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CEBU, Philippines – Jey Rence Quilario and other leaders of the Socorro Bayanihan Services Incorporated (SBSI) found themselves being held in detention at the Senate where they were cited in contempt during a joint committee hearing on the alleged child marriages and other cult practices in an island community in Socorro town, Surigao del Norte, on Thursday, September 28.
Quilario, 22, has been the president of SBSI since 2021, and carries the title “Senior Agila,” signifying his role in the organization.
Based on investigations and testimonies, he is seen by his followers as the reincarnation of the Santo Niño (Child Jesus), and he allegedly controls a private army consisting of more than 150 adults and children.
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
Presently, the organization has more than 3,000 members, all residing in Sitio Kapihan, Barangay Sering, Socorro town in Surigao del Norte.
The minors allegedly undergo strenuous physical exercises and receive military combat training to become one of the “Agilas,” otherwise known as the “Soldiers of God.”
Witnesses said during the Senate hearing that Quilario would wed girls as young as 15 to young men who are 18 years old. Some of the child brides were allegedly made to sleep with Quilario in order to be “saved on the day of judgment.”
Documents retrieved by the Senate Committee on Women, Children, Family Relations, and Gender Equality showed the existence of a makeshift government called the “Nueva Jerusalem Esperanza Ministry Government,” which Quilario heads as the “Supreme Divine Minister.”
Among the documents presented was a family planning form that belonged to a 15-year-old SBSI member who has a one-year-old child.
Hontiveros revealed documents that show a makeshift government has taken root in Sitio Kapihan, Barangay Sering, Socorro.— Rappler (@rapplerdotcom) September 28, 2023
Among the documents presented by the senator is a family planning form that belongs to a 15-year-old with a child. | via @TheJohnSitchon pic.twitter.com/xBcRc5SyEM
Flight to power
Quilario was born to farmer Romel Quilario and his wife Gengie on November 10, 2000, in Barangay Nueva Estrella, Socorro, Surigao del Norte.
By his own account during the Senate committee hearing, he said he never even finished high school.
In his adolescent years, he was mentored by Rosalina Lasala Taruc, the late president of SBSI, who founded the organization on December 20, 1980.
Raldene Taruc Florano, the grandson of the late SBSI president, said during the Senate hearing that his grandmother wished for Quilario to take her place as president during a Christmas party in December 2019.
Quilario and other members of SBSI had already moved to the hilltop settlement from their former homes after a series of earthquakes hit the province in February 2019.
“Hindi niya tinanggap agad yung hamon na siya ang papalit na presidente kase sa sobrang bata at mahirap magdala ng tao,” Florano said.
(He did not immediately accept the challenge to become the president because of his young age and the difficulty of handling people.)
Florano was previously Quilario’s teacher when the latter was still studying at Socorro National High School.
On June 27, 2021, Taruc passed away, and later on, Quilario assumed the role of president. He would gain the support of Mamerto Galanida, a former three-term mayor of Socorro and a former president of SBSI.
Quilario would also become the chief executive officer of ALT Entertainment, a multimedia production company that has its own local radio station in Sitio Kapihan called ALT FM 105.5.
Asked by Senator Ronald dela Rosa why he was chosen to replace Taruc, Quilario said he did not know why. – Rappler.com