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Salva Me

Salva Me Pater Omnis Oculus Meus
Sex Slavery Alleged
Alfredo Verano, leader of Salva Me Pater Omnis Oculus Meus, in Manila, Philippines, has pleaded not guilty to adultery charges filed against him and a woman who is a member of his religious cult. He allegedly treats female members of the group as “sex slaves.” Last year, the social services department took custody of 20 children from the group, saying they suffered from bad nutrition and hygiene. (Joebeth M. Ocao, The Freeman [Philippines], 2/10/05)[csr 4.1 2005]

Salva Me Pater Omnis Oculos Meus
Judge Returns Children to Parents
A Philippines family court judge ordered 14 children returned to their parents in the Salva Me Pater Omnis Oculos Meus “cult,” saying: “Do not neglect your children. Your children are not your personal property. If your beliefs interfere with their rights to normal lives, the government will certainly intervene.” [csr 2.2 2003]

The order is considered a setback for the Cebu City government’s effort to place the children in protective custody. The social services department acted in the first place following reports that the children in the group, which is led by the charismatic Alfredo Verano, live in squalid conditions in the Buhisan neighborhood without proper nourishment, and that they are kept from attending school. Authorities also allege that the children are forced to dig the tunnels in which members live. (Mars W. Mosqueda, Jr., Manila Bulletin Internet, 1/27/03) [csr 2.2 2003]

The Cebu Sun reports that Salve Me—the full name means “Father, save us from all our offenses”— numbers about 30 “long haired men, women and children,” who live in caves and wooden houses five stories high on a mountain overlooking the city and wait for the “heavens to rain fire and brimstone.” Children as young as nine are involved in carving out beds, tables, and chairs in the cave homes that the group is building. Some Buhisan residents say that Verano treats female followers, including minors, as “sex slaves,” and 150 have signed a petition demanding that the group be ejected from the neighborhood. (Lorenzo P. Ninal, Cebu Sun,Internet, 1/9/03) [csr 2.2 2003]

Salva Me
Children Returned with Warning, Conditions
A regional court in Cebu, the Philippines, has returned 14 children of the Salva Me “cult” to their parents but warned that the parents can still be deprived of custody if they do not follow the law by sending their children to school and seeking medical care for their illnesses. The court ordered the parents to let social workers give the children medical exams regularly.[csr 2.1 2003]

An attorney for the parents (who speak a local dialect) said that they provided education informally, and that while “what they are doing may not be acceptable to us as a general dominant cultural pattern” that is their belief. “This is pure harassment, attacking the system of belief of our minority.” An eight-year-old witness, a child in the group, indicated at the hearing that she could not read.[csr 2.1 2003]

The children were “rescued” from the Salva Me mountain colony in Cebu City in response to an abuse complaint; government agencies said the children were made to dig and excavate caves and haul rocks as part of the group’s “treasure hunting,” activities detrimental to their health and safety. The children were also reportedly malnourished, in poor health, and without personal hygiene.[csr 2.1 2003]

The state’s custody petition quotes a parent saying that Salva Me members don’t send their children to school because of the teaching of leader Alfredo Verano, whom they call Daddy Divine: “Even Jesus Christ, who did not go to school, is learned and full of wisdom.” (Suzanne B. Salva [sic], Cebu Daily News, Internet, 1/23/03 [csr 2.1 2003]

Parents Refuse Prescription Medicines
Parents in the Salva Me Pater Omnis Oculus Meus group in Cebu City, Philippines, refuse to have their children take prescribed medicines or be dewormed following a court order that they do so. Instead, the parents, whose faith is against taking such medicines, give the children guyabano fruit and ipil-ipil seeds for deworming. The parents have agreed to send their children to school, but say that nobody can dictate where to enroll them. They accuse the City Government of meddling in their private lives and religious practices, and they are very upset that a number of their children have been taken into custody. (Sun Star, Internet, 1/25/02) [csr 2.1 2003]