Videos circulating on YouTube and Facebook (FB) claim that the government ordered the reclamation of the land occupied by the Socorro Brigade Services Inc. (SBSI) in Surigao del Norte and the deployment of troops in the area. This is misleading.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) recently suspended a land use agreement awarded to SBSI. However, there was no order from any government official to send troops to the suspected cult’s village.
Uploaded on Oct. 11, more than a week after the DENR issued the suspension order, one of the misleading videos bore the headline:
“Hala Gobyerno BABAWIIN NA ang LUPANG INANGKIN ni SENIOR AGILA DENR AT SUNDALO PINALULUSOB sa SBSI (Oh no. The government will now take back the land claimed by Senior Agila. The DENR and army were ordered to charge into SBSI).”
It also featured a photo of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. supposedly holding a document bearing such orders.
Another video uploaded on Oct. 17 carried a title that read:
“GOODNEWS! (sic) Gobyerno Binawi ang Lupang inangkin ni Senior Agila DENR Sundalo Wina sak (sic) ang Kulto SBSI (The government recovered the land claimed by Senior Agila. DENR and soldiers destroyed the SBSI cult).”
It featured the same photo of Marcos with the addition of a text saying: “NILUSOB ANG SBSI. ITO ANG NAKAKAKILABOT NA UTOS SA PANGULO. UBUSIN ANG KULTO (The SBSI was attacked. This is the horrifying order to the president. Decimate the cult)!”
Reverse image search showed that Marcos was not holding any document in the original photo uploaded by Inquirer.net on March 24.
On Sept. 29, the DENR suspended its Protected Area Community-Based Resource Management Agreement with the SBSI due to a breach of terms, such as restricting entry to the area, building structures, setting up checkpoints and conducting military-like training.
The agreement signed in 2004 allowed the SBSI to develop and conserve 353 hectares of protected land in the mountains of Sitio Kapihan. The SBSI has since transformed the area into a village for its over 3,000 members.
However, neither Marcos nor any government official issued orders for the military to raid the SBSI’s village.
Sen. Ronald dela Rosa only suggested on an Oct. 4 Senate budget hearing that the DENR should have asked for military or police assistance when it first monitored suspicious activities from the group in 2019. He said:
“The first attempt pa lang sana noong mga tao mo na pumasok doon tapos binawalang pumasok, kung lumapit ka na kaagad sa [Philippine National Police] o kaya sa Philippine Army doon, nagpatulong ka to assert your power as a regulating agency, baka hindi na lumala ang sitwasyon.”
(When your people were prevented from entering the area during their first attempt, if you immediately asked help from the PNP or the Philippine Army to assert your power as a regulating agency, maybe the situation would not have worsened.)
Source: Senate of the Philippines YouTube channel, “Committee on Finance (Subcommittee “B”) (October 4, 2023),” Oct. 4, 2023
In that same hearing, Environment Secretary Antonia Yulo-Loyzaga said there will be no relocation orders for the residents of Sitio Kapihan while the investigation on SBSI’s alleged illegal activities are ongoing.
The Senate and the Justice department have launched investigations over SBSI’s alleged human rights abuses, including involuntary child marriages, forced labor and physical abuse.
Uploaded by YouTube channels Pinas Watcher and PINAS NEWS INSIDER, the misleading video received a total of 678,845 views. FB page Pinas Watcher also reposted the video.
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