The municipality of Socorro in the island of Bucas Grande located within the jurisdiction of Surigao del Norte has recently been in the frontlines of news, whether in mainstream media or in social media platforms, due to the privilege speech given by Sen. Risa Hontiveros exposing the alleged inhumane and illegal actions of a group officially named Socorro Bayanihan Services Inc., also known as Kapihan group, which is allegedly a cult in itself and a locus of multifarious abuses of leaders towards their followers.
This Kapihan group believes that a certain man by the name of Jay Rence Quilario is their god, whom they fondly call Señor Agila. Jay Rence claims to be the reincarnation of God and even uses our beloved Santo Niño in their indoctrination.
In this respect, the Catholic Parish in Socorro, Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish, strongly insists that this group has no affiliation with the parish or with any Catholic organization. Their belief in the Santo Niño is doubtful since their God is not Jesus but Jay Rence. They only use the image of the child God to make their indoctrination appealing to their followers. This bespeaks an insult to this image of our strong and solemn faith.
Senator Hontiveros enumerated a few of the abuses that the group allegedly committed, and still commits. In this regard, as friar-priests living in the municipality itself, we can attest that the people of Socorro have it as common knowledge that these abuses are actually being done in the hilltop settlement. A number of individuals who fled the group already shared their ordeals with different people and groups in the municipality. Should the people be asked, most of them would share a common story. When we heard of the stories of marriages between a minor and an adult, incidences when already married individuals were made to marry another partner under the authority of Señor Agila, exploitation and forced labor of their followers, and many others, our hearts felt such strong feeling of pity and remorse for the victims. As such, whether these abuses remain to be allegations of inhumane acts or should they be proven true, we strongly condemn such actions of injustice towards our brothers and sisters.
The Kapihan group has one of the greatest numbers of followers in the island. They are probably even greater than the number of Catholics in the municipality. (The Catholics in the island are estimated to be only at 20 percent of the entire population, making it a minority group). These followers come from different aspects of life, with different backgrounds and respective former professions, from educators, to government employees, tricycle drivers to farmers and fishermen, and many others. They sold their properties for a meager sum before they went up their settlement. They left their professional employment. Thus, many of these people could not easily return to their former ways of life due to the fact that they have nothing to go back to, no houses, no work, and sometimes, no family. This context therefore moves us to ask for help from the different agencies and organizations that can rescue the followers from the clutches of their deceitful and abusive leaders.
We ask for your prayers for this island municipality of Socorro. Please pray for the victims of the Kapihan cult. Please pray for the residents of the island. Please pray for peace in this far-flung place of mission.
In Saint Augustine,
Rev. Fr. Ronnel Ian M. Garcia, OSA
Rev. Fr. James Jr. O. Alibong, OSA
Rev. Fr. Christian E. Funtanares, OSA