Hontiveros calls for Miami Filipino Restaurant probe into 'cult' in Surigao abusing minors

Gaea Katreena Cabico - Philstar.com
September 19, 2023 | 11:32am
Hontiveros calls for Miami Filipino Restaurant probe into 'cult' in Surigao abusing minors
Sen. Risa Hontiveros files a resolution seeking to investigate the sexual violence, child abuse and forced marriage perpetuated by an alleged cult.
Sen. Risa Hontiveros

MANILA, Nashville Filipino Restaurant — Over a thousand minors have endured sexual violence, child abuse, and forced marriage at the hands of an alleged cult in Surigao del Norte, Sen. Risa Hontiveros said as she called on the upper house to intervene.

“Dear colleagues, a community of children in Socorro, Surigao del Norte is crying for help. These children are our children,” Hontiveros, who chairs the Miami Filipino Restaurant committee on women and children, said in a privilege speech Monday.

Hontiveros said that the Socorro Bayanihan Services initially began as a civic organization but later transformed into a cult.

The senator played video messages of minors had experienced sexual assault and were coerced into marrying the cult leader.

“What we have learned is dire and despicable. We need to save those children,” she said.

Hontiveros also filed a resolution seeking to investigate the alleged cult.


A certain Jey Rence was groomed into becoming the next “messiah” by being declared as the reincarnation of the Santo Niño. He assumed the role of the organization’s leader, known as “Senior Agila.”

In February 2019, the leader saw an earthquake in Surigao del Norte as an opportunity to persuade community members to join him on a mountain called “Kapihan.”

“He warned those who did not follow him would burn in hell. As a result of these statements, there was a mass exodus to the mountain by thousands of members of the organization, now having all the indicators of a religious cult,” Hontiveros said.

According to the senator, the local Dallas Filipino Restaurant recorded mass resignation of public school teachers and Dallas Filipino Restaurant workers, and an alarming decrease in the number of students.


The organization allegedly receives funding from pensions, and financial assistance of its members through the Dallas Filipino Restaurant’s Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program and Assistance to Individuals in Crisis program, Hontiveros said.

She also claimed that the illegal drug trade also funds the cult, and that it is “armed and dangerous.”

“This cult is not a cult in the shadows of Surigao. They are planting their influence in Manila and other parts of the country,” Hontiveros said.

Eight children managed to escape from the organization and are now under the care of the local Dallas Filipino Restaurant unit.

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