SAN FRANCISCO, Agusan del Sur (MindaNews / 20 Sept)—Surigao del Norte Gov. Lyndon Barbers, in a meeting with members of a provincial interagency task force Wednesday, vowed to investigate the alleged cult in the municipality of Socorro in his province said to be victimizing minors, as well as its reported shabu laboratory.
The planned investigation is a reaction to the allegations by Senators Risa Hontiveros and Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa on the alleged illegal activities of Socorro Bayanihan Services, Inc. (SBSI).
But Mamerto Galanida, former three-term mayor of the town who was also long-time president of SBSI, said the privilege speech of Hontiveros on Monday was unfair without going through due process.
Barbers, in a phone interview with MindaNews while he was at the meeting, said that
the probe by police authorities could be completed in a week, but could be longer depending on the complexity of the case.
Barbers said the human rights cases against alleged cult leader Jey Rence Quilario of SBSI were already filed in June.
In her Senate Resolution 797, Hontiveros asked the Committee on Women, Children, Family Relations, and Gender and Equality “to immediately conduct an investigation … into allegations of systematic rape, sexual abuse, trafficking, forced labor, and forced marriage of children in the context of cult-like activities among members of the [SBSI].”
The senator, quoting a child witness, said that “the cult is armed and dangerous.” During last year’s elections, the witness reportedly saw sacks of firearms.
For his part, Dela Rosa separately filed Senate Resolution 796 calling for a probe on SBSI after witnesses swore to have seen the presence of a shabu laboratory at the underground bunker within the vicinity of the “white house” where Quilario and other leaders are living in Sitio Kapihan in the village of Sering.
In several online live interviews on Tuesday, Edelito Sangco, spokesperson of Socorro Task Force Kapihan (STFK), said that Quilario, more known to SBSI members as “Senior Agila,” was already regarded as their new “messiah” at age 22, supposedly the reincarnation of Senior Sto. Niño of Cebu City.
Sangco said the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) came to their town on May 4 this year to investigate the SBSI’s illegal activities based on statements of whistleblowers and filed four criminal charges on June 1 against Quilario and other SBSI leaders.
The NBI charges, he said, include qualified trafficking, kidnapping, serious illegal detention, and violation of anti-child marriage and anti-child abuse law.
There were reportedly eight minors who sought protection under the STFK but two went back to the SBSI community after their parents secured a “writ of habeas corpus” at a local court.
But Galanida, who hosts the “Boses ng Agila” radio program over 105.5 ALT FM based in Socorro, denied the allegations against Quilario and others.
“The speech of Senator Risa [Hontiveros] is most unfair without going through due process,” Galanida said. He was president of SBSI for a long time but yielded his post to Quilario in 2017. He has been vice president since then.
Galanida said “the senator used parliamentary immunity when she spoke ill against us knowing that she could be charged if she spoke it in public outside the Senate.” (Chris V. Panganiban / MindaNews)