Ex-member of ‘Soldiers of God,’ teen survivor testify vs religious ‘cult’
MANILA, Philippines — A former member of the “Soldiers of God” and a teenage girl “survivor” were the latest to testify against an alleged cult based in Sitio Kapihan, Surigao del Norte.
Their testimonies were revealed in two separate videos released on Thursday by the office of opposition Senator Risa Hontiveros.
In the videos, 13-year-old “Maymay” and 28-year-old “Karl” both claimed they were members of the Socorro Bayanihan Services Inc. (SBSI).
The group has been accused of sexually abusing children and forcing minors into marriages, among others.
In her video, Maymay turned emotional while recounting how she and her parents escaped the cult because she wanted to attend school.
“Noong nandoon kami sa Kapihan, gusto kong pumasok at mag-aral pero hindi nila kami pinayagan. Kaya naghanap ng paraan ang nanay ko para makatakas kami sa mga gwardiya at makapasok sa school,” she said.
(When we were at the Kapihan, I wanted to study, but they didn’t allow us. So my mom found a way to escape from the guards and get into school.)
“May isang beses, hinabol kami ng Agnus, ang dating pinagkatiwalaan sa pagbabantay sa lugar. Tumakbo kami at dumaan sa talahiban. Buti na lang, nakita namin ang tatay ko. Kung hindi, hindi ko alam kung ano ang mangyayari sa amin dahil may mga panaksak yung mga humahabol sa amin at marami sila,” she added.
(Once, we were chased by Agnus, who was guarding the place. We ran and passed through the wilderness. Fortunately, we saw my dad. If not, I don’t know what would have happened to us because those who were chasing us had weapons, and there were many of them)
Even after leaving the group, though, its members continued to visit her family, Maymay said.
But she told her parents she would no longer rejoin the group.
“Napakahirap doon,” Maymay said.
Karl, meanwhile, said he left the group because it was forcing him to marry a young girl.
“Hindi ako pumayag dahil ayaw kong mahiwalay sa asawa ko. Kaya hindi ako pumayag,” he said in another video.
(I didn’t agree because I didn’t want to be separated from my spouse. So I refused)
He said he was a member of the Agila Squad, an armed group of SBSI led by the reported cult leader, Senior Agila or Jey Rence Quilario.
The private army has 107 members, including women and minors as young as 12-years-old, Karl said.
“At yung mga private army ni Senyor Aguila, mga private soldier nya kami, kasi ang sabi sa amin, we were Soldiers of God, na pag isinakripisyo namin ang buhay namin, mamatay man kami o hindi, basta pinagsisilbihan daw ang diyos, that is alright,” he said.
(We were his private soldiers because he (Senior Agila) told us that we were Soldiers of God, that if we sacrificed our lives, even if we die, as long as we were serving God, that is all right.)
“Ang sabi nya sa amin, pwede kaming pumatay ng tao basta galing sa kanya ang utos,” he added.
(He told us that we could kill people if the order came from him.)
Their stories “are only a few of the testimonies that confirm SBSI’s abusive and exploitative activities,” Hontiveros then said.
The plight of the alleged victims of the group was raised by the senator in a privilege speech in the Senate last September 18.
Hontiveros and Senator Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa filed separate resolutions calling for a Senate probe following her speech.