‘Socorro cult’ leader denies child abuse allegations: ‘I can’t do that’
MANILA, Philippines — “Hindi po ‘yan totoo. Hindi ko po [‘yan] magagawa.” (There is no truth to that. I cannot do that.)
These were the words of alleged cult leader Jey Rence Quilario, otherwise known as Senior Agila, as he faced a joint investigation by the Senate committees on women and children, and public order and dangerous drugs on Thursday, following accusations that his Socorro Bayanihan Services Inc. (SBSI) is coercing its young members to marry and have sex with adults.
Senator Ronald dela Rosa grilled Quilario after a woman testified that her 12-year-old sister was compelled to marry and sleep with an adult man.
“Bakit gustong gusto mong mag sex ang mag asawa? Bata, 12 years old [tapos] pipilitin mong makipag sex sa lalaking hindi niya kagustuhan. Kinasal mo na, tapos sisiguraduhin mo pa na sila ay mag sex. Tapos kapag hindi mag sex, pina-punish mo ‘yung bata,” the lawmaker asked Quilario.
(Why do you want the couple to have sex? A child, 12 years old, [then] you will force her to have sex with a man. You already had them married. Then you still want to make sure they have sex. And when they don’t, you punish the child.)
The alleged cult leader denied doing so, claiming he cannot do such a thing.
But a tearful Lovely Savandal, a former SBSI member, narrated before the panel that her 12-year-old sister was subjected to such an arrangement by Quilario. When her sister refused, she and other young girls who also disobeyed were expelled from Sitio Kapihan – a sort of enclave where the alleged cult members inhabit.
Savandal, who escaped from the SBSI compound in June of this year with her husband and three children, also recalled that the young girls were pleading to return to the neighborhood as they were drenched in the rain.
Later, she said, Quilario went to the gates of Sitio Kapihan and told the wailing young girls: “Patatawarin ko kayo kapag magmula sa gate ay luluhod kayo papunta sa bahay ko. Tapos magpa-promise kayo na magpapagalaw na kayo sa asawa niyo.”
(I will forgive you if, from the gate, you go to my house on your knees. Then make a promise that you will have sex with your husband.)
In response, Quilario turned to dela Rosa and challenged the senator to personally ask Savandal’s sister and mother if there is truth to these claims.
“Kahit tanungin natin ang kanyang kapatid [na] nasa Kapihan. Kahit [kasama] ang kanyang ina,” he firmly said.
(Even if we ask her sister [who] is in Kapihan. Even her mother.)
Another testifier and former member of SBSI, identified only as Jane, likewise told the Senate panel that forcing young members into marrying and having sex with adults is among the laws in Sitio Kapihan.
Jane herself was forced to marry and sleep with an 18-year-old man last year at age 14, according to her.
She also said the SBSI leadership told them that marriage and sex with an adult is required “to be able to go to heaven.”
“Pumayag parents mo ipakasal ka (Your parents let you marry)?” dela Rosa asked Jane.
“Oo, kasi ‘yun ang (Yes, because that is a) law to be able to go to heaven,” answered Jane in Bisaya but translated by her lawyer Ruth Restauro.