Socorro site inspection bolsters panel’s initial findings: solon

The visit and inspection of the Senate Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs to Sitio Kapihan in Socorro, Surigao del Norte on Saturday have established some of its initial findings, Senator Ronald "Bato" dela Rosa said Monday. In a virtual press briefing, dela Rosa said after the inspection, he is convinced that the officials and members of Socorro Bayanihan Services Inc. (SBSI) are determined to cover up the illegal activities happening in the area. "Parang na-bolster dahil yung mga sagot nga nila [sa tanong ko] doon pagdating ko doon sa area ay sabi ko nga, parang rehearsed. Parang may pinagtatakpan talaga (It was bolstered because their answers to my questions when I arrived in the area, It seemed like it was rehearsed. They are really covering up something)," dela Rosa said. "Parang ayaw nilang madadawit sa legal problems yung kanilang leader na si Senior Agila at yung mga opisyales ng kanilang grupo. Talagang may depensa. Dedepensahan talaga nila (It seems like they don't want to implicate their leader Senior Agila and the officials of their group in legal problems. There really is a defense. They will really defend them)," he added. In its last hearing, dela Rosa's panel discovered that children as young as 12 were forced to marry, raped, kept from school, and forced to train as soldiers. The Department of Justice (DOJ) already scheduled a second clarificatory hearing on the cases filed against SBSI leader Jey Rence Quilario, known as Senior Agila and other officials who are expected to file supplemental counter-affidavits and presentations against the recently filed motion of the National Bureau of Investigation for a hold departure order. Revisiting existing laws Dela Rosa told reporters that he is planning to revisit existing laws to consider amendments in parental authority over child custody. "Yung halimbawa, ayaw na talaga ng bata na bumalik doon sa kanyang parents. Tingnan natin yun kasi talagang pinapaboran ng korte yung parents pagdating sa child custody. Pero kung ayaw na ng bata, dapat merong batas na mago-govern diyan dahil sabi nga ng bata, useless pala na mag-surrender tayo dito sa gobyerno at magpatulong dahil ang gobyerno mismo ang magbabalik sa atin dun sa [Sitio] Kapihan. So, isa yan sa titingnan natin (For example, the child refuses to return to the parents. Let's look into that because the court will always be in favor of the parents when it comes to child custody. But of the child refuses, there should be a law that will govern that because the child might say the surrendering and asking for the government's help is useless because it is actually the one which will push us back to Sitio Kapihan. So, that's one that we will look into)," he said. Article 211 of the Family Code of the Philippines says that "the father and the mother shall jointly exercise parental authority over the persons of their common children. In case of disagreement, the father's decision shall prevail, unless there is a judicial order to the contrary. Children shall always observe respect and reverence towards their parents and are obliged to obey them as long as the children are under parental authority." In the case of SBSI, eight children fled Sitio Kapihan, saying they cannot stand the abuses that they have experienced from the SBSI officials, especially the prohibition of them going to school. These were repeatedly denied by SBSI officials, including the parents of the children and asked them to return to their custody. Dela Rosa also noted that the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) should revisit their regulations in entering into Protected Area Community-Based Resource Management Agreement (PACBRMA) with people's organizations like the SBSI. PCBRMA is a legal instrument that allows people's organizations to develop and conserve a portion of a protected area for a certain period. "Lahat ng may mga agreements entered into between DENR and by certain people's organziation dapat continuous ang monitoring ng DENR para talagang alam na alam nila yung pangyayari. Hindi yung pagbabawalan silang makapasok sa area (All of those who have agreements entered into between DENR and by certain people's organization should have continuous monitoring by the DENR so they will know what is happening. Not that they are the one's being prevented to enter the area)," dela Rosa said. The lawmaker, however, admitted that a legislation preventing the formation of a cult, which is also being tagged to the SBSI, is not possible considering that the 1987 Constitution says "No law shall be made respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. The free exercise and enjoyment of religious profession and worship, without discrimination or preference, shall forever be allowed."

Source: Philippines News Agency