By Benjamin Pulta

CLARIFICATORY HEARING. Socorro Bayanihan Services Inc. leader Jey Rence Quilario (center), also known as Senior Agila, and other respondents attend a clarificatory hearing at the Department of Justice in Manila on Monday (Oct. 9, 2023). They are accused of committing various abuses, including rape and forced child marriages. (PNA photo by Yancy Lim)

MANILA – Socorro Bayanihan Services Inc. (SBSI) leader Jey Rence Quilario, also known as Senior Agila, and other respondents in Monday faced prosecutors at the Department of Justice (DOJ) in a clarificatory hearing which will determine whether a full-blown preliminary investigation into the charges against the group’s senior members is viable.

Kailangan muna nila [prosecutors] i-clarify yung ibang issues (Prosecutors need to clarify the other issues). They have to get certain facts straight para maayos yung (to properly conduct the) preliminary investigation,” Assistant Secretary and DOJ spokesperson Mico Clavano told reporters.

Another key official of the group, Mamerto Galanida also attended the hearing.

Last June, complaints for qualified trafficking, kidnapping and serious illegal detention, violation of Republic Act 7610 or the Anti-Child Abuse law have been filed against Quilario and 12 others before the Surigao City Prosecutors Office.

A separate complaint for adultery against another SBSI member and a complaint for obstruction of justice was filed against another leader of the group.

Preliminary investigations related to the Socorro group will be conducted in Manila.

“All cases pending or subsequent will be heard in Manila,” Prosecutor General Benedicto Malcontento earlier said in a text message.

The SBSI is a Surigao del Norte-based people’s organization with 3,650 members, 1,587 of whom are believed to be minors. (PNA)