Senate detains ‘cult’ leaders

The Philippine Star/September 28, 2023

By Marc Jayson Cayabyab - The Philippine Star

Manilla, Philippines — Senators Risa Hontiveros and Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa are seeking the investigation of an alleged cult victimizing minors in Surigao del Norte’s Socorro town.

Hontiveros said the “Socorro Bayanihan Services Inc.” has 3,650 members, including 1,587 minors.

She filed on Monday Senate Resolution No. 797, in which she identified the leader of the alleged cult as Jey Rence Quilario, who is also known as Senior Agila.

“According to direct and first-hand testimonies, Quilario would engage in acts of sexual abuse and violence against minors, including ordering girl-children to sleep with him, facilitating child marriages of children as young as 12 years old with adults, locking adolescents in rooms in order for them to engage in sexual activities,” said the chairperson of the Senate committee on women, children, family relations and gender equality.

“Minor and adult members of the organization 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 to Quilario,” Hontiveros added.

The opposition senator stressed that a Senate investigation is necessary to immediately address the alarming issues and rescue the victims, especially the minors.

Senator dela Rosa also filed on Monday a resolution calling for a probe into the alleged cult.

In his Senate Resolution No. 796, the former police chief disclosed that his office received a letter from the Mayor of the Municipality of Socorro, requesting an investigation on the organization’s alleged operation of “shabu” (crystal meth) laboratory and the presence of heavily-armed private army called Agila.

Dela Rosa added that eye witnesses to the operation of the suspected cult also swore to have seen the following:

Presence of a shabu laboratory at the underground bunker within the vicinity of the “white house” where Quilario and others are residing.

Murder of Mrs. Rosalina L. Taruc, president of Socorro Bayanihan Services, Inc. in 2021, and her daughter, former Mayor Denia T. Florano, who was allegedly the incoming leader of the group. They reportedly died eight days apart.
Presence of a heavily-armed private army named Agila with arms, ammunitions and uniforms allegedly provided by extremist groups in Southern Mindanao. The people in the heavily-guarded Sitio Kapihan were also being allegedly used as “human shields” by one of the four identified group leaders identified as Karen J. Sanico.

Massive forced marriage of children-members with Quilario, who also allegedly orders selected girl-brides to sleep with him first for one night before being turned over to the young groom. Children were also not allowed to go out of their gated community until they are married.

Considering all these, dela Rosa believed there is a need to look into possible legislative remedies to “deter the possible injustice and danger that this may cause for the citizens of Socorro.”

“[T]he Senate must take seriously even the smallest allegation of the existence of private armies as well as that of a shabu laboratory, as these threaten the very foundations of public order on which our communities stand,” he added.

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