November 23, 2021
(2nd UPDATE) US prosecutors on Thursday announced sex-trafficking charges alleging that girls and young women were coerced to have sex with the founder of a Philippines-based church who is a friend and adviser to Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte.
A 74-page indictment charges Apollo Carreon Quiboloy, founder of a church called Kingdom of Jesus Christ, The Name Above Every Name (KOJC) and other church officials, including 2 US-based church administrators, with running a sex-trafficking operation that threatened victims as young as 12 with “eternal damnation” and physical abuse.
Federal prosecutors in Los Angeles said the new indictment expanded on allegations made last year against 3 church administrators based in the city. It charges 9 defendants with participating in a scheme in which church members were brought to the United States using fraudulently obtained visas and forced to solicit donations to a bogus children’s charity.
Prosecutors said the donations were used to pay for “lavish lifestyles” of the church leaders.
The latest indictment adds Quiboloy and 5 other new defendants to an existing indictment filed in 2020. Prosecutors said US authorities arrested 3 of the new defendants on Thursday, but 3 others, including Quiboloy, were believed to be in the Philippines.
Lawyers for the new defendants could not immediately be identified.
The indictment alleges that Quiboloy and 2 other defendants recruited females aged 12 to 25 as personal assistants, or “pastorals.” It said they were required to prepare Quiboloy’s meals, clean his residences, give him massages and have sex with him during what they called “night duty.”
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Quiboloy, a self-proclaimed “Owner of the Universe” and “Appointed Son of God,” is a longtime friend and spiritual adviser of Duterte. The influential evangelist is followed by millions of Filipinos.
In September, Filipino boxer Manny Pacquiao, a candidate for next year’s presidential election who has frequently clashed with Duterte, sued Quiboloy for libel after he accused the multiple world champion of embezzling funds intended for a sports complex.
Church leaders are highly influential in Philippine elections.
Duterte is prevented by the constitution from running for a second term as president. He has reacted negatively in the past to attacks on allies and last year vowed to terminate a key military pact with the United States after a Philippine senator who was an ally was denied a US visa.
NO REQUEST OF EXTRADITION YET
In a statement, the Philippine Consulate General in Los Angeles said they were “aware” of the indictments made by the federal prosecutors, and is closely monitoring the case.
The case is also being investigated by US law enforcement authorities, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), they noted.
“The Consulate General fully respects the laws of the state of California and the United States of America and will seek avenues to extend consular assistance to both the accused and the victims as appropriate,” the consulate said.
Philippine Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, meanwhile, said his agency has yet to receive any extradition request for Quiboloy from US authorities through the Department of Foreign Affairs.
But Guevarra pointed out that “no sex trafficking charges have been filed or are pending” before the influential pastor in the country which is similar to the US indictment.
“A complaint for rape, however, was filed against him last year in Davao City, but the same was dismissed. That dismissal is now on appeal with the DOJ,” he noted.
The woman who filed the complaint alleged that she was raped by Quiboloy in 2014 while she was a scholar of Quiboloy’s church. She was 17 at the time.
Quiboloy’s lawyer said the complaints were dismissed for lack of sufficient evidence.
In the indictment, prosecutors said church officials ordered the “pastorals,” who were aged 14, 15 and 17, to have sex with Quiboloy as part of their “night duty.”
The pastorals were also instructed to write “commitment letters” to devote their lives, including their bodies, to Quiboloy.
By performing “night duty,” the pastorals were told they were pleasing to God and would allow them to obtain salvation.
The indictment says that Quiboloy had sex with a pastoral in 2009 and told her it was “the Father’s will” and “the Father was happy over what the Son was doing.”
Those who performed their duties to the satisfaction of Quiboloy and other church officials were rewarded with privileges, including trips to tourist destinations like Disneyland, flights in private jets, use of cell phones, and “honorariums” by KOJC administrators, the indictment alleges.
The prosecutors said the female victims were told not to speak of the “night duty” and those who expressed hesitation in performing it were told “they had devil in them” and “risked eternal damnation.”
The pastorals also said they were threatened and physically abused by Quiboloy if they leave KOJC or were not available to perform “night duty.”
According to the indictment, victims who escaped from KOJC were harassed, threatened and alleged to be involved in illicit activities, such as cybersex and theft, by Quiboloy and other church officials.
‘FULL TIME MIRACLE WORKERS’
The prosecutors also said Quiboloy and other church officials would transport KOJC workers in the US to solicit donations as CFJ “volunteers,” who were referred to in the church as “Full Time Miracle Workers.”
The volunteers were told to solicit “nearly every day, year-round, working very long hours, and often sleeping in cars overnight.”
They were instructed to falsely inform the public that the money was used “to aid impoverished Filipino children,” the indictment alleges.
The prosecutors said church officials would set daily quotas for volunteers and these were increased during the months of September to October through January to February of the following year, which were referred within the church as “Month of Blessing” or “Knights of Harvest.”
Those who failed to meet their daily solicitation quotas were “yelled at, shamed, berated, physically abused, or forced to fast, i.e., abstain from food, while being locked in a room at the KOJC Compound.”
For the volunteers to stay permanently in the US, they were entered into fraudulent marriages or told to apply for student visas, the prosecutors said.
In order to avoid bank reporting requirements and detection, KOJC workers did not deposit more than $10,000 in cash into a bank account.
The indictment also alleges that church officials had transferred funds to certain KOJC accounts in the Philippines in order to fund, among other things, construction of a stadium and Quiboloy’s “lavish lifestyle.”
The KOJC was founded in Davao in 1985 and claims to have 6 million members in approximately 200 countries.
The church in 2007 began operating Children’s Joy Foundation, which is registered in the state of California as a foreign non-profit.
The prosecutors said Quiboloy frequently traveled to the United States to observe KOJC and CJF’s operations around February 2018.
He stayed in large residences that he controlled, including residences in Calabasas, California; Las Vegas, Nevada: and Kapolei, Hawaii, according to the indictment.
Charged together with Quiboloy were Teresita Tolibas Dandan, Helen Panilag, Felina Salinas, Guia Cabactulan, Marissa Duenas, Amanda Estopare, Bettina Padilla Roces and Maria De Leon.