By SHERYLIN UNTALAN, GMA Integrated News
Three minors who were allegedly being recruited by the Socorro Bayanihan Services Incorporated, a supposed cult operating in Surigao del Norte, were now under the care of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Senator Risa Hontiveros said in a Super Radyo dzBB interview on Sunday.
“Lahat-lahat, siyam na menor de edad ay nasa protective custody na po ng DSWD national bilang bahagi ng [Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking]. So yan po yung magandang bagong development,” said Hontiveros.
(A total of nine minors are in the protective custody of the DSWD national as part of the IACAT. So that’s the new development.)
“Tulad ng unang iniharap naming mga batang victim-survivors, yung tatlong gustong idagdag nung mga lider ng kulto, kailangan dumaan muna sa social preparation ng DSWD,” she said.
(Like the minor victim-survivors we first presented, the three minors the cult leaders were trying to recruit must first go through social preparation by the DSWD.)
Hontiveros said the nine minors and the four adults who testified on the SBSI at the Senate were now under protective custody.
“So magandang development, dagdag yan. Dahil pati po yung mga adult na noong una kumbaga kumakampi doon sa mga lider ng kulto, eh kasama po sila sa apat na adults na pumaloob na rin po sa protective custody ng DSWD,” she added.
(It’s a positive development, that’s a plus. Because even the adults who initially seemed to be siding with the cult leaders are among the four adults have joined the others in the protective custody of the DSWD.)
Hontiveros said the Senate hoped the adults testify against the cult leaders in the next hearing.
“Hopefully, hopefully, sa susunod na pagdinig magtetestigo na po sila kampi sa kanilang mga anak at laban sa mga lider ng kulto,” she said.
(Hopefully, in the next hearing, they will testify in favor of their children and against the cult leaders.)
After the Senate hearing on Thursday, Hontiveros said more victims have been showing up to testify against the cult.
“Sa tingin ko po ang mga naging malinaw at hari-nawa lalabas sa findings ng committee report ay unang-una, mga biktima ng trafficking itong mga bata. At kaya nga sila isina-protective custody ng DSWD at DOJ sa ilalim ng IACAT dahil pinagsamantalahan yung kanilang vulnerability bilang mga menor de edad at pinagsamantalahan yung kanilang mga status,” she said.
(I think that what has become clear, and hopefully this will appear in the committee report’s findings, first of all, these children are victims of trafficking. This is why they are in the protective custody of the DSWD and DOJ under IACAT because their vulnerability as minors, and their status, was exploited.)
Hontiveros said the Department of Justice was studying possible criminal charges against the SBSI leaders.
She added that SBSI resided in a protected area with the approval of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, though the DENR has since suspended that approval.
“Isang 25-year na lease na mage-expire po sa 2029 at subject sa renewal for another 25 years. Eh noong patapos ang hearing eh lumalabas na itong kulto ay naglalatag pa ng mga trap laban sa DENR na gusto ay may awtoridad na pumasok at mag-inspect,” she said.
(A 25-year lease that will expire in 2029 and is subject to renewal for another 25 years. At the end of the hearing, it came out that this cult was laying traps against the DENR. They wanted authorities to enter and inspect the area.) — DVM, GMA Integrated News