'Son of a god': Quiboloy's deity status claim root of Davao church's woes, say pastors

Controversial Davao-based Pastor Apollo Quiboloy gave himself deity status when he started teaching his followers that he is the "appointed son of God" – claim that allowed him to build a multimillion-peso home and headquarters in Davao City from which his religious decrees and some of the most unorthodox doctrines and unchallenged narratives emanate.

Quiboloy's claims of having God-like status and supernatural powers – including power over nature – and the course of events are exactly what's problematic about what he preaches, organized evangelical ministers in the Zamboanga Peninsula said on Monday, November 22.

Quiboloy's assertion that he is the "appointed Son of God" is "not a sound doctrine" for a group that professes to be Christian, said Pastor Danilo Gomera, president of the Zamboanga Peninsula Ministers' Association.

In the eyes of his follower, such claims turned the founder and leader of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ (KJOC) into some kind of biblical prophet in the category of Jesus Christ, the pastors said.

Such authority, as perceived by his captive audience, enabled Quiboloy to define what is right and wrong, and command loyalty and obedience from his followers without question, they said.

US prosecutors had charged the 71-year-old Quiboloy and several of his associates with running a sex trafficking operation in the United States.

The prosecutors accused Quiboloy and his associates of bringing people, including those as young as 12, into the US using fraudulently obtained visas and making them solicit donations for a bogus children's charity.

Quiboloy's group is also accused of exploiting young female members by making them do household chores, give massages, and render "night duty" for the preacher's sexual gratification.

The 74-page indictment document alleged that Quiboloy ran a sex trafficking operation in the US and that the alleged victims were threatened with harm and "eternal damnation" unless they submitted to the wishes of the accused.

'Time for reckoning'

Gomera and other evangelical ministers said the moment a wayward preacher succeeds in convincing his followers that he has deity status, then he can practically make them believe all sorts of absurdities and agree to do anything he wishes.

They said Quiboloy's divinity claim his supposed spiritual authority was distasteful to evangelical and other Christian groups that hold the belief that Christ is the only Son of God.

Even non-evangelicals such as Catholics would frown on that assertion, they said.

“He may have succeeded in making his followers believe in what he teaches, but there is always a time for reckoning, and secrets do get exposed," said Eddie Deita, a pastor and town councilor in Kabasalan, Zamboanga Sibugay.

After the appointed son-of-God claim, Deita said, it no longer came as a surprise to him that Quiboloy also asserted to be the "owner of the universe" and made other fantastic claims that his followers took seriously.

“We were taught that we are the children of God, but his claim that he is the 'Appointed Son of God' is something else. This is something you cannot read anywhere in the scriptures,” Deita said.

He said Quiboloy, a preacher with Pentecostal roots who founded the KJOC in Davao in 1985, strayed too far from the fundamentals of Christian dogma to the point that he made another version, and cherry-picked Bible passages to fit into his narratives about himself and his church.

"The Bible is the sole authority from which all Christian teachings must be based," he said.

Another problem, Deita said, was that Quiboloy has been claiming that God has been talking to him, and that was something that made him an authority as far as his followers were concerned.

'Red flag'

Deita said churchgoers should see a red flag the moment preachers start claiming to hear voices.

On Sunday, November 21, Quiboloy claimed during a church service live-streamed on social media that his ministry was "activated" after he heard a voice in Seoul, South Korea. There, he claimed, he was told in Cebuano, "Gamiton ta ka (I will use you)."

He said he took a five-year "baptism of fire" course alone in a mountain in Tamayong, Davao, with God as his teacher, eating only bananas "every day of my life."

With a "spiritual mandate" that came with his being "officially appointed" as God's son, Quiboloy told his followers that he then confronted the Devil and told the invisible entity: "My heart is fixed. My mind is made up. I will follow the Father's will no matter what."

"The inheritance that I received as an appointed son was the one that was lost in the Garden of Eden – the sonship and the kingship," claimed Quiboloy, asserting that he defeated the Devil in the boondocks of Davao City over three decades ago.

It was in the same city where Quiboloy's group would amass wealth and build a multimillion-peso "kingdom" with the influential preacher as a virtual spiritual monarch. 

He has also been preaching that the "new Jerusalem" is in Davao, home to his close friend President Rodrigo Duterte whose family established a political dynasty in the city after the 1986 EDSA People Power Revolution.

Quiboloy's group has grown so big and moneyed that it has built a media network, a cathedral, a school, developed an eight-hectare "prayer mountain," and is now constructing a multimillion-peso dome.

So rich has Quiboloy become that there was a time that, according to Duterte, the preacher gifted him with cars.

During that same service on Sunday, Quiboloy told a story that, in a way, resembled the New Testament narratives on the visitation of Mary and the virgin birth. He claimed his mother supposedly had a vision while giving birth to him and she allegedly heard a voice say, "That's my son."

With his religious following, Quiboloy too has become a political force in Mindanao – presidential and senatorial candidates have sought his endorsements in the past, and he has been using his media platforms to lambast critics and political opponents of Duterte.

He supported the successful 2016 presidential election of Duterte and has remained to be the President's loyal supporter to this day. 

Last week, he openly threw his support behind the presidential bid of Duterte's preferred successor, Senator Christopher Lawrence Go, and predicted that the President's long-time man Friday would win in the 2022 elections.

But not all of Quiboloy's predictions happen. Through the years, there had been hits and misses, including his endorsement of 2010 presidential candidate Gilbert Teodoro Jr., standard-bearer of the then ruling Lakas-CMD. At the time – just weeks before the 2010 elections – he asserted that "the Almighty Father has appointed the president (Teodoro) for this nation." 

Teodoro placed fourth in the 2010 presidential race won by his cousin, the late president Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III. – Rappler.com

Antonio Manaytay is a Mindanao-based journalist and an awardee of the Aries Rufo Fellowship.