The spiritual adviser to President Rodrigo Duterte, Apollo Quiboloy, trafficked girls and young women and forced them to have sex with him or face “eternal damnation,” the US Justice Department charged Thursday.
Cash raised for a bogus California-based charity was used to recruit victims who would be brought to the United States from the Philippines to work in the church called the Kingdom of Jesus Christ, The Name Above Every Name (KOJC), the department said as it indicted Quiboloy, its founder.
Some would be put to work raising more cash to help fund a lavish lifestyle for Quiboloy, an ally of President Duterte.
The 71-year-old, referred to by church members as "The Appointed Son of God,” along with two co-defendants is now charged with sex-trafficking of females aged 12 to 25 years to work as personal assistants, or "pastorals," for Quiboloy, a wide-ranging indictment says.
"The victims prepared Quiboloy’s meals, cleaned his residences, gave him massages and were required to have sex with Quiboloy in what the pastorals called 'night duty,'" the department said in a press release.
"Defendant Quiboloy and other KOJC administrators coerced pastorals into performing 'night duty' -- that is, sex -- with defendant Quiboloy under the threat of physical and verbal abuse and eternal damnation."
The indictment alleges the sex trafficking scheme ran for at least 16 years to 2018.
Victims who complied were rewarded with "good food, luxurious hotel rooms, trips to tourist spots, and yearly cash payments that were based on performance," paid for with money solicited by KOJC workers in the United States, according to the indictment.
The indictment builds on a previous indictment to include a total of nine defendants. Three were arrested in the US on Thursday.
Quiboloy, who maintained large residences in Hawaii, Las Vegas, and a swanky suburb of Los Angeles, is thought to be in Davao City, along with two others named in the charge, the Justice Department said.
The church claims to have accumulated 6 million members in 200 countries since it was founded by Quiboloy in 1985, according to its website
Presidential spokesman Karlo Nograles declined to comment on Duterte's "personal relationship" with Quiboloy.
Nograles said he was not aware if the United States had filed an extradition request for Quiboloy, but the Philippines would "cooperate if there is one against whoever."
In a statement, the KOJC legal counsel said people behind the case are "the same dissidents who miserably failed in their attempt to bring Pastor Quiboloy into the case in Hawaii."
"We are confident and ready to face whatever is hurled against Pastor Quiboloy and the Kingdom leaders. We trust the process of justice and we certainly expect the truth to prevail, and the Kingdom ministry will continue to prosper," the statement read.
"With the growing ministry and followers of the Kingdom comes also the growing opposition who are trying their best to destroy it and all the Kingdom leaders. While jealousy and evil will never stop, we strongly believe that good always triumphs over evil," it added.
A KOJC church manager in the US was arrested in March 2018 after failing to report more than $300,000 in cash that was in a suitcase aboard a private jet bound for the Philippines a month earlier.
After an investigation, it was revealed that the suitcase belonged to Quiboloy. He was not charged in the incident after the church manager pleaded guilty of making a false statement.
Recent developments will not stop their church's mission of evangelizing, which will "go on forever," the statement said.
"People may have tried to silence Pastor Quiboloy, but they cannot put down the Kingdom nation. They will never detract from the mission and the ministry of The Kingdom. It will never stop," it read.
The Department of Justice on Friday said the Philippine government has not received any request from the United States seeking Quiboloy’s extradition on sex trafficking charges.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said there is no existing hold departure order against Quiboloy because there is no pending criminal case against him in Philippine courts for sex trafficking of similar offenses.
Guevarra made the statement following reports that Quiboloy has been indicted by a federal grand jury of sex trafficking together with other members of his religious group.
While no sex trafficking cases has been filed against Quiboloy in the Philippines, there was a complaint for rape filed against him last year in Davao City, Guevarra said, but this case was dismissed and is now on appeal with the DOJ.
Guevarra said the complaint that was filed in Davao City and subsequently dismissed also included charges of child abuse, ill-treatment under the Revised Penal Code, trafficking in persons through forced labor, and trafficking in persons through sexual abuse.
The US DOJ, in its official website, said that Quiboloy and two co-defendants — Teresita Tolibas Dandan and Felina Salinas — have been charged “in count one of the superseding indictment, which alleges the sex trafficking conspiracy” and each “charged in at least three of five substantive counts of sex trafficking by force, fraud and coercion.”
The indictment specifically mentions five female victims, three of whom were minors when the alleged sex trafficking began, the US DOJ said.
The indictment alleges the sex trafficking scheme started no later than 2002 and continued to at least 2018, during which time Quiboloy and his top administrators caused the victims to engage in commercial sex acts by ordering female victims, including the minor victims, to have sex with defendant Quiboloy on a schedule determined by the church leader and others, including Dandan.
“As part of the alleged scheme, the three defendants told female victims who expressed hesitation at night duty ‘that they had the devil in them and risked eternal damnation,” the indictment said.
Furthermore, Quiboloy would threaten and physically abuse victims who attempted to leave KOJC or were not available to perform night duty, according to the indictment, which also alleges Quiboloy “would physically abuse victims for communicating with other men or engaging in other behavior that upset him because he considered such conduct adultery and a sin.”
“Victims who managed to escape KOJC suffered retaliation in the form of threats, harassment, and allegations of criminal misconduct,” the indictment said. Defendant Quiboloy would give sermons, broadcast to KOJC members around the world, in which he would allege that victims who escaped had engaged in criminal conduct and sexually promiscuous activity, and therefore faced eternal damnation, in order to discourage other victims from leaving, retaliate against, and discredit the victims, and conceal the sexual activity between defendant Quiboloy and the victims,” the US DOJ said, quoting from the indictment.
The Palace on Friday distanced itself from Quiboloy.
Acting presidential spokesman Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said the Palace would not intrude into the case against the head of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ, the President’s spiritual adviser.
“Quiboloy is a private individual who can legally defend himself,” Nograles said, adding that Duterte will decide if he will keep Quiboloy as his spiritual adviser.
Asked if he thought the indictment puts into question the integrity of Quiboloy as the President’s spiritual adviser, Nograles said, “when it comes to the personal relationships of the President, let’s just wait for him to talk about it.”
Nograles said the government continues to fight human trafficking, especially sex trafficking.
“The DOJ together with the whole Task Force Against Trafficking is in full force. They are doing everything that should be done,” he added.
Quiboloy, the self-proclaimed "appointed son of God," rose to national prominence in 2016 just as Duterte assumed the presidency. With AFP
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