Three years after not meeting and speaking to each other in person, President Rodrigo Duterte and Pastor Apollo Quiboloy kept each other company two days in a row.
Most recently, the Kingdom of Jesus Christ founder tagged along with the Chief Executive during his trip to Jolo, Sulu to visit wounded soldiers.
Quiboloy, wearing a gray jacket over camouflage attire, was an unusual sight beside Duterte as the two stepped off a car into Camp Teodulfo Bautista, a military encampment in Jolo on Tuesday, June 4.
Quiboloy was on stage when Duterte placed the Gold Cross Medal over the heads of soldiers credited with exemplary acts.
He was also introduced to newly-elected Sulu Governor Sakur Tan, the island region's kingpin.
Just the day before, Duterte dropped by the sprawling Kingdom of Jesus Christ headquarters in Davao City to have his first meeting with Quiboloy in 3 years.
"It's been a long time. I have not been to this place for the longest time and tonight I was invited by the Pastor to break bread with him and talk about stories that are circulating thereabout at this time," said Duterte in a video posted on Quiboloy's Facebook page.
Photo from Pastor Apollo Quiboloy Facebook page
With the pastor beside him, Duterte even commented on the former's haircut, shorter than his usual, which the Chief Executive said made Quiboloy look "younger."
Duterte implied that he might be spending more time with Quiboloy from now on.
"I'd be happy to see more of the pastor in the coming days," said the President.
The two spoke of their plan for the day – retreat into a "small theater" in the Jose Maria College, within Quiboloy's compound, to watch movies.
Quiboloy sounded equally elated to be keeping the President company after some time spent outside of his inner circle.
"He has fulfilled his promise to the Filipino people," enthused Quiboloy, describing Duterte as a "gift to the nation."
Quiboloy and Duterte have been friends for some 3 decades, starting since the latter's early days as Davao City mayor. They are shooting buddies and fellow motorcycle enthusiasts.
Critics have attributed this friendship to Duterte supposedly turning a blind eye to Quiboloy's alleged landgrabbing from indigenous peoples to expand the Kingdom of Jesus Christ compound.
Duterte previously admitted receiving valuable gifts from Quiboloy throughout the course of their friendship. These include 3 properties in Woodridge Park, Ma-a, Davao City, and two cars.
Duterte had also admitted Quiboloy let him use his private jets for his 2016 presidential campaign.
A constant presence in Duterte’s life as Davao City mayor, Quiboloy slowly faded away when the strongman was elected president.
In the days leading to Duterte's presidency, Quiboloy's camp expressed disappointment that the pastor was being shut out from the process of selecting Duterte's Cabinet members.
Quiboloy, also known as the "Appointed Son of God" among members of his religious group, claimed to have had a prophetic dream of Duterte’s “landslide” victory in the 2016 presidential elections.
Since then, however, Quiboloy had his own controversies to deal with. In 2018, the United States' Federal Bureau of Investigation began probing Quiboloy's religious group for alleged human trafficking.
This was after US authorities found $350,000 in undeclared cash and rifle parts inside Quiboloy's plane February that year. The pastor was temporarily detained while a member of his group was charged with attempted bulk cash smuggling. – Rappler.com
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at email@example.com.