Cops arrest pastor, disperse religious gathering

CAGAYAN DE ORO (MindaNews / 05 April) – Police arrested a pastor and dispersed a religious gathering here on Palm Sunday for violating social distancing measures to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19)

Antonio Resma Jr., head of the Cagayan de Oro Regulatory Compliance Board said more than 500 members of the Word of God Spirit and Life Ministries Inc., attended the religious event organized by their pastor in an old moviehouse along  Capistrano Street.

“They were crowding themselves inside the old Rizal Theater in violation of the social distancing measures,” Resma said.

The Word of God Spirit and Life Ministries, Inc. in Cagayan de Oro CIty. Photo by REYNAN BAYLIN / CIty Information Office

Resma said the police arrested the 58-year old pastor identified as Alfred B. Caslam, after he allegedly defied their orders to stop the religious gathering.

He said the police brought Caslam to Police Station 1 for inquest proceedings and  filing of charges for disobeying persons of authority and non-cooperation during a public health crisis.

Resma said this is the second time they caught Caslam and his members defying the community quarantine orders issued by Mayor Oscar Moreno on March 19.

“The police and RCB also came and warned Calam not to hold anymore religious gatherings,” he said.

Resma said they received information that Calam and his members are holding their religious gathering at the old Rizal Theater house on Capistrano Street.

He said when they arrived around 10:30 am they saw a big crowd with children inside the old movie house.

Members of the Word of God Spirit and Life Ministries, Inc. during thte gathering Sunday, 05 April 2020. Police arrested their pastor for violating social distancing measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Photo by REYNAN BAYLIN, CIty Information Office

“We checked and found the names of 495 members in their attendance lists. Many of them brought along  their children,” Resma said.

He said the members peacefully dispersed and went out of the establishment after Calam was handcuffed and brought to the police station.

Resma said they took the attendance list and made copies for monitoring by the City Health Office. (Froilan Gallardo / MindaNews)