CAGAYAN DE ORO, Philippines – Former followers of controversial preacher Apollo Quiboloy called on Malacañang to look into the practices, activities, and operations of the pastor’s Kingdom of Jesus Christ (KOJC) and not look the other way given his cases and the recent sanctions imposed on him in the United States.
“How many editorials are needed before our government acts?” asked lawyer Pearl Canada, a former Quiboloy follower now living in the US.
She and other disgruntled former members of the KOJC in the US said the government was sending the international community the wrong message on impunity with its inaction on the allegations of serious human rights abuses and other crimes against Quiboloy.
They appealed to the government to start a motu proprio investigation into Quiboloy’s and KOJC’s activities in the Philippines, and to hold the preacher accountable.
Canada said, “Trafficking is a crime against humanity. That alone is enough to make Malacañang initiate an investigation.”
Canada, who once taught law at Quiboloy’s school in Davao City, is a member of one of the families that used to wield influence in the KOJC for years.
Her father, a former village chief in Davao City, had served as a close aide of Quiboloy, and other members of the family held various positions in the group until they severed their ties with his church and left for the US a few years back.
The US announced in early December that it imposed sanctions on Quiboloy due to serious human rights abuses, blocking his assets and other interests, and banning transactions that would benefit him and his group.
The doomsday preacher and several of his church associates are scheduled to be tried on March 2024 in a Los Angeles, California district court for conspiracy to engage in sex trafficking, sex trafficking of children, marriage fraud, fraud and misuse of visas, bulk cash smuggling, promotional money laundering, concealment of money laundering, and international promotional money laundering.
Breath of fresh air
Canada said the sanctions imposed by the US Department of Treasury on Quiboloy made her and other former KOJC members hopeful amid their “growing frustrations due to delay, and how things work in the Philippines.”
“It is a breath of fresh air. At least, the case progresses, albeit slowly,” she said.
Canada added, “The inaction of the Philippine government is very appalling, and shocking to the conscience.”
She said it was like “throwing stones in the air” when the cases were filed against Quiboloy at a time when his close friend, Rodrigo Duterte, was president.
Quiboloy, she said, was able to maintain his flamboyant lifestyle in the Philippines until now, “but (we are) still hoping that this government (under President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.) will no longer play deaf and mute.”
“For what? Election votes? They should be smart enough to know how small this group of Quiboloy is compared to INC (Iglesia ni Cristo) and other mega-churches. His is a mega-church of chicanery, and if you pierce the veil of this institution, all they have are a few loyal church workers and members… I’m saying this is not about numbers. Obviously, Quiboloy’s friendship with the Duterte patriarch is what keeps the government mum,” Canada added.
‘Haven for international fugitives’
One of Quiboloy’s staunchest critics, former KOJC “pastoral” Arlene Caminong-Stone said she found it revolting that the preacher was even partying with powerful and influential politicians in the country at a time when he was labeled as one of the most wanted people in the US by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
Quiboloy’s “pastorals,” according to US federal prosecutors and former KOJC members, take care of the pastor’s needs – from organizing his engagements to household chores. Some of them were even allegedly required to offer their bodies and perform “night duty” or have intimate relations with the now septuagenarian preacher.
Those accused were either arrested or surrendered to US authorities and then bailed out after their indictment by a federal jury in California in late 2021, except for Quiboloy and two of his associates.
Stone said the Philippine government either didn’t see red flags when US authorities charged Quiboloy or merely turned a blind eye to how the Davao City-based KOJC has been operating.
Stone said, “Our government should look into his activities because if authorities saw abuses and other wrongdoings being done in the US, that is indicative that the same things are also being done by him and his church in the Philippines.”
The Quiboloy case, she said, has made the Philippines look like a “haven for international fugitives where laws can be circumvented.”
Faith Killion, another former KOJC worker, said the government should do something about the Quiboloy group’s fund-raising activities, and stop its street solicitations and selling that involve minors.
She said the group’s business practices and operations were dubious based on what she witnessed when she was still a worker in his church and as stated in the indictment papers.
Killion said, “The government has to ensure that charities are what they claim to be. The lack of regulations allowed shady modus operandi like Quiboloy’s to proliferate with no accountability for years. The impunity allowed him to take the fund-raising activities to new heights and eventually, export his machine-like workers to other countries. Shame on the Philippines for enabling him!”
The fund-raising activities, she said, become more relentless during Yuletide.
“Because of our generous culture, especially during the Christmas season, we give every time someone knocks on our houses to carol, or approaches us in the streets, begging for donations,” Killion said.
She said it was disappointing to see people in the corridors of power rubbing elbows with Quiboloy during events his group organized because “given the seriousness of the allegations and charges against him in the US, they should be the ones compelled to have him investigated in the Philippines.”
A handful of legislators belonging to the Makabayan Bloc in the House of Representatives sought a congressional investigation into the allegations of human rights abuses, and into the workings of his church.
The Lower House has yet to act on House Resolution 644 filed on December 14 by party-list representatives France Castro of ACT Teachers, Arlene Brosas of Gabriela, and Raoul Manuel of Kabataan, whose groups have been red-tagged by the government and Quiboloy’s group.
In a December 15 statement, Manuel said, “Quiboloy and his defenders say the US sanctions go against the rule of law because he was supposedly punished even when he has not been found guilty yet. Truth is, no one has been made to account and punished yet in the child sex trafficking scheme because Quiboloy is not cooperating.”
Manuel added, “If he is innocent and he is really a servant of God, then why won’t he cooperate for the sake of justice and his church?” – Rappler.com