Seares: Quiboloy, Apolinario: Both acts may be ‘fooling the people.’ Only one is a crime.

ONLY Pastor Joel Apolinario and his Kapa-Community Ministry International Inc. are in the center of the spotlight during the past several days. But Pastor Apollo Quiboloy and his Kingdom of Jesus Christ (KJC) share some of the glare.

Quiboloy is suspected of prompting President Duterte to order a crackdown on Kapa (Kabus Padatoon, or the poor made rich) for an alleged massive investment scam. Pastor Apollo last June 11 publicly accused Kapa of violating the law and hiding a “racket” under the cloak of religion and “fooling the people.” Perhaps it was no coincidence that Duterte, a close friend of the KJC founder, instructed police and NBI to shut down Kapa operations while interviewed by televangelist Quiboloy on his TV program in Davao City.

Both are rich

Inevitably, people wonder how religion is being used by both pastors for their personal interest. They look at the riches both are widely known to own and possess:

• Quiboloy is listed among the top 10 richest religious leaders in the country (#4 in one list), with a net worth of $100 million in one ranking and P150 million in another; keeps a private jet and a helicopter; and owns a sprawling tract of land where its church and other buildings sit and other assets in the country and abroad.

• Apolinario has 10 businesses--food, real estate, printing press, mining, gas station, fishing--listed in the name of his wife Reyna Lobitana Almario, funded by Kappa; owns a bullet-proof SUV and a helicopter (which followers reportedly love to see him in during his pastoral visits); and, through his wife, 10 “luxury” vehicles.

Size of following

And each must envy the other’s claimed size of following: Quiboloy’s KJC, with four million devotees here and two million abroad; Apolinario’s Kapa, with five million members, per SEC estimate, or 10 million, according to a Kapa spokesman’s claim.

Quiboloy does not speak of donations, particularly during the current controversy, but he is known to have an active network of gift solicitors here and abroad. KJC’s opulent church and surroundings and Quiboloy’s lifestyle reflect affluence.

Apolinario’s Kapa branches report of daily transactions in hundreds of thousands of pesos. An epic rise in assets of Kapa in less than three years is enviable, that despite its claimed daily 30% payouts to five million donors/investors, estimated at P15 million a month or P180 billion a year.

Son of God, Moses

The common thread in the Quiboloy and Apolinario narratives is religion. And the question about the use of religion for purposes other than enrichment of the soul must disturb some people.

Which of them is, to use Quiboloy’s phrase, “fooling the people?”

Quiboloy himself claims he is the “appointed son of God.” How did he receive the appointment? Nobody has checked out his appointment papers; even the Catholic Church, which has the franchise on that sort of thing.

Apolinario, through his platoon of communicators, says he is the modern-day Moses who “liberates” people from poverty. Pastor Joel says his ministry is to “fight evil” and poverty is the “kingdom of the devil.” Give him your P5,000 to P10,000, let it rest with Kapa and you’ll get 30 percent for life.

No other religion is doing that, although any pretense at being “a church within a church” is evidenced only by group prayers and chants.

Focus on crime

The focus is on the crime committed. A religious group may make outlandish claims about divinity or being close to God as long as no law is violated.

Kappa may have crossed the line. Instead of promising salvation from hell and reward of heaven, Apolinario, a former FM radio deejay and technician, promised to lift the poor from poverty, quoting the Bible to support his claim. A promise of monthly payout, in return for one’s one-time donation, is apparently more alluring than a cash-for-heaven swap.

But here’s the thing. Kapa is accused of committing syndicated estafa; KJC is not.

Priests and pastors are sometimes criticized for “fooling the people” through religious pitch or prop. But deceiving people about religion is not criminal. Violating the law on investments is.


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