/ 29 September 2023

MAYOR RIZA Rafonselle Timcang of Socorro, Surigao del Norte on Thursday confirmed the massive school dropout rate in her town where abuses of Socorro Bayanihan Services Incorporated were reported.

Based on record, Timcang said 800 children dropped out from schools in 2019.

During the joint hearing of the Senate Committees on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs with Committee on Women, Children, Family Relations and Gender Equality, three minors who escaped from the organization faced their alleged abusers.

The victims narrated their ordeal while being part of the group, including being forced into marriage and being trained as soldiers despite their young age.

Jane, 15, said she was forced to marry an 18-year old man when she was 14 years old. The marriages were officiated by SBSI leader Jey Rence Quilario, also known as Senior Agila.

The girl further said they were not allowed to decline the marriage as it was an order from God.

In tears, Jane also told the committee in her native dialect that Aguila had told their husbands that they were authorized to rape them.

Renz, 12, testified that he was trained by the group as a soldier. He was not allowed to go to school, the reason why he still can’t write.

Coco said he was also trained by the group to become a soldier. He broke down in tears when asked why he escaped from the SBSI.

Senator Risa Hontiveros said their investigation showed that only 30 percent of the children in Sitio Kapihan, where the SBSI community is located, go to school.

She said these children are from families who are beneficiaries of the government’s Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program or 4Ps.