Apollo Quiboloy

[Judgment Call] Who’s after Quiboloy? The media should be.

Miriam Grace A. Go

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[Judgment Call] Who’s after Quiboloy? The media should be.

Alyssa Arizabal/Rappler

'We report about crimes. We expose exploitation. We explain the interconnection of people and circumstances that allow abuses.'

We are used to a few critics in the media industry who habitually trash investigative reports done by Rappler. Sometimes, it seems because our exposés involve the moneyed and the influential whom they rub elbows with; at other times, it just appears that they want to downplay our scoops. 

But a reaction recently took the cake. Rappler ran photos and acquisition details of mansions and other properties of preacher-cum-fugitive Apollo Quiboloy in CanadaCaliforniaLas Vegas, and Hawaii. One of our avowed critics, a news publisher, said in so many words on social media that there was nothing wrong with that accumulation of wealth. The subtext was: Isn’t Rappler nitpicking, making a big deal out of a non-story? 

The critic’s reasoning was: Quiboloy didn’t buy his properties using government funds, so there’s no corruption. If he used the money of the organization he built, the Kingdom of Jesus Christ (KOJC), to acquire his wealth, then what prohibited him from doing so? Followers offered the money freely anyway. 

That line of thinking is problematic. And so is Quiboloy defender Senator Robin Padilla’s logic that the Senate’s order to arrest Quiboloy for snubbing inquiry in aid of legislation is an encroachment on religion, and therefore violates the constitutional principle of separation of church and state. 

These arguments conveniently remove the larger context of why Quiboloy’s lifestyle should be scrutinized. He is accused of criminal activities – some of them allegedly committed cross-border. He is facing charges for these grave crimes: 

  • In Davao City, child and sexual abuse.
  • In Pasig City, human trafficking. 
  • In the United States, sex trafficking by force, fraud and coercion, sex trafficking of children, marriage fraud, fraud and misuse of visas, bulk cash smuggling, promotional money laundering, concealment money laundering, and international promotional money laundering.

Only the blind – and those pretending to be blind – will deny that Quiboloy and his close aides were able to carry out these elaborate crimes by exploiting the devotion of his followers at KOJC. 

Only the blind – or those who benefit from others’ blindness – will dismiss the possible connection between these alleged illegal activities and the financial gains that enabled Quiboloy to accumulate so much wealth. He came from humble beginnings and has no visible lucrative livelihood outside of church donations (I shudder even having to imply that religious offerings are a form of “livelihood”). 

Only the blind – and those blinded by political ambitions and expediency – will overlook that Quiboloy, by hiding, is mocking our judicial and legislative systems. I don’t even think he has gone to ground because he is fearful; he is hiding out of contempt, watching in amusement as the network (and walls) he has built through favors dispensed in the past are likely scuttling authorities’ efforts to arrest him. (From where, do you think, did he get the audacity to set conditions for his surrender?)

By the way, politicians had gone to him for endorsements before. Don’t you think they gave donations in exchange? Where do you think the politicians and government officials sourced those donations? 

And as I write this, the Philippine National Police has just revoked the firearms licenses of Quiboloy. Why do you think does a religious preacher need at least 19 guns (worth about P2.3 million)? There definitely could be more – since he could reportedly afford to give the Dutertes a separate haul of firearms

All these bring us back to why Rappler has been on Quiboloy’s trail. We report about crimes. We expose exploitation. We explain the interconnection of people and circumstances that allow abuses. We probe even private entities when their actions breach laws and become detrimental to society. Even if – and even more so if – those nongovernment personalities and institutions are in a position to influence a body of faithfuls. (Check out our coverage of abuses in the Catholic Church and of controversies hounding the Iglesia ni Cristo.) 

So, again, why is Rappler after Quiboloy? Because the media should be. 

Public interest. Public trust. Citizenship. Community. 

If only for these reasons – and they are more than enough – any self-respecting newsroom will and should contribute to the scrutiny of this man on the run. – Rappler.com

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Miriam Grace A. Go

Miriam Grace A Go’s areas of interest are local governance, campaigns and elections, and anything Japanese.