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Women’s rights advocates in Davao, Cagayan de Oro, and Zamboanga cities on Friday, November 19, called for a no-nonsense investigation into the activities of the group of President Rodrigo Duterte’s spiritual adviser Pastor Apollo Quibiloy following his indictment in the US for sex trafficking.
The call came after US Federal prosecutors slapped Quiboloy, founder of the Davao-based Kingdom of Jesus Christ, The Name Above Every Name (KOJC) church, and several of his associates with charges in connection with what American authorities saw as sex trafficking operations.
Davao-based anaesthesiologist Jean Lindo, the second nominee of Gabriela Women’s Partylist, said the government could use the findings of the Los Angeles federal prosecutors to start an investigation into Quiboloy and his group’s activities in Davao and elsewhere in the country.
Lindo said the American prosecutors’ work should make it easier for Philippine investigators to look into how Quiboloy’s group has been operating in Davao and other areas of the country because “the details are stipulated” in their investigative work.
“Of course, there is smoke. All forms of gender violence, discrimination, and oppression should be dealt with justice. This is applied to all suspected perpetrators without exception,” Lindo said.
She called on the government to do its part regardless of Quiboloy’s close ties with Duterte, and reminder it the Philippines is a signatory to the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).
Davao City Councilor Pamela Librado-Morata told Rappler that the things the allegations of US Federal prosecutors against the group were “gruesome.”
She said a full-blown investigation should be pushed if there was enough basis “para rin mawala ang duda ng mga tao at ang mga haka-haka that Pastor Quiboloy is enjoying some impunity kasi malakas sa pamilya Duterte (so that it would remove suspicions and speculations that Pastor Quiboloy is enjoying some impunity given his closeness to the Duterte family).
The US prosecutors accused Quiboloy’s group of running sex trafficking operations, threatening victims as young as 12 with “eternal damnation” and physical abuse.
They said the scheme brought church members to the US using fraudulently obtained visas and forced them to solicit donations for a bogus children’s charity.
Quiboloy’s group is accused of recruiting females, aged 12 to 25, to do household chores, give the pastor massages, and sexual services during their “night duty.”
The Philippine government said on Friday that it will cooperate if the United States will seek to extradite Quiboloy.
The allegations against Quiboloy and his church associates sent chills across Mindanao.
In Cagayan de Oro City, human rights lawyer Beverly Musni asked Duterte to ensure justice for the alleged victims of trafficking.
“Don’t deny them justice in favor of a friend,” she said.
Musni said the mechanisms in the extradition treaty between the US and the Philippines “should start moving to ensure its service to the victims now complaining before US courts.”
She noted that the trafficking of persons is a heinous crime punishable based on the penal laws of both countries.
“We convey our deepest sympathy and strongest support to Filipino women and children, victims of trafficking in the US who are seeking justice, and accountability from Apollo Quiboloy,” Musni said.
“It is very revolting for this self-proclaimed ‘owner of the universe’ and ‘appointed Son of God’ to conveniently use his influence and ascendancy as head of a religious group to recruit and exploit the economic vulnerability of these women and children for his carnal gratification,” she added.
In Zamboanga City where Quiboloy also has followers, non-governmental organization Zamboanga-Basilan Integrated Alliance (ZABIDA) expressed alarm about the allegations that a religious leader of such stature was linked to sex trafficking “behind the veneer of self-righteousness.”
ZABIDA is an NGO supporting and advocating women’s rights.
“Imagine, the self-proclaimed appointed son of God,” said Grace Rebollos, ZABIDA president.
Quiboloy, who started as a Pentecostal preacher, formed his group in Davao City, which grew and branched out to other areas in the country and abroad. The self-styled preacher has been teaching his followers that he is the “appointed Son of God,” “owner of the universe,” and that the “New Jerusalem” can be found in Duterte’s city.
“This issue is an old one, and stories about their activities have long been doing the rounds even in Zamboanga City. But no one has come forward. The same is happening even with other churches. It’s like we’re still in the Spanish colonial period when women were abused and exploited,” said Rosalyn Echem of the Philippine Commission on Women (PCW) in Zamboanga City.
Quiboloy and his group have yet to respond to the indictment charges against him as of this posting. – Rappler.com
Grace Cantal-Albasin and Frencie Carreon are Mindanao-based journalists and awardees of the Aries Rufo Journalism Fellowship