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DOJ panel files criminal complaints vs. Socorro group

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A Department of Justice (DOJ) panel of prosecutors has submitted for resolution the criminal complaints against the leader and members of Socorro Bayanihan Services, Inc. (SBSI), an alleged cult in Surigao del Norte.

Justice Assistant Secretary Jose Dominic Clavano IV stressed that the preliminary investigation has been concluded and “efforts are being made to resolve the case as expeditiously as possible.”

Aside from alleged leader Jey Rence B. Quilario, also charged were Mamerto Galanida, Karren J. Sanico Jr., Janeth T. Ajoc,  Wenefredo S. Buntad, Giovanni Leogin C. Lasala, Ibrahim L. Adlao, Jovelito L. Atchecoso, Sergio A. Cubillan, Daryl R. Buntad, Jonry C. Elandag, Yure Gary Q. Portilio and Florencio C. Quiban.

The respondents were charged with violations of Section 4 in relation to Section 6 of Republic Act No. 9208, the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003; kidnapping and serious illegal detention as defined and penalized under Article 267 of the Revised Penal Code (RPC); violations of RA 11596, an Act Prohibiting the Practice of Child Marriage and Imposing Penalties in Violation Thereof; and violations of  RA 7610, the Special Protection of Children Against Abuse Exploitation and Discrimination.

The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) initially filed the complaints last June 1 before the Office of the Provincial Prosecutor in Surigao del Norte.

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But DOJ Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla ordered the transfer of the conduct of the preliminary investigation to the DOJ main office in Manila due to reported threats in Surigao del Norte.

Clavano said the panel of prosecutors assigned to conduct the preliminary investigation of the complaints submitted for resolution the case during a clarificatory hearing.

During the hearing, Clavano said “both parties involved in the ongoing investigation of SBSI appeared for the preliminary investigation.”

“The respondents presented their Supplemental Counter-Affidavit, and some of their witnesses reaffirmed their previous statements,” he also said.

Clavano said “the complainant filed a Manifestation, as instructed by the panel, to provide further evidence supporting their motion for PHDO (precautionary hold departure order) application” sought by the NBI.

While the motion for PHDO was opposed by those charged in the complaints, Clavano said: “After thorough arguments and counter-arguments presented by both parties, the motion for PHDO application was submitted for resolution.”

Lawyer Hillary Olga M. Reserva, the legal counsel of the respondents, expressed hope that the panel would rule in favor of the 13 SBSI members named in the complaints.

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