US prosecutors alleged that the founder of a church based in the Philippines forced girls and young women to have sex with him under the threat of “eternal damnation.”
Pastor Apollo Carreon Quiboloy, 71, a close friend and spiritual adviserto President Rodrigo Duterte, is facing charges of sex trafficking along with other church members.
What does the US allege?
The US Department of Justice said the sex trafficking scheme was organized through Quiboloy’s church, called the Kingdom of Jesus Christ, The Name Above Every Name (KOJC). The operation allegedly ran for 16 years until 2018.
Police arrested three men in the US on Thursday. Quiboloy, however, is still believed to be in Davao City, in the Philippines along with two other suspects named in the indictment.
Known to his six million followers in 200 countries as “The Appointed Son of God,” Quiboloy used a bogus Californian charity to bring the girls and women to the US to work as personal assistants, or “pastorals.”
The women and girls ranged in age from 12 to 25.
“The victims prepared Quiboloy’s meals, cleaned his residences, gave him massages and were required to have sex with Quiboloy in what the pastorals called ‘night duty,'” the justice department said on Thursday.
The 71-year-old and other KOJC administrators coerced them into sex with “the threat of physical and verbal abuse and eternal damnation,” the indictment added.
If the victims complied, the US said they would get “good food, luxurious hotel rooms, trips to tourist spots, and yearly cash payments that were based on performance.”
Running the scheme through the church’s charity in the suburb of Glendale in Los Angeles, the church allegedly fraudulently obtained student visas and sham marriages to fund Quiboloy’s lavish lifestyle. The FBI believe about $20 million (€17.7 million) was sent from the US to the Philippines between 2014 and 2019.
US prosecutors allege that the girls and women were forced to work all year around and beaten or psychologically abused if they did not make quotas.
How has the church reacted?
A statement on Quiboloy’s Facebook page said he and co-defendants had been “maliciously accused in this present controversy.”
“We are confident and ready to face whatever is hurled against Pastor Quiboloy and the Kingdom leaders. We trust the process of justice and we certainly expect the truth to prevail,” Quiboloy’s lawyers said in a statement.
Neither Rodrigo Duterte’s spokesperson, Karlo Nograles, nor the Philippines embassy commented on the case.
Quiboloy, who owns large homes in Los Angeles, Hawaii and Las Vegas, once claimed he had stopped an earthquake from hitting the Philippines in 2019.
The case follows accusations of sexual abuse by the Catholic church in France and Canada.
jc/rs (Reuters, AFP, AP)