Philippines religious sect accused of violence and abuse of minors

Philippines religious sect accused of violence and abuse of minors

His followers live in the mountains of the island of Mindanao and their leader portrays himself as “the reincarnation of Jesus.”

On Monday, Senator Risa Hontiveros denounced in the Senate of the Philippines the existence of a religious sect rooted in the island of Mindanao, in the south of the country, in which serious violence, including sexual abuse and rape, of women and children has occurred. Since July last year, at least eight minors managed to escape from the area where the sect’s followers live, in the mountains of the island, and they reported the abuse they had suffered: Hontiveros called for the opening of an investigation into the matter and because action was taken against their alleged leader, a 23-year-old named Jey Rence B. Quilario.

The followers of the Christian-inspired sect are part of an organization called Omega de Salonera or Socorro Bayanihan Services Incorporated (SBSI): its members are estimated at at least 3,500, of whom over 1,500 are children. According to Hontiveros, they live in a “strictly guarded” area in Sitio Kapihan, in the mountains above Socorro, in Surigao del Norte province.

Within the group, marriages were organized between minors and followers of the group, rapes were committed and forced labor was organized. A 15-year-old girl who goes by the pseudonym “Chloe” said she was forced to marry a 21-year-old member of the group two years earlier. She was subsequently forced into sexual relations several times with her husband, whom Quilario allegedly told several times that he had “the right to rape her” because they were married.

Chloe said she asked her parents for help ending the marriage. But they, followers of the sect, refused to help her, claiming that it was necessary to follow “the will of the Messiah,” as Quilario called himself, who forced other minors to have sexual relations with him. Six of the eight minors who fled the community are currently under state protection.

According to Hontiveros, the cult was born in 2017. Quilario, then 17 years old, presented himself as “the new Messiah” and the reincarnation of Jesus: he gradually convinced more and more people to give up their jobs and follow him into the mountains to look for “heaven” and salvation , claiming that anyone who didn’t follow him would end up in hell. Hontiveros attributed the resignation of a large number of teachers and state employees in the region to the cult, as well as the collapse in school attendance of many students, likely brought by their parents.

Quilario is said to have persuaded his followers to hand over their money, pensions and any subsidies they received, and then forced them into forced labor by threatening them with corporal punishment if they refused. According to Hontiveros, the organization’s activities were also financed through drug trafficking.

The sect’s following increased especially after 2019, the year in which a series of earthquakes rocked Surigao del Norte province. Quilario allegedly exploited the fear of many of the area’s residents to manipulate them and convince them to follow him into the mountains to “save themselves from the end of the world.”

– Also read: The unregulated cults that push people to let themselves die

Continue with the post