila.'”
“Talagang masakit, talagang abot-langit ang galit ko, ang sisi ko kung bakit ako nakapasok dito,” he said.
Because of his daughter’s confession, Jesse decided to take matters into his own hands.
For four nights, Jesse spied their leader’s actions. He discovered that whenever their Chief has his eyes on a girl, he would summon her to his room for a massage. Later on, he would rape the helpless girl.
“’Yung mga bata, parang iiyak parang ‘di mo mawari,” Jesse said. “Tapos ‘yun na, paglabas ng bata, pulang pula ang mata. ‘Yun pala, paulit-ulit nang ginagahasa.”
Little did Jesse know that the Chief already had his eyes on him.
On the fifth night, the Chief summoned all his members including Jesse and his family.
“Pinagsasaktan, pinagsusuntok [niya] ‘yung bayaw ko,” Jesse said. “’Yung kapatid ko, pinagsasampal.”
After that, the Chief diverted his attention to Jesse.
“Tumayo ako, diniretso niya ako na sinuntok,” Jesse said. “Dito ako sa bunganga natamaan. Doon na nagkagulu-gulo.”
After that, the Chief ordered Jesse and his family to leave. Unfortunately, two of their children were left behind, in the abusive hands of the Chief.
After they left the cult's compound, Jesse and his family sought the help of the authorities. The results of a medico legal examination showed positively that 13-year-old Angel was raped.
On August 4, 2006, Judge Geraldine Fiel-Macaraig of the RTC Branch 192 issued a Write of Habeas Corpus for Jesse's children.
SPO4 Abanes’s team immediately proceeded to the Global Empire Covenant and Divine Government’s headquarters in Marikina, but the Chief’s camp did not release Jesse’s children.
Because of this, the Marikina PNP created a task force to conduct a rescue operation.
"Napag-aralan namin na hindi kayang dumaan sa gate kaya ang ginawa namin, dinaan namin sa ladder assault,” SPO4 De Belen of the Marikina SWAT said.
SPO4 De Belen’s team was able to get into the sect headquarters and arrested Antonio Dumala Faelnar. Jesse’s two children were also rescued.
A multitude of cases were filed against Faelnar. A year after the arrest, Faelnar was found guilty of serious illegal detention for Jesse’s two sons who were both minors; five counts of rape for Rosa’s two children; and two counts of consummated rape for Rosa’s 12-year-old daughter.
When asked about his reaction on the court’s decision, Faelnar said, “Wala na akong ano diyan, basta bahala na ang Panginoon sa akin. Wala rin naman akong magagawa.”
The case against him for the rape of Jess’s daughter is still being tried at the Marikina RTC Branch 273.
Jesse and his family are now on the road to recovery.
“Malaki ang pagsisisi ko,” Jess said. “Akala ko, ‘yun na ang kaligtasan, ang buhay na walang hanggan. ‘Yun pala ay sobra pa sa bangungot ang nangyari sa pamilya ko. Talagang hindi ko matanggap. Pero wala na akong magagawa.”