The man who calls himself “The Appointed Son of God” is facing a looming appointment with a very human, earthly institution. US federal prosecutors last week charged Davao-based preacher Apollo Carreon Quiboloy of “participating” in a sex trafficking operation that allegedly forced girls and young women to have sex with him under threats of “physical and verbal abuse and eternal damnation.”
Quiboloy, the self-proclaimed “owner of the universe,” as well as Teresita Tolibas Dandan and Felina Salinas, two of his key associates in the Kingdom of Jesus Christ, The Name Above Every Name (KOJC), the church that he founded in 1985, were specifically charged with “participating in a conspiracy to engage in sex trafficking by force, fraud and coercion, as well as the sex trafficking of children.”
The 74-page, 42-count indictment unsealed by a grand jury on Nov. 10 charges that Quiboloy and his associates recruited females as young as 12 years old to work as his “personal assistants” or “pastorals” over the course of the sex trafficking scheme that started around 2002 and continued at least to 2018. These victims, the indictment read, prepared Quiboloy’s meals, cleaned his homes, gave him massages, and were “required” to have sex with him. It was the “night duty” they had to perform as scheduled, as it was “God’s will” and a privilege.
Sex was deemed “a necessary demonstration of the pastoral’s commitment to give her body to defendant Quiboloy as ‘The Appointed Son of God,’” said the US Attorney’s Office of the Central District of California. Those who balked at performing the night duty were told “they had the devil in them and risked eternal damnation.”
The US government action widened the scope of a 2020 indictment with the addition of six defendants, including Quiboloy. The core charge in that earlier indictment was that KOJC representative secured US visas for church members who would supposedly perform at musical events. But once they got to the US, they became “full-time workers” who devoted long hours to soliciting donations for Quiboloy’s church. It was estimated that the Los Angeles branch of the KOJC collected some $20 million in donations from 2014 to mid-2019.
Following last week’s announcement of the charges, three of the new defendants were arrested, but another three, including the 71-year-old Quiboloy, are believed to be in the Philippines. Quiboloy is based in Davao City, the stronghold of his longtime friend President Duterte, who has cited the preacher as his “spiritual adviser.”
Palace spokesperson Karlo Nograles said that Mr. Duterte would not interfere in any extradition attempts by the US government, and that the government would “cooperate” if extradition is sought.
This is not the first time Quiboloy has faced scrutiny by the US government. In February 2018, he was temporarily held in Honolulu after Customs and Border agents found $350,000 in cash and another $9,000 in Australian dollars in a suitcase in his private plane headed for Manila.
Quiboloy has also been embroiled in multiple cases in the Philippines, warding off charges of rape, harassment, and even the killing of an IP leader who had allegedly refused to sell property for a measly sum to his sect’s followers.
But the man has seemed untouchable especially in the last few years, with his longstanding ties to the Davao mayor who would become the country’s President coming to prominence. President Duterte has not been shy about admitting that Quiboloy had gifted him real estate properties and cars and has lent him his private plane. He has also endorsed the preacher’s daft pronouncements—Quiboloy’s claim, for instance, that he stopped the 6.6-magnitude earthquake that hit Mindanao in November 2019 (“I yelled at the Mindanao earthquake to stop, it stopped”). Mr. Duterte’s reaction: “I believed in Pastor Quiboloy, when he said stop eh kung nag-stop eh ’di what’s the trouble?”
That steadfast presidential faith and its aura of reflected power will, however, have no teeth in the United States. If found guilty of the sex trafficking conspiracy charge, the preacher faces the maximum penalty of life in prison. US authorities are likewise said to be looking to confiscate his “ill-gotten” assets, which may include a Cessna Citation Sovereign, a private aircraft worth about $18 million, several luxury cars, and a multimillion dollar mansion in Calabasas, California, a known enclave of the rich and famous.
The “Appointed Son of God” will have to cry “Stop!” and summon all his heavenly powers as never before to make these grave, inexorable charges go away — which, as an action initiated by a foreign government, begs the question: If this man has committed crimes against Filipino minors over so many years, why is he not being prosecuted by his own country?
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