“If not for development workers like you, I could just imagine how miserable the country would be right now.”
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA — Angelita Quilloy-Go has been longing for her brother’s home cooked meals.
In a gathering of development workers on July 16, Go described her brother Benito Quilloy, “He is the most intelligent. He was our mother’s favorite and the best cook.”
Go said that since their childhood, Ben has been consistent with his principles.
During meal times, Ben would ensure that every one of them had their fair share. When any of the nine siblings quarreled over something, Ben acted as the mediator. “He would tell us to shut up or to listen. He always had that aura of authority.”
Go believes that such strong sense of fairness and leadership led her brother to become a development worker. They did not expect though that his volunteer work would send him to jail.
Ben, a senior consultant of the Assert Socio-Economic Initiatives Network (ASCENT) and project staff, Rita Espinoza, were illegally arrested by elements of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on October 19, 2017 in Kabankalan, Negros Occidental. They were slapped with trumped-up charges of robbery, arson, illegal possession of firearms, and attempted murder. The two are detained at the Bayugan Municipal Police Station in Agusan del Sur.
Ben and Rita were in Negros for a two-day consultation with the National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW). They just finished conducting workshops and planned for campaign activities on the demand of sugar workers for a 50-percent wage increase when they were arrested.
Go admitted that it was only after their brother was arrested that the family came to know of all his contributions to marginalized communities.
From 1995-2000, Ben worked as NFSW consultant. He helped farmworkers on how to conceptualize, plan and implement socio-economic projects. They implemented communal and demonstration farms, organic farming practices and training programs on diversified farming systems.
In 2001 to early part of 2007, Ben served as a volunteer consultant for the Advocates for Community Health (Advocates), an NGO that provides free health services to rural communities particularly those affected by infectious diseases.
In 2014, he and other development workers co-founded the ASCENT.
“We just knew that he is doing volunteer work. We did not know that he has helped so many,” the sister said. “Our brother has a big heart for the poor.”
Ben’s companion Rita has also been serving the poor for decades.
Rita has been a volunteer staff of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP) from 2000 to 2007.
Sister Patricia Fox, then national coordinator of RMP, said Rita helped them in their development projects such as sustainable agriculture, health programs and literacy projects.
The Australian missionary described Rita as hardworking. “Even when she’s sick, she is always happy. Always smiling,” Fox told the audience.
Since 2014, Rita has been a volunteer with ASCENT.
Fox called on the public to campaign for the release of Ben and Rita and other development workers.