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DOJ files charges versus leader, members of Socorro alleged cult

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Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla on Monday said criminal charges have been filed against Jey Rence Quilario, alias “Senior Agila,”  and other officials of the Socorro Bayanihan Services Incorporated (SBSI).

Quilario is said to be the leader of SBSI which is allegedly operating like a cult in Socorro town.

“We have 21 cases filed for qualified trafficking in person, facilitation of child marriages, and solemnization of child marriages and child abuse. This is just the beginning since there are still many angles being looked at,” Remulla said in a media briefing.

“All from Sitio Kapihan, Socorro, Surigao del Norte. It includes Senior Agila and many others,” he said, adding that the charges have been filed in a court in Surigao Del Norte.

But Remulla explained that the filing of the cases before the local court is a temporary one since the prosecution will move for its transfer to Metro Manila or other venues.

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“Preliminary filed in Surigao because we believed it should be transferred to Manila or other venues where the interest of justice will not be affected by people who might interfere with the process,” he said, without elaborating who these people are.

The DOJ earlier said the filing of the cases against Quilario and other SBSI officials in the province has encountered obstacles due to the multiple inhibitions of local prosecutors.

This is the reason why the DOJ has formed another panel of prosecutors for the conduct of a preliminary investigation.

 Remulla said he is confident the court will issue a warrant of arrest against those charged due to the strength of the prosecution’s evidence, many of them, he added, are still at large.

“Four of them are still detained in the Senate,” he said, referring to Quilario, Mamerto Galanida, Janeth Ajoc, and Karren Sanico who were cited in contempt for evading questions during the Senate hearing on the issue last September.

The four drew the ire of senators for parrying inquiries about child marriages and other abuse supposedly happening in Sitio Kapihan, the base of SBSI.

As to the basis used by state prosecutors in charging before the court the SBSI leaders, Remulla said the “thing speaks for itself.”

“The thing speaks for itself. On how they used children in so many ways and how they trafficked them,” the DOJ Secretary said.

Remulla said the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) is still pursuing its investigation on the case.

Last month, the NBI asked the DOJ to issue precautionary hold departure orders (PHDO) against Quilario and several officials of SBSI.

The allegations against SBSI were initially brought to light by Sen.Riza Hontiveros who in a privilege speech narrated the alleged abuses committed against the group’s members, particularly minors, including sexual abuse and forced marriages, since 2019.

The NBI in June has recommended charging Quilario and several other SBSI officers and members namely Galanida, Sanico, Wenefredo Buntad, Giovanni Leogin Lasala, Ibrahim Adlao, Jovelito Atchecoso, Sergio Cubillan, Daryl Buntad, Jonry Elandag, Florencio Quiban, and Gary Portillo with qualified trafficking under Republic Act No. 9208 (Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003), violation of RA 7610 (Anti-Child Abuse Law), kidnapping, and serious illegal detention.

The group denied the allegations.

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