Surigao del Norte

Socorro ‘cult’ prohibited members from seeking hospital care outside

Bonz Magsambol

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Socorro ‘cult’ prohibited members from seeking hospital care outside

CULT. Former SBSI follower Randolph Balbarino says it was Senior Aguila who helped her wife gave birth.

Bonz Magsambol/Rappler

Randolph Balbarino, who used to be a follower of the Socorro cult,' says it was Senior Aguila, not a medical doctor, who helped his wife gave birth

SURIGAO DEL NORTE, Philippines – Randolph Balbarino, who used to be a follower of Surigao del Norte “cult” leader Jay Rence Quilario said on Saturday, October 14, that Socorro Bayanihan Services Incorporated (SBSI) prohibited members from seeking hospital care outside Sitio Kapihan in Socorro town, where the supposed cult is based.

This cult rule, Balbarino said, was the reason his child died around three to four days after he was born.

“Bawal sa ibang ospital. Ganon raw ang patakaran sa kanila kasi andito naman raw ang kanilang panginoon,” Balbarino said, referring to Quilario as the cult’s deity, as they believe their leader was a “reincarnation of Santo Niño (Child Jesus).”

(Seeking care from other hospitals are not allowed. That’s their rule because as they say their god is with them.)

Socorro ‘cult’ prohibited members from seeking hospital care outside

His baby was born “suhi,” or was delivered by the mother with buttocks or feet coming out first instead of its head. The condition of the baby caused other medical complications Balbarino could not identify since they were not able to consult a medical doctor.

Socorro ‘cult’ prohibited members from seeking hospital care outside

But what made the situation of Balbarino’s wife giving birth more bizarre was that, it was Quilario, also known as “Señor Aguila,” who facilitated the procedure and not a health professional. “Yung pagpapanganak noong asawa ko, siya talaga ang nagpaanak,” Balbarino said. (When my wife was delivering the pregnancy, it was Quilario who helped her.)

Balbarino quit his membership from the cult when his child died, and he has since moved out of Sitio Kapihan. He is now under the custody of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), as the agency probes reports of abuses at SBSI.

On Saturday, the NBI exhumed the grave of Balbarino’s child to probe the incident. They will release the report once it is concluded. The NBI was with Senator Ronald dela Rosa, who visited the Sitio Kapihan, as the Senate conducts its own probe on the reports of child abuse, kidnapping, rape, and forced marriage on the cult members.

 “Kaya siguro ang mga bata dito ay namamatay na kasi bawal magpagamot sa labas?” Dela Rosa asked SBSI secretary Chinga Yamson. (Maybe the reason why children here are dying is because they are not allowed to seek hospital care outside?)

Yamson did not confirm nor deny Dela Rosa’s statement. She instead said that SBSI has its own first aiders in their community.

“Sir, may mga first aider kami rito. In times of emergencies, may mga nurses kami rito,” she said. (Sir, we have first aiders here. In times of emergencies, we have nurses here.)

Some kilometers away from houses of SBSI members, at the foot of a mountain in Socorro, a makeshift cemetery was created. Most of those buried here were children.

Quilario and his group, gained notoriety after Senator Risa Hontiveros exposed their alleged abuses and cult practices in Sitio Kapihan, Barangay Sering, Socorro town in Surigao del Norte.

During a Senate committee hearing, Quilario and his associates denied the accusations of being a cult and abusing their members.

Senators cited them in contempt and ordered their detention in a Senate facility. Quilario is still detained there.–

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Bonz Magsambol

Bonz Magsambol covers the Philippine Senate for Rappler.