The curