The charges of sex trafficking against Pastor Apollo Quiboloy focused on his church’s operation in the United States. But women’s rights advocates in Davao have tracked cases in the past that didn’t reach the courts due to alleged pressure and the use of influence.
Professor Mae Fe Templa, former undersecretary of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), recalled handling one such case way back in 2009.
“We were in a social work conference in Baguio City, when we were referred to a mother who complained that her daughter had joined a summer event of (Quiboloy’s group) and had not returned,” said Templa.
The mother said her daughter was only 15 at that time, and had talent in music.
Templa was a consultant then for the city government’s social work agencies and was doing active NGO work.
After meeting the mother, she accompanied her back to Davao where they collaborated with Davao City’s Social Service Department Office (CSSDO) to rescue the girl, but then they encountered problems.
“The mother was accused and faced counter-charges of parental abuse. The CSSDO was also harassed,” she said.
Templa remembered back then, the daughter’s father was ailing and wanted a reunion.
“The daughter never saw her dad even after his death,” Templa said.
Last she heard, the girl remains with Kingdom of Jesus Christ (KOJC) until now, “like a property of Quiboloy.”
Templa said she has heard similar stories from other NGOs that have handled trafficking cases.
She has heard three persons who had left the church, but chose not to speak or file complaints.
Such stories circling about the KOJC have persisted in Davao City for years.
People have become wary of seeing young members of the church going around the city asking for donations in exchange for homemade food and crafts.
They wondered how such small donations contrast with the vastness of Quiboloy’s “kingdom,” which includes a cathedral in Buhangin, an eight-hectare “prayer mountain” in Tamayong, Calinan District, a college named after his father, and a television and radio network called Sonshine Mindanao Network International.
A huge KOJC Dome is also set to be finished in 2022, which was built through a Chinese construction company.
Born to a Pentecostal pastor and father, Quiboloy broke from the church and established KOJC in 1985 in Villamor, Agdao.
Old-timers recall the church started out renting an indoor gym (now demolished) in Santa Ana Avenue where church-goers were fetched with buses.
Quiboloy gained public attention in the 2000s, claiming he is “the anointed Son of God” and that the second coming of Jesus came to Davao City.
Along with the rise of his popularity came accusations that he was behind the murder of a Klata Bagobo leader who refused to sell his land to the pastor who was expanding his prayer mountain.
When Templa was appointed as undersecretary of the Department of Social Welfare and Development in 2016, she initiated a de-accreditation of Quiboloy’s foundation, the Children’s Joy Foundation, but the last time she checked, complaints against the foundation were withdrawn.
Templa was later removed from the DSWD along with Secretary Judy Taguiwalo in 2018 during the falling out of Duterte and the progressive Left.
Templa said there could be more cases of trafficking that need to be uncovered in the city, and urged women’s groups and the city government of Davao to help.
“Let us revive the campaign, have a hotline on victims of trafficking especially on girls recruited for those annual events by Quiboloy,” she said.
Mags Maglana, a peace and development worker, also echoed Templa’s sentiments.
“The sex trafficking indictment against Mr. Quiboloy is our opportunity to do right by our women and girls and uphold rule of law,” she said in her statement.
“We have to close ranks behind the women and girls who have been victimized in the Quiboloy case and ensure that they are protected and accorded the necessary support,” she added.
Maglana noted Davao City has a record of having local legislations protecting women and children and this must be pushed again by civil society advocates, city officials and barangay leaders. – Rappler.com