Manilla, Philippines – Prosecutors filed more than a dozen cases against leaders of the controversial group Socorro Bayanihan Services Incorporated (SBSI) before a regional court in Dapa, Surigao del Norte.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) said the group, led by Jay Rence Quilario, alias Señor Aguila, were charged for 21 cases for qualified trafficking in person, facilitation of child marriages, and solemnization of child marriages and child abuse on Monday, November 6.
The charges were filed before the Dapa, Surigao del Norte Regional Trial Court Branch 31.
Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla told a news conference that the DOJ was anticipating arrest warrants to be issued by the Regional Trial Court (RTC) in Surigao del Norte anytime soon. Issuing arrest warrants is solely the discretion of a judge.
Quilario, Galanida, Ajoc, and Sanico were detained at the Senate for refusing to answer questions during a September Senate hearing on the issue.
Remulla said the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) has continued to look into the alleged abuses in Sitio Kapihan, Socorro, Surigao del Norte.
He said the DOJ plans to move the cases against Quilario and his group from Surigao del Norte to Metro Manila or other areas for security reasons. Moving the cases to another jurisdiction is allowed by court procedures, common reasons being political pressures and safety concerns in their localities.
The DOJ said there were delays in the initial prosecution work because of several inhibitions by prosecutors.
In October, the NBI requested the issuance of precautionary hold departure orders (PHDO) against Quilario and several SBSI officials.
SBSI and Quilario, revered and seen as the Santo Niño (Child Jesus) by his followers, were brought to the spotlight by Senator Risa Hontiveros who delivered a privilege speech in the Senate. She exposed the alleged abuses committed by SBSI leaders against its members, especially minors.