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CEBU, Philippines – Ten cops who had gone on absence without leave (AWOL) between 2019 to 2020 became members of the Socorro Bayanihan Services Inc. (SBSI) in Surigao del Norte, the provincial police chief told senators on Thursday, September 28.
Surigao del Norte police chief Colonel Laudemer Laude confirmed this during a joint Senate committee hearing on the controversial SBSI, adding that two non-uniformed police personnel who had also gone AWOL were found to be members of the group, as well as a retired army officer and a former firefighter.
The police and personnel who had gone AWOL had been dismissed from the service.
Deputy Minority Leader Risa Hontiveros said in a privilege speech on September 18, that members of the organization had been manipulated into leaving their jobs and relocating to the hilltop settlement in Sitio Kapihan, Barangay Sering in Socorro town, Surigao del Norte.
During the hearing, Senator Ronald dela Rosa asked Laude if the former cops brought any firearms to the settlement, but the latter said that they had surrendered their weapons based on PNP records.
A photo presented during the hearing showed SBSI members carrying what appeared to be rifles and other long guns.
Quilario is questioned about this photo with the group's alleged armed wing, where he stands in the front wearing white long sleeves. He denies that the guns are real and says they are wooden. | via @michelleabad_ pic.twitter.com/yzZyk6JNNG— Rappler (@rapplerdotcom) September 28, 2023
Ralna Florano-Dela Peña, legal counsel for SBSI and granddaughter of the late SBSI president Rosalina Taruc, clarified that the firearms were only replicas and that the photo was taken during a “drama contest” among SBSI members.
Socorro police chief Captain Bassel Monteroso said that they have yet to verify if the firearms were wooden replicas as claimed by Dela Peña and SBSI president Jay Rence Quilario.
Monteroso added that SBSI members had also claimed that the guns in the photo were “airsoft” guns.
Child abuse allegations
Child witnesses were brought to the hearing to testify on their experiences at SBSI, where leaders are accused of being behind child marriages and sexual abuse of their members.
The SBSi is also accused of forcing children to undergo military combat training.
Some of the witnesses said that they were physically abused as punishment for not following orders. One of the child victims known as “Jane” (not their real name) identified former police staff sergeant Sergio Cubillan – among the cops who went AWOL to join the SBSI – as the one who punished them through paddling.
Jane points to the person who allegedly punished her via paddling at Socorro: a certain Sergio Cubillan, who was formerly stationed at the Malimono Police Station.— Rappler (@rapplerdotcom) September 28, 2023
Asked to confirm if it was him, Cubillan says, “Hindi ko po magagawa ‘yan.” | via @michelleabad_ pic.twitter.com/wzlnMpl9iE
Cubillan denied this.
Prior to this, another former cop Giovanni Lasala who was now an SBSI memer claimed that it was “convenient” for the victims to pin the accusations on them because of their previous profession as policemen. He claimed the child victim had “made up” the allegation against them.
“Hindi ko talaga ma-imagine na gawa-gawa lamang ‘yung kanilang mga sinabi, pati ang pag-alala sa inyo,” Hontiveros told Cubillan. (I cannot imagine that what they said would just be made up, including even being able to remember you.) – Rappler.com