Seares: Kapa can stick to religion, raise money the way other religions do

Why has the government been hounding Kapa-Community Ministry International Inc. during the past few weeks?

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has stripped Kapa of its corporate title and declared illegal its money-making activities, calling them fraudulent. President Duterte ordered its shutdown. Police and NBI have raided its offices in Mindanao, Cebu and elsewhere. Criminal charges have been readied or filed against Kapa founder and chief executive officer, pastor Joel Apolinario, his wife and Kapa officers and managers.

Kapa has presented itself as a religion (“a church within a church”) although it is not clear whether it has a set of doctrines, houses of worship, a structure of religious leaders and lay followers, etc., the way other religious have.

Reason for being

From news media accounts, Kapa is a breakaway group from a protestant sect. But it appears that religion may not be the major reason for its being. Religion is apparently being used to justify the acceptance of money from members, calling them “donations” and the 30% interest paid out as “blessings.” The scripture is quoted about God wanting the poor to become rich. Kapa is short for “Kabus Padatoon” or making the poor rich.

Here’s the thing: Kapa, the SEC charges, used religion to conceal its investment activities. For Kapa to engage in investment business legally, it had to apply for a secondary permit, not just a certificate of incorporation, and must follow other requirements, such as registering contracts of investment. Kapa members may be knocked on the head as a firm reminder that the regulations seek to protect the public, which on many past occasions had been similarly duped.

Not for religion

Kapa did not meet the requirements of the law, a violation that is also a criminal act, punishable with imprisonment, among others.

The crackdown on Kapa is not for its religious activities but for its allegedly illegal business on investments. Exercise of religion does not need a permit although registration and other requirements are imposed for the religious group’s property rights and tax exemption. The Catholic Church, for one, is registered as a corporation sole.

Kapa has been using religion to justify its business activity--and sloppily disguising it by labels: donations, not investments; gifts or blessings, not interest on deposited money. Whom are they kidding? With its meager assets, in cash and business profits, Kapa has convinced SEC that no way could the group ever meet its pay-out obligations.

‘Cannot compete’

Kapa may choose to go the way of other religions, religious groups, and evangelists: collect donations and call them donations. No promise of return except, probably, reward of joy in heaven or reduced suffering in hell. Kapa professes to improve the lot of the poor. There are several ways, from outright dole-outs to soup kitchens and livelihood projects.

Critics of Kapa suspect that it cannot compete with the likes of Apollo Quiboloy’s Kingdom of Jesus Christ or Brother Mike Velarde’s El Shaddai or Eli Soriano’s Ang Dating Daan, and the like. Thus, the dangling of a hefty ROI on members’ donated cash.

It would be interesting to find out if Kapa could still draw devotees to its church without the prospect of getting cash back. (The claimed number of Kapa members, which SEC suspects is bloated, is five million.)

If Kapa as a church must engage in business, it has to do it legally. Or risk prosecution, as Apolinario and company must now face.


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