People in the Panabo City area have expressed fears about “roaming men” knocking on doors and sexually assaulting women.
Despite dismissing the fears as “pure rumour”, police have nonetheless arrested four men for doing exactly that thing.
Police say concerns about a “100-strong sex cult” and prowling men have been blown out of all proportion, causing unnecessary fear to residents of the community that lies between Davao City and Tagum City on Mindanao.
“The stories about the so-called rapists were baseless and exaggerated. As far as I can remember, our station was only able to record one rape complaint this year. That’s last month,” a police spokesman said.
He added that the panic started when stories about the so-called “tuktok gang” – criminals who knocked on houses to rob or sexually molest women – began to swirl in Panabo in January.
“They were criminals or burglars who rob, and if opportunity arises, rape,” he said.
Four people have been arrested in separate incidents since last week, as communities set up night watches to guard their homes.
The suspects so far arrested were between 25 and 35.
Among them was a man – who, according to the police, appeared to be mentally unstable – who was beaten up by citizens on Monday when he and two others attempted to barge into a house in Purok Talong in Barangay Gredu at about 10pm, according to village councillor Joselito Ohaylan.
“Residents caught him attempting to enter a house. When its occupants shouted for help, he was beaten up and turned over to the police,” Ohaylan said
His companions were able to flee the scene even as local men armed themselves with sticks to take on the intruders.
The man, from New Visayas village, Panabo, was taken to Davao Regional Hospital for treatment after his beating.
Aside from Gredu, residents in the coastal village of Cagangohan also reported attacks by a rape gang, said Ohaylan.
Rumours are swirling that members of the supposed cult put metal rings on their penises in order to injure their victims. And unconfirmed report has it that an eight-year-old girl died of her injuries after being raped. This story has been dismissed by local authorities.
Police say the panic has been stoked by photos doing the rounds in social media showing a heavily bloodied and bruised man with a penis ring clearly visible. A caption identifies him as a member of the sex cult.
Senior Supt. Samuel Gadingan, Davao del Norte police, said he has ordered Panabo police to look into the reports and carry out appropriate action.