Dela Rosa: Senate probe to uncover alleged drug lab, other ‘mysteries’ in Socorro group

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 21) — The Senate is set to hold a hearing on Sept. 28 regarding the controversial Socorro group to look into claims that it is operating a drug lab, and the reported presence of armed men believed to be former police officers.

Speaking to CNN Philippines’ The Source on Thursday, Sen. Bato dela Rosa, chairman of the Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs, said these were among the allegations written in a letter sent to his office by Socorro Mayor Riza Timcang against the Socorro Bayanihan Services, Inc. (SBSI).

Maraming laman puro allegations of human rights violations, meron pang allegation doon na mayroon daw shabu laboratory sa loob at ito ay ginagwardiyahan ng armadong kalalakihan kaya this prompted me to file a resolution in aid of legislation,” he said.

[Translation: It is full of allegations of human rights violations, there is also an allegation about a shabu laboratory that is guarded by armed men which prompted me to file a resolution in aid of legislation.]

Dela Rosa said the armed guards are believed to be former policemen who were either dismissed or have resigned. Resigned teachers were also reportedly providing their services to the group, he added.

Another claim the committee will look into is the alleged sexual abuse among minors committed by the group’s leader, the senator said. SBSI Vice President Mamerto Galanida on Wednesday denied this, but he confirmed that they conduct early marriages. 

Dela Rosa said lawmakers will also dig deeper into the deaths of Rosalina Taruc, an official of SBSI who was killed in 2021, and her daughter former Socorro Mayor Denia Florano who “mysteriously died” eight days after. He noted there were no police records regarding this, and Timcang believes that the deaths were due to the “propagation of the cult.”

In a separate statement, Sen. Risa Hontiveros, who first revealed the illegal activities of the alleged cult this week, said her office has received two more testimonies from former SBSI members.

She said a 28-year-old called Karl told her office that he used to be part of the Agila Squad, the armed group of SBSI led by the reported cult leader Jey Rence Quilario or “Senior Agila.” It has 107 members, including minors as young as 12 years old and women who practice how to use knives and different types of guns, he added.

Karl said Quilario’s private army call themselves the “Soldiers of God.” The alleged cult leader told them they can kill other people as ordered by Senior Agila, Karl added.

Hontivero said 13-year-old Maymay also reached out to her office. The survivor said she escaped with her parents because she wanted to attend school, which the group does not permit.