Raps Filed Versus Surigao Norte ‘Cult’ Members
Sen. Risa Hontiveros denounced members of the alleged cult in Socorro, Surigao del Norte for reportedly raping, abusing and forcing children into unwanted marriage.
Charges of qualified trafficking as well as kidnapping and serious illegal detention will be filed against members of a group in Socorro, Surigao del Norte who have been accused of rape and forced marriage of children.
Department of Justice spokesman Mico Clavano said the National Bureau of Investigation had recommended the filing of charges against Jey Rence Quilario, alleged leader of the Socorro Bayanihan Services Inc., and 12 other SBSI members back in June.
Clavano said no preliminary investigation was conducted because prosecutors were asked to inhibit. Motions to inhibit were also granted, he said.
Sen. Risa Hontiveros bared the alleged abuses in a privilege speech on Monday, Sept. 18, as she sought an inquiry into the activities of the group.
Hontiveros said the SBSI, which is operating as a civic organization, shows ”cult” behavior.
Philippine National Police chief Gen. Benjamin Acorda Jr. urged witnesses to come forward and cooperate with law enforcers to build a strong case against the suspects.
In an interview over dzBB on Tuesday, Sept. 19, SBSI vice president Mamerto Galanida, a former town mayor, denied Hontiveros’ allegations, adding that they are ready to face any investigation.
Stop child rape, child marriages
Hontiveros filed Senate Resolution No. 797 seeking to investigate the cases of rape, sexual abuse, violence, forced labor and child marriage perpetrated by the alleged cult members.
The reported cult has been made to believe that Quilario is the messiah, Hontiveros said, noting the organization now has 3,650 members, including 1,587 children, based in an enclosed and heavily guarded area on a mountain known as Sitio Kapihan in Socorro.
The senator said the cult that was established was horrifying but what was more enraging was the fact that children were victimized.
“We must put an end to this. As chairperson of the Senate committee on women and children, and as a mother, I ask us not to allow this monstrosity to continue,” Hontiveros added.
Based on the resolution, direct and first-hand testimonies stated that Quilario would engage in acts of sexual abuse and violence against minors, including ordering children to sleep with him, facilitating marriages of children as young as 12 years old with adults, and locking adolescents in rooms in order for them to engage in sexual activities, among others.
Hontiveros pointed out that the cult members are powerful and are trying their best to get back the children from the local government unit (LGU) and the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).
“Last July, eight children ran away from the cult after repeated instances of abuse and exploitation. These children are in grave and present danger. Makapangyarihan at may impluwensya ang kulto. Ginagawa nila ngayon ang lahat para makuha mula sa LGU at DSWD ang mga bata. The children's parents, who are still part of the cult, are asked to file petitions for habeas corpus, in order to recover the minors from the local government,” Hontiveros said.
The senator said the group succeeded in recovering one child and has been moving to bring back the rest to the alleged cult.
Hontiveros also revealed that the minor and adult members of the cult were made to perform acts of forced labor under pain of physical punishment, and were also forced to surrender 40 to 60 percent of their social welfare benefits, such as conditional cash transfer, senior citizen pensions and others to Quilario.
“This sorcery should be stopped. Pati pera ng taumbayan napupunta sa kulto. Isang malaking scammer itong si Senior Agila. Huwag nating hayaang ipagkait niya sa libo-libong mga bata ang kanilang mga pangarap at kinabukasan. We need to save those children now,” Hontiveros said. – With Emmanuel Tupas, Marc Jayson Cayabyab