‘Sex or damnation’: US raps hound Quiboloy
A US federal grand jury has indicted President Duterte’s friend and spiritual adviser Apollo Quiboloy for sex trafficking, in which girls and young women were coerced to have sex with him under pain of “eternal damnation.”
Also indicted were two top officials of the Quiboloy-founded church called “Kingdom of Jesus Christ (KOJC), The Name Above Every Name”—“international administrator” Teresita Dandan, 59, a top overseer of its operations in the United States, and Felina Salinas, 50, who allegedly collected and secured the passports and other documents of church workers in Hawaii, and directed funds solicited by them to church officials in the Philippines.
Quiboloy, Dandan and Salinas were charged with participating in a conspiracy to engage in sex trafficking by force, fraud and coercion, as well as the sex trafficking of children, according to the United States Department of Justice (US DOJ).
“These three defendants allegedly recruited females ranging from approximately 12 to 25 years of age to work as personal assistants, or ‘pastorals,’ for Quiboloy,” it said.
Quiboloy, a televangelist and self-styled pastor, backed Duterte’s campaign for the presidency.
The Philippine government will “cooperate” if US authorities request Quiboloy’s extradition, acting presidential spokesperson Karlo Nograles said at a press briefing on Friday.
While such a request was “speculative,” Nograles said, “the Philippines has always cooperated when it comes … to the process of extradition.”
In a statement, the “KOJC legal counsel” said the sex trafficking charges were “another vicious attempt” to bring down Quiboloy and other church leaders.
The group said it “remained steadfast and committed to faithfully respond to its mission, its ministry and its divine calling despite all the detraction efforts.”
The new indictment expands the scope of the allegation made last year against three Los Angeles-based KOJC administrators by adding six new defendants, including Quiboloy.
Indicted and arrested in 2020 were Guia Cabactulan, 59, the lead administrator in the United States who maintained direct communication with church leaders in the Philippines; Marissa Duenas, 41, who allegedly secured church workers’ passports immediately after they entered the United States and handled fraudulent immigration papers for church workers; and Amanda Estopare, 48, who allegedly took charge of tracking and reporting money raised in the United States to church officials in the Philippines.
Three of the six new defendants—Salinas; Bettina Padilla Roces, 48, another administrator who allegedly handled financial matters; and Maria de Leon, 72, a resident of Koreatown in Los Angeles and owner of Liberty Legal Document Services who allegedly processed fraudulent marriages and immigration-related documents for KOJC workers—were arrested on Nov. 18 by federal authorities.
They are expected to make their initial appearance at the US District Court in Los Angeles and Honolulu.
Quiboloy, Dandan and Helen Panilag, 56, of Davao City, the one-time top KOJC administrator in the United States, who oversaw the collection of financial data from KOJC operations around the globe, are believed to be in the Philippines, the US DOJ said.
All nine defendants were charged with taking part in a labor trafficking scheme that brought church members to the United States “via fraudulently obtained” visas, and forced them to solicit funds for a bogus charity “that actually were used to finance church operations and the lavish lifestyles of its leaders,” the US DOJ said.
It said members who were successful at soliciting funds for KOJC were forced into sham marriages or to obtain fake student visas to continue the task.
The pastorals allegedly prepared Quiboloy’s meals, cleaned his quarters, gave him massages and had sex with him.
The indictment specifically named five female victims, three of them minors when the alleged sex trafficking began.
Per the indictment, Quiboloy and other KOJC administrators “coerced pastorals into performing ‘night duty’—that is, sex”—with him “under the threat of physical and verbal abuse and eternal damnation.” Each pastoral was allegedly told that “performing ‘night duty’ was ‘God’s will’ and a privilege, as well as a necessary demonstration of [her] commitment to give her body to … Quiboloy as ‘The Appointed Son of God.’”
“The victims who were obedient were rewarded with ‘good food, luxurious hotel rooms, trips to tourist spots, and yearly cash payments that were based on performance’—which were paid for with money solicited by KOJC workers in the United States,” the US DOJ said.Penalties
It said those who managed to escape KOJC suffered threats, harassment and allegations of criminal misconduct.
The sex trafficking conspiracy charge carries a statutory maximum penalty of life in federal prison. The five substantive sex trafficking charges each carry a mandatory minimum penalty of 15 years in federal prison and a potential life sentence.
The additional fraud, cash smuggling and money laundering offenses carry maximum penalties ranging from five to 20 years in federal prison.
The Philippine Consulate General in Los Angeles said it was closely monitoring the case. It said it respected the laws of California and that it would find ways to extend consular assistance to both the accused and the victims.
In Manila, Nograles sought to distance Malacañang from the issue.
“Pastor Apollo Quiboloy is a private individual and I am sure he is capable of getting the proper legal advice,” Nograles said.
Asked if the government would look into the alleged sex trafficking, he said the Department of Justice (DOJ) had been “very constant” in its efforts to address the matter, for which he added, it had received praise from the international community.
Asked if Quiboloy would remain Duterte’s spiritual adviser, Nograles said: “With regard to the President’s personal relationships, we will leave it to the President to speak on the matter.”
A complaint for rape, sexual abuse and human trafficking against Quiboloy is still pending at the DOJ, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra disclosed on Friday.
Guevarra said the complainant had filed a petition for review at his office last year, after the Davao City Prosecutor’s Office threw out the charges against Quiboloy and five other respondents.
“The DOJ … will perform its mandate under the law regardless of the persons involved,” he told the Inquirer. —With reports from Leila B. Salaverria, Carmelito Q. Francisco and Marlon Ramos
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