Members of the Socorro Bayanihan Services Inc. (SBSI) were reportedly obliged to allocate roughly 50% of their income and government assistance to the organization, as disclosed by a fisherman and confirmed by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) on Tuesday.
During the Senate committee hearing on public order and dangerous drugs, as well as on women, children, family relations, and gender equality, SBSI member Randolf Balbarino revealed that their treasurer regularly reminded them about the collection on a weekly basis.
“Pagkita ng P1,000, kuhanan mo ng konsumo na P200. May P800 na tira. Iyon ang hahatiin, P400 sa ministry….Required talaga,” Balbarino said.
“Tapos sinasabi ng treasurer, bakit hindi tayo magbigay na ang Panginoon na ang naghingi sa atin. Sa kaniya naman lahat iyong mga bagay na nasa atin,” he added.
Balbarino explained that if members failed to remit the money, they would face various penalties, including being “restricted,” stationed at the foxhole, and banned from fishing.
DSWD says Socorro ‘cult’ collects 50% of members’ benefits, salary
Assistant Secretary Irene Dumlao from the Department of Social Welfare and Development mentioned that after the impact of Tropical Cyclone Odette in 2021, the treasurer allegedly collected P6,000 out of the P10,000 aid received by each member.
“Nakatanggap ang member ng P10,000 bawat bahay. Ang narinig ko, may nagbigay ng P6,000. Parang may nakuha na P10,000 pero P6,000 ang binigay,” Dumlao said.
Senator Francis Tolentino estimated that with 900 households in the area, approximately P4.5 million was collected from the members’ assistance.
SBSI president Jey Rence Quilario, also known as Senior Agila, and vice president Mamerto Galanida both denied the allegations.
Following the hearing, Jey Rence Quilario and 12 other SBSI members were arrested on charges of alleged human trafficking. The case came to public attention in September when Senator Risa Hontiveros claimed that over 1,000 minors were sexually abused by a religious “cult” in Socorro town, Surigao del Norte.
Prosecutors filed charges against Socorro leader Quilario and the 12 others before a Surigao del Norte Regional Trial Court (RTC). The Department of Justice specified that charges of qualified trafficking in persons, facilitation of child marriage, solemnization of child marriage, and child abuse were submitted to the Dapa RTC Branch 31.