By Wilnard Bacelonia

SENATE PROBE. Socorro Bayanihan Services, Inc. (SBSI) president Jey Rence Quilario or known as “Senior Agila” (right), attends the second public inquiry of the Senate Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs on Tuesday (Nov. 7, 2023). The Senate probe is looking into the illegal activities allegedly committed by SBSI officials in Sitio Kapihan, Sering, Socorro, Surigao del Norte. (PNA photo by Avito Dalan) 

MANILA – Senators chided on Tuesday the Socorro Bayanihan Services Inc. (SBSI) on allegations that its leadership is collecting from cash benefits received by some of their members.

During the second public inquiry by the Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs, panel chairperson Senator Ronald dela Rosa quoted an affidavit by a former SBSI member who recalled that after Typhoon Odette struck the country, they received PHP5,000 from the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) through its Assistance to Individuals in Crisis Situations (AICS) program.

The affidavit noted, however, that “all recipients had to set aside PHP1,000. This rule applies to recipients of 4Ps [Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program] and senior citizens’ benefits as well. Portion of it had to be collected. During every release schedule, Agila forces, accompanied by a secretary named Flordeliz Ilandag had to be present to facilitate the easy collection from the beneficiaries.”

SBSI leader Jey Rence “Senior Agila” Quilario told the panel that Ilandag serves as the organization’s treasurer, but denied that he knows anything about the allegation.

Socorro Municipal Social Welfare and Development Officer Chien Cen Dizon said almost 1,000 SBSI members benefit from various programs of DSWD.

Simula pa noong 2019, nakapagbigay tayo ng (Since 2019, we have been giving) educational and health grants to the beneficiaries including their rice subsidies [PHP600 every month] at yan po ay naibigay natin sa 202 household members (and we were able to distribute to 202 household members),” Dizon said, adding that AICS worth PHP5,000 each was also distributed to Typhoon Odette affected residents.

Senate Deputy Minority Leader Senator Risa Hontiveros noted that if calculated, the deductions might reach millions of pesos in total after a year.

Hindi po maliliit na halaga ang pinag-uusapan dito na entitled yung mga beneficiaries ng Kapihan pero kinakaltasan ng SBSI officers (We are not talking about small amount here being deducted by SBSI officers from entitled beneficiaries of Kapihan),” Hontiveros said.

DSWD told the committee that it is also currently looking into the allegation.  

Meanwhile, Hontiveros expressed support for the reintegration plans of the Socorro municipal government and the Department of Education (DepEd) for SBSI members.

Hontiveros said it might be the start of a “lengthy and quite difficult” debriefing, psychosocial interventions and reintegration.

Ito ‘yung unang pagkakataon ng pag-rehabilitate [ng isang komunidad] mula sa karanasan ng pagiging isang komunidad ng kulto, unang pagkakataon na very programmatic ng tugon ng ating lipunan sa ganitong klaseng karanasan (This is the first time to rehabilitate a community from being a community of cult, the first time that the response of the society is very programmatic in this kind of experience),” she told reporters after the inquiry.

The lawmaker said that with the help of various government agencies, the community’s recovery will be a “rich experience and lesson” for all Filipinos.

Maganda at detalyado ‘yung planong inihain kanina, pati ng DepEd, kung papaano i-reintegrate ‘yung mga learners ng [Sitio] Kapihan pabalik sa ating (The plan they presented earlier was good and detailed, including DepEd, on how to reintegrate learners of the Sitio Kapihan back to our) public elementary and secondary schools,” she added.

Hontiveros delivered a privilege speech and filed Senate Resolution No. 797 in September, asking the appropriate Senate committees to look into the situation in Sitio Kapihan.

The DepEd assured that it already mapped out nearby schools where SBSI children can be brought in based on their original communities.

In his presentation, Task Force Kapihan spokesperson Edelito Sangco said the residents would be reintegrated back to the community where they once belonged prior to Feb. 8, 2019 or what SBSI members call their “exodus” day to Sitio Kapihan.

Sangco said the residents came from nine Socorro villages: Salog, Honrado, Del Pilar, Songkoy, Nueva Estrella, Rizal, Navarro, Taruc, and Sudlon.

Once back to their original communities, he assured that SBSI members will be provided with socio-economic, security and safety, psycho-social, and legal interventions by both the government and non-government organizations.

Sangco told the panel that there are still 405 families living in Sitio Kapihan.

He called on the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to revoke its Protected Area Community-Based Resource Management Agreement (PACBARMA) with SBSI to prohibit the residents from staying.

The DENR suspended its PACBARMA with SBSI also in September to investigate the organization’s “gross violation of the terms and conditions.” (PNA)