Surigao exec: Break ‘cult’ village, end child abuse
The local government of Socorro town in Surigao del Norte has asked the national government to help it disband the community of the Socorro Bayanihan Services, Inc. (SBSI) in Sitio Kapihan, which has come under the control of a group led by Jey Rence Quilario, whom his followers regard as “Senior Aguila.”
“The only way to put an end (to) the cycle of lies and mind manipulation … and reverse the tide is to disintegrate the Kapihan community,” Edelito Sangco, who chairs the local government’s Task Force Kapihan (TFK), told the Senate committee on public order and dangerous drugs that concluded its investigation into the cult-like activities of SBSI on Tuesday.
After disbanding the Kapihan community in Socorro’s Barangay Sering, its residents will have to be reintegrated into their original communities prior to their migration there, Sangco said.
Mainly, this will require the revocation by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources of its protected area community-based resource management agreement (Pacbarma) with SBSI.
Sangco said the current residents in Kapihan were originally from the villages of Salog, Honrado, Del Pilar, Songkoy, Rizal, Navarro, Taruc, Sudlon and Nueva Estrella.
The migration into Kapihan was driven by the 5.9-magnitude earthquake on Feb. 8, 2019, that stoke fears of a tsunami and an “end of the world” scenario, sending hundreds of families relocating to the elevated community.
To date, more than 1,000 families, or about 5,000 people, are staying there.
The TFK has documented that the SBSI has established a “divine government” in Kapihan it named the “Nueva Jerusalem Esperanza Ministry Government” with Quilario as “Supreme Divine Minister” and Romero Ajoc as “Supreme Prime Minister.”
Based on testimonies of resource persons who spoke before the Senate hearing, SBSI seemingly leveraged its being the holder of a Pacbarma to impose its will on the people in Kapihan.
Its activities came under the national spotlight after Sen. Risa Hontiveros exposed these in a privilege speech in September.
But amid the public scrutiny of activities in Kapihan, Sangco said SBSI continued its indoctrination among the children in the community, such as repeating their assertion of the uselessness of acquiring education as it does not guarantee one’s entry into heaven, said Sangco.
“Hence, no amount of stop-gap formal schooling implemented by any agency, if one inside Sitio Kapihan, can reverse that doctrine which had been imbibed into the children’s psyche for the past four years already,” Sangco explained.
Among the biggest challenges of the reintegration program, according to Sangco, is providing the families with shelter. A survey done by TFK among 407 families showed that only 60 of them had houses that they can return to, while the rest had sold their homes when they decided to resettle to Kapihan.
The local government’s reintegration program would require some P168 million, including some P85 million for livelihood support and P14 million initial economic support for 1,400 families through outright cash assistance.
In Manila, independent opposition lawmaker and Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman called on authorities to swiftly prosecute Quilario and 12 other SBSI leaders and members, who were arrested on Tuesday through a warrant issued by Regional Trial Court Branch 31 in Dapa, Surigao del Norte.
Lagman pointed out that the SBSI leaders and members should be “swiftly prosecuted” under Republic Act No. 11596 or the Anti-Child Marriage Law, which was enacted two years ago.
The law declared the facilitation of child marriage, solemnization of child marriage and cohabitation of an adult with a child outside wedlock as illegal.
“Child marriage is a patent violation of girls and an affront to their basic human rights,” said Lagman, the principal author of the law.
He said child marriage is “a practice that not only infringes on children’s fundamental rights but also poses significant perils to their overall well-being and development.”
The 13 suspects were indicted for trafficking in persons, facilitation of child marriage, solemnization of child marriage and child abuse.
However, the warrant issued by Acting Presiding Judge Ambrosio Moleta covered only the qualified trafficking in persons case.