Maharlika New Media logo


THE Senate issued an order on Thursday for the apprehension of the president and three prominent members of Socorro Bayanihan Services, Inc. (SBSI), an alleged religious group facing serious accusations of human trafficking, abduction, involvement in child marriages, and sexual exploitation of minors since 2019.

During a joint committee investigation into SBSI led by the Public Order and Dangerous Drugs Committee in collaboration with the Women, Children, Family Relations, and Gender Equality panels, Senator Risa Hontiveros raised concerns regarding SBSI’s endorsement of child marriages.

Her inquiry was based on an official SBSI document titled “Family Planning Certificate,” which indicated the marriage of a 15-year-old girl to an adult man.

In response, the leaders of SBSI, Jey Rence “Senior Agila” Quilario and Mamerto Galanida, strongly denied these allegations during the inquiry.

However, Senator Hontiveros appeared unsatisfied with their responses and moved to cite Quilario, Galanida, Ajoc, and Karren Sanico Jr., all ranking members of the organization, in contempt.

No objections were raised by fellow senators.

Senator Ronald Dela Rosa, chairman of the Public Order panel, supported the motion and instructed the Senate’s sergeant-at-arms to take custody of the four SBSI leaders.

Earlier this month, the Department of Justice reported that the four detained SBSI leaders, along with nine others, were facing complaints for allegedly abusing over a thousand children.

(Benjie Cuaresma/ai/mnm)

By Liza Soriano

Dr. Ted Herbosa did not show up during the Senate hearing on the Department of Health (DOH) proposed budget for 2024 on Thursday.

Earlier, the Commission on Appointment (CA) bypassed the appointment of Herbosa as the Health Secretary.

Senator Francis Tolentino questioned the absence of Herbosa.

“Administratively, who is in charge? Who will take the cudgels in defending the budget of this big department? We don’t have a secretary here,” Tolentino asked.

“Who is going to present? Is there an acting secretary? Is there an officer-in-charge who will be responsible for all these budget presentations, madam Chair? Otherwise, we’re talking to a clustered group of individuals,” he added.

Herbosa’s name was written on the guest list for the budget briefing.

Meanwhile, Committee senior vice-chair Sen. Pia Cayetano said that there are senior members of the agency who are present during the hearing.

“Actually all of the senior members of the team approached me a while ago and they acknowledged that of course, it is a bit of an awkward situation,” Cayetano said.

“But as you all know, Usec Dr. Vergeire was the OIC for many years and was very actively exercising her leadership not just in the past year, but even during the time of President Duterte. Usec. Dr. David is the most senior undersecretary. So I’m quite confident in the presentation today that they can answer,” she added.

Secretary Herbosa could not be reached for comment as of posting time Thursday. (ai/mnm)

By Liza Soriano

A SENATE resolution was filed commending actress Kathryn Bernardo after she won Outstanding Asian Star at the Seoul International Drama Awards 2023.

“Kathryn Bernardo, a talented and accomplished Filipina actress, has consistently showcased her exemplary skills, dedication, and passion in the field of acting, captivating both local and international audiences, including Filipinos residing abroad,” said in a resolution filed by Senator Lito Lapid.

Her portrayal in the ABS-CBN drama series “2 Good 2 Be True” earned her the Outstanding Asian Star prize in the Philippine category at the Seoul International Drama Awards.

According to the resolution, the award brings pride to the Filipino people.

“This remarkable achievement by Ms. Bernardo underscores the importance of recognizing and nurturing Filipino talents on the international stage, demonstrating that our artists possess the capability to excel and compete globally,” Lapid said in the resolution. (ai/mnm)

Image Courtesy of Senator Risa Hontiveros Official Facebook Account

By Junex Doronio

“Religious fanaticism is the most dangerous form of insanity.” — Robert Graves

CITING “REAL THREAT AND IMMINENT DANGER OF VIOLENCE,” Socorro, Surigao del Norte Mayor Riza Rafonselle Taruc-Timcang has asked for the deployment of more police officers and Army soldiers to her town ahead of the start of the Senate investigation into the alleged cult activities of Socorro Bayanihan Services Incorporated (SBSI).

