Alleged Socorro cult denies sexual abuse among minors, defends child marriages

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 20) — A leader of the alleged cult Socorro Bayanihan Services, Inc. (SBSI) on Wednesday denied that their group is sexually abusing children, but he confirmed that they conduct early marriages.

“The millennials, na-expose sa (get exposed to) social media so sometimes they were caught by their parents in a sexual act, so ganyan ang nangyari kaya nga (that happens that's why) there are few who really were married earlier but (they were never forced) never na pine-pwersa sila,” SBSI Vice President Mamerto Galanida told CNN Philippines’ The Source.

He also pointed out that reports from the Commission on Population and Development and the Philippine Statistics Authority show early marriages in the country and “we cannot prevent that.”

Galanida claimed sexual abuse allegations were only made up and passed on to Senator Risa Hontiveros by Task Force Kapihan spokesperson Edelito Sangco, a member of the organization until 1991.

In a separate interview, Sangco said that SBSI was indeed a socio-civic organization when it was established in the 1950s. The group started to change its track in 2017 when one of its active members named Karren Sanico Jr. made the organization a human shield as the Duterte administration pursued its fight against illegal drugs, Sangco noted.

Isa sa mga aktibong member ng (One of the active members of the) 5,000 strong Socorro Bayanihan Services Inc… allegedly (was a) business partner s’ya nung (of the) former MCTC [Municipal Circuit Trial Court] judge na naassign sa (assiged in) Siargao who was included in the narco list released by President Duterte,” Sangco said.

“Feeling the heat of the drug war, he managed to make some strategies, 'yung ginawa n'ya na convert 'yung (what he did was convert the) 5,000 strong members of the Socorro Bayanihan Services Inc. into a cult…para magiging human shield n'ya (to make them his human shield),” he added, referring to Sanico.

Galanida denied the allegations made by Sangco, saying that all these were due to political rivalry.

The Department of Justice said on Tuesday that Galanida, Sanico and 11 other members of the SBSI are facing complaints for the reported abuse of over a thousand children. 

Hontiveros, meanwhile, said in a radio interview that the first Senate hearing regarding the matter will be on Sept. 28.