PRESIDENT Duterte last June 8 in a TV interview ordered police and NBI to shut down Kapa-Community Ministry International Inc., a religious group based in Surigao, for “investment fraud.” In the same week, police regional chief Debold Sinas warned PNP members who join Kapa he would fire them and confiscate their guns.
As early as last Feb. 14, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) issued a cease and desist order (CDO) against Kapa, telling it not to engage in investments. On March 14, SEC made the CDO permanent and on April 3, it revoked Kapa’s corporate registration.
Yet it took about five months after the SEC moves for most everyone to sit up and take notice. What finally shook the house to its rafters: the President’s closure order and the regional police chief’s warning. Plus the news that Kapa had been preying on Visayas investors, 10,000 people in three weeks had given their money to the religious group. And nothing like mayhem to grab public attention: the news that last June 8 (Saturday) Kapa’s office in Compostela, Cebu was robbed and burned.
‘Rob Peter to pay Paul’
Kapa is accused of engaging in the age-old pyramid scam made widely known in 1920 by Charles Ponzi, an Italian con artist in US and Canada. His scheme was seared in the Filipinos’ consciousness by such notorious scams as those pulled by Aman Futures in 2012, Emgoldex in 2015 and Multitel in 2001. The fraud is supposed to be a lesson long learned and yet still continually victimizes thousands of people.
And it’s not something to be proud of that the last two major assaults using the Ponzi scheme were in Mindanao and the Visayas.
Kapa, however, is different from the others currently engaged in drawing investments from the public: it claims to be a religious organization.
Perhaps it is. Its founder and leader is a pastor, Pastor Joel Apolinario who cites Deuteronomy (8:18) to make his pitch on wealth-making: “But remember the Lord your God for it is he who gives power to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your ancestors, as it is today.”
The name “Kabus Padatoon” (“the poor made rich”), which the mother corporation and its three enterprises carry, is also a catchphrase that must help sell its investment product. Unlike the Catholic Church and such spinoffs as Pastor Apollo Quiboloy’s Kingdom of Jesus Christ, Kapa offers more than spiritual comfort to the poor; it will “lift them from poverty by making them rich.”
Kapa’s response to the government regulatory moves uses (a) denial that it is engaged in the investment business and (b) the claim that it accepts donations for its ministry of helping the poor.
Religion as armor
That’s where religion, or what claims its main reason for being, can be used to protect the interest of Pastor Apolinario and his religion.
It is being accused of using God’s work as excuse for its investment operations (not capital-giving but donation for its work purportedly to help the poor) and now as cover-up for the alleged illegal activity.
Apolinario’s reply to the Duterte call-out against Kapa, repeatedly played in the religious group’s social media thrusts, harps on its “religious nature and religious activities.” Religion appears to be Kapa’s shield and armor.
Who’re being robbed
Another defense is that Kapa is a victim of a frame-up by people who’re blackmailing Apolinario or jealousy by rival groups like Quiboloy’s Kingdom of God. While those theories can’t be disregarded, the alleged crimes of fraud against the state and those swindled of their money shouldn’t be tough to prove and prosecute.
And in making the poor rich, is it Kapa’s operation model to steal from the rich and give it to the poor?
In a March 22, 2019 column in “Mindanao Times,” Vic N. Sumalinog said the scam agents “were targeting the most vulnerable sector of the population as their victims”: the poor who made savings from hard-earned money.
It would be robbing from the poor to help the poor. It must not be what the Lord had in mind in Deuteronomy, or Robin Hood in the English folklore.