IF ALLEGATIONS of trafficking and other abuses against their group are proven true, Omega de Salonera, the Sinulog 2023 free interpretation category winner from Surigao del Norte, might no longer be allowed to join future Sinulog festivals, an official of the Cebu City government said.
Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama, in a statement on Friday, Sept. 29, 2023, said if the ongoing Senate probe doesn’t favor the group, the City might exclude them from future Sinulog Festivals. The Sinulog is an annual cultural and religious festival in honor of Sto. Niño de Cebu.
“If the ending [comes] out not favorable to the group, which I think is leading to that direction, we will look at declaring them not anymore worthy to be part of the Sinulog because Sinulog is venerating Sto. Niño. But we cannot also be popest than the pope,” Rama was quoted as saying in a report from the Cebu City News and Information Facebook page on Friday.
The Omega de Salonera, formerly known as Socorro Bayanihan Services Inc. (SBSI), organized by Jey Rence “Senior Agila” Quilario, a self-proclaimed “new Jesus,” is currently a subject of discussion in the Senate.
This after Senator Risa Hontiveros, chairperson of the Senate committee on women and children, filed her Senate Resolution 797 calling for an investigation into the reported incidents of rape, sexual abuse, forced labor, and child marriage involving Omega de Salonera.
The Omega de Salonera has 3,650 members, including 1,587 children who are residing in an enclosed and heavily guarded area in Sitio Kapihan, Barangay Sering, Socorro town in Bucas Grande Island in Surigao del Norte province.
In a follow-up interview on Saturday, Sept. 30, Mayor Rama told SunStar Cebu that he has to wait for the Senate to proceed with its investigation and await its findings and recommendations.
“We will continue to monitor. We know what ought to be done and that will include reconsidering when the finality will come on the hearing at the Senate,” Rama said.
He added that he does not want to preempt the conclusion of the Senate hearing regarding the issue.
“Definitely we are not oblivious; we know what to do,” Rama said.
He also said the City can’t make its conclusion when the matter is still being discussed.
When asked about his stand upon hearing about the allegations involving the contingent, the mayor refused to give any comment.
Meanwhile, in an interview with Surigao City-based broadcaster dxRS-Radio Mindanao Network last Sept. 20, SBSI vice president Mamerto Galanida denied the accusations of abuse, saying, “We are a people’s organization with a noble purpose.”
The Omega de Salonera also won the grand prize in the Street Dancing Competition, and they placed second in the Best in Musicality and Best in Costume during the Sinulog 2023.