Dela Rosa: Socorro residents gave ‘rehearsed’ answers during visit

Cristina Chi – Philstar.com

October 16, 2023 | 5:59pm

MANILA, Philippines – Sen. Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa said on Monday that his visit to the home base of the Socorro Bayanihan Services Inc. last week confirmed that its members appeared intent on covering up their organization’s alleged illegal activities.

In a press conference, Dela Rosa said that members of SBSI — a group senators have pointedly described as a cult due to allegations they forced children into marriages and committed other illegal activities — gave seemingly “rehearsed” answers to his inquiries.

“It was bolstered because their answers to my questions when I arrived in the area, It seemed like it was rehearsed. They are really covering up something),” Dela Rosa said in Filipino.

“It seems like they don’t want to implicate their leader Senior Agila and the officials of their group in legal problems. There really is a defense. They will really defend them,” he added.

A joint Senate hearing into the activities of SBSI surfaced allegations that children as young as 12 were married off to adults, repeatedly raped, kept from school, forced to train as soldiers and physically punished in a remote location by adults following orders from a certain Jey Rence Quilario, the group’s leader.

Quilario and three other ranking members of SBSI denied these allegations during the hearing, prompting senators to cite them in contempt for evading their questions and refusing to own up to the testimonies of at least three witnesses.

RELATED: Senate panel cites leader of Soccoro ‘cult’, three members in contempt 

Dela Rosa said that the incident has bolstered the need to review current laws regarding parental authority over child custody. 

The senator said that here should be a law that will cover cases when a child has reason not to want to return to their parents.

“There should be a law that will govern that because the child might say that surrendering and asking for the government’s help is useless because it is actually the one which will push us back to Sitio Kapihan,” he said in Filipino.

Regarding legislation to prevent the formation of a cult, Dela Rosa acknowledged that it might not be feasible due to the 1987 Constitution’s protection of religious freedom.

The Department of Justice has already scheduled a second clarificatory hearing on the cases filed against SBSI leader Jey Rence Quilario, known as Senior Agila and the group’s other officials.

Last week, Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla said that around 19 children were found to have been forced into common-law marriages with adult members of the alleged cult.


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