The mayor made the appeal after hundreds of members of SBSI staged a rowdy demonstration in the Socorro town strongly denying that their group is a cult and the charges of child abuse, exploitation, forced labor, and illegal possession of guns and drugs.

SBSI members also called for the Senate probe to be held in Sitio Kapihan, Barangay Sering in Socorro town, where the organization is based.

But Senator Hontiveros rejected the demand of SBSI members, saying its leader Jey Rence Quilario who reportedly claimed to be the “new Jesus” and also called “Senior Agila” must attend the Senate investigation in aid of legislation.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) also junked the SBSI request.

In her privilege speech last September 18, Hontiveros revealed that numerous cases of rape have been committed against minors, with the leaders of the group facilitating marriages of children as young as 12 years old with adults.

The opposition senator claimed that first-hand witnesses, including “survivors,” told her that “Senior Agila” (Quilario) had convinced thousands of Socorro locals and government employees to flee to the mountains by spreading doomsday or end-of-the-world messages. (ai/mnm)

By Dang Samson Garcia

THE SENATE on Tuesday commended Metrobank Foundation’s 10 Outstanding Filipinos this year for being models of excellence in their respective professions.

In recognition of the achievements of the 10 awardees who rose above and beyond the call of their duties, the Senate adopted Resolution No 724, taking into consideration Resolution Nos. 741, 779, 782, 792, 805, and 808 sponsored by Sen. Jose “Jinggoy”Ejercito Estrada.

“In times when trust in government institutions may waver, these dedicated civil servants are the pillars that uphold the foundations of democracy and good governance. They exemplify what public service should be—a selfless commitment to the welfare of the people they serve,” Estrada said in his sponsorship speech.

The Metrobank Foundation annually recognizes exemplars in the academe, military and police who have devoted themselves to their communities even beyond the call of duty.

This year, the foundation recognized four teachers, three soldiers, and three police officers as models of excellence in their profession and lives in accordance with values of patriotism, integrity, and resourcefulness.

The four teachers are Rex Sario, teacher-in-charge of Balogo Elementary School in Pangantucan, Bukidnon; June Elias Patalinghug, master teacher II of Catalunan Grande Elementary School in Davao City; Edgar Durana, master teacher I of Don Jose Ynares Memorial National High School in Binangonan, Rizal; and Dr. Jovelyn Delosa, associate professor of Northern Bukidnon State College in Manolo Fortich, Bukidnon.

The three soldiers are Army Staff Sgt. Danilo Banquiao, PAF Lt. Col. Joseph Bitancur, and Army Col. Joseph Jeremias Cirilo Dator.

The awardees from the Philippine National Police are Chief Master Sgt. Dennis Bendo of the Manila Police District; Maj. Mae Ann Cunanan of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group; and Col. Renell Sabaldica of the Directorate for Personnel and Records Management.

“These remarkable individuals toil behind the scenes, away from the limelight, and without seeking recognition. They persevere in the face of challenges, bureaucratic red tape, and sometimes limited resources. Their dedication is a testament to their commitment to the betterment of society,” Estrada said.

By Dang Samson Garcia

SENATE President Juan Miguel Zubiri is pushing for a measure that will amend the charter of the Polytechnic University of the Philippines to strengthen and empower it.

Zubiri’s Senate Bill 2448 will allow the university to continue its mission to ensure inclusive and equitable education and promote lifelong learning opportunities.

Zubiri said that PUP is one of the country’s most distinguished polytechnic universities, having served thousands of students since its foundation in 1904.

“Today, it is the largest State University in the country in terms of population, with around 70,000 students,” Zubiri said in his explanatory note.

The Senate leader stressed that PUP is one of the top-performing schools in various academic fields, such as engineering, education, psychology, and accountancy. He added that it has consistently produced competent graduates who now compose the country’s league of workers and professionals.

“PUP is named the top school preferred by employers according to a 2023 survey by Jobstreet, one of the biggest employment platforms in the country,” he said.

According to this survey, PUP graduates are preferred by 23.39 percent of employers because they are effective team players in the workplace.

Zubiri added that the university has held the top spot on this survey for several years while it remained to have one of the lowest tuition fees across the country but providing access to quality and responsive education to students who wish to fulfill their dreams and improve their lives through education.

By Vergel Labesig

THE SENATE has approved on third and final reading several bills that seek to convert and establish schools across the country.

Approved on third reading were House Bill 6553 or the proposed Bataan Peninsula State University-Batac Campus Act; House Bill 6552 or the Leyte Normal University- San Isidro Campus Act: House Bill 6128 or the Pampanga State Agricultural University-Floridablanca Campus Act; House Bill 7091 or the Polytechnic University of the Philippines Parañaque City Campus Act; House Bill 6704 or Benguet State University-College of Medicine Act; House Bill 7087 or the Southern Luzon State University-College of Medicine Act; House Bill 7088 or the University of Eastern Philippines- College of Medicine Act; House Bill 7090 or the Don Mariano Marcos Memorial State University- South La Union Campus- College of Medicine Act; House Bill No. 7412 or Visayas State University-College of Medicine Act; House Bill 7961 or the Revised Bulacan State University Charter; House Bill 7397 or the Bicol University- College of Veterinary Medicine; and House Bill 7398 or the Southern Luzon State University- Catanauan Campus- College of Veterinary Medicine.

Senator Francis Escudero, chairperson of the Committee on Higher, Technical and Vocational Education and sponsor of the measures, said the elevation of schools into regular campuses would give them certain autonomous decision-making prerogatives.

He added that the devolution of their powers would be advantageous to their future as it would invite local stakeholders to engage more in affairs integral to their educational system.

“As vowed by the university officials, what is being sought goes beyond a change of name but a qualitative improvement in its offerings and outcomes,” he said.

Escudero, who introduced amendments to the bills, said they would improve the measures by including key provisions tailored to achieve desired quality standards expected of a higher institute of learning.

“The conversion and establishment of these campuses are driven not only by egalitarian motives of democratizing access to its portals but in making sure that it is attended with excellence,” the senator explained.

He said the conversion and establishment of the schools are an essential part of the growth of their respective localities.

“As a province grows, so must the school grow so it can train and require human capital to propel its progress. Education is a development imperative. These bills ensure that it is for the present and for the future of these areas and those who dwell therein,” Escudero added.

By Junex Doronio

DESPITE STRONG DENIAL by members of Socorro Bayanihan Services Inc. in Surigao del Norte that their group allegedly engaged in rape, child marriages, and child labor, Senator Risa Hontiveros has dared their leader Jey Rence Quilario who reportedly claimed to be the “new Jesus” and also called “Senior Agila” to attend the Senate investigation in aid of legislation.

In a recent privilege speech, Hontiveros urged her fellow senators to look into the operations of Socorro Bayanihan Services after receiving complaints that the group was involved in child marriage, which had been outlawed with the passage of Republic Act No. 11596 last year.

“Si Jey Rence ay ipinatawag sa Senado kaya siya ang dapat pumunta ng Senado, gaya ng iba din na pinatawag namin sa Senado para harapin ang lehitimong mga issue,” Hontiveros quipped.

Socorro Bayanihan Services, Inc. is also known as “Omega de Saloner”.

Hontiveros claimed that the group’s leaders Quilario and Karren Sanico had been collecting money from thousands of their members, many of them 4Ps beneficiaries.

“This cult has a lot to answer for. Titiyakin nating mabigyan ng hustisya ang mga kababayan nating sinaktan at inalipusta nila,” she vowed.

In an interview with GMA News, Quilario has expressed willingness to face any investigation over the activities of the Socorro Bayanihan Services Inc. (SBSI).

“Ang hiling ko lang is ‘yung fair naman, fair,” Quilario said. (ai/mnm)

By: Junex Doronio

OUT OF 195 COUNTRIES IN THIS PLANET, only the Philippines, a predominantly Catholic country, is the state outside the Vatican — considered a state and the seat of Roman Catholicism in Rome, Italy — where divorce is not allowed.

Lawmakers have filed bills to legalize divorce since 1999 but even if passed by the House of Representatives, the Senate would always relegate it to the back burner.

Until now.

For the first time since the restoration of Congress which has “two houses” after the 1986 EDSA Revolution, the Senate Committee on Women, Children, Family Relations, and Gender Equality on Tuesday, September 19, approved a consolidated measure on absolute divorce in the country.

Senate Bill No. 2443 was the consolidated measure filed by Senators Risa Hontiveros, Raffy Tulfo, Robin Padilla, Pia Cayetano, and Imee Marcos.

Aside from the authors, Senators JV Ejercito, Grace Poe, Koko Pimentel, and Senate President Pro Tempore Loren Legarda signed the report.

SB 2443 lists as grounds for divorce the following circumstances:

  • the commission of the crime of rape by the respondent-spouse against the petitioner-spouse, whether before or after the celebration of their marriage;
  • the grounds for legal separation under the Family Code; provided that physical violence or grossly abusive conduct… need not be repeated; provided further, that, lesbianism and homosexuality… shall not be ground, unless either or both spouses commit marital infidelity;
    • a final decree of absolute divorce validly obtained in a foreign jurisdiction by any Filipino citizen;
    • irreconcilable marital differences or irreparable breakdown of marriage, despite earnest efforts at reconciliation; and
    • a marriage annulment or dissolution, duly authorized by a church or religious entity, or a marriage termination duly authorized by customs and practices traditionally recognized, accepted, and observed by an ICC or IP to which the parties belong.

    Once divorce is granted, each party’s status will become single for all legal intents and purposes, including the right to contract a subsequent marriage.

    The bill also provides that in the case of poor individuals, the court must waive payment of filing fees and other costs for the divorce.

    Furthermore, the court will also evaluate their independent source of income, property, and capacity to afford services of counsel, as well as whether they’re part of a marginalized group.

    To recall, then-presidential candidate Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. said divorce shouldn’t be “easy” if it would be allowed in the country.

    Earlier reports said First Lady Liza Araneta Marcos was in favor of divorce acknowledging that some marriages don’t work out but preferred that the process should be “hard” to “break the bond.”

    MANILA — The Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights chaired by Senator Francis “Tol” Tolentino detained France Ruiz, one of the alleged abusive pair of employers of kasambahay Elvie Vergara.

    In the third marathon hearing of the Senate panel on Vergara’s case on Tuesday, Sen. Tol declared the detention of the female Ruiz “for continuously evading the questions propounded by the members of this Committee as well as falsely testifying under direct examination by Committee members.”

    Further, Tolentino said in a press conference: “The preponderance of the witness as against the solitary testimonial evidence being offered by the alleged abuser would weigh the balance in favor of the numbers especially if the victim herself, aided by medical science, is on the side of the truth as shown by her scars, to say the least.”

    Mrs. Ruiz is detained inside the Senate jail while the Committee will be conducting parallel investigations on the case to finalize charges. She will also undergo a polygraph test and medical examination.


    By Dang Samson Garcia

    THE Senate has approved the measure that seeks to institutionalize the School-Based Mental Health Program.

    Voting 22-0, the senators approved on third and final reading Senate Bill 2200 or the proposed Basic Education Mental Health and Well-Being Promotion Act.

    The measure authored and sponsored by Senator Sherwin Gatchalian aims to promote and ensure the mental health and well-being of learners in public and private schools.

    The bill also covers learners with disabilities or conditions, indigenous peoples, children in conflict with the law, learners in emergency situations, and other marginalized sectors.

    It mandates the Department of Education to establish and maintain Care Centers, which will equip learners with skills and information for the prevention, identification, and proper response and referral for their own and others’ mental health needs.

    Care Centers shall improve the mental health awareness and literacy of teaching and non-teaching personnel.

    The bill creates the new plantilla positions of Mental Health Associates I to V, and Mental Health Specialists I to V.

    It will also rename guidance counselors and psychologists in the DepEd to mental health specialists.

    Gatchalian earlier said that as of July 2022, there were only 1,192 filled positions for both guidance counselors and coordinators within the DepEd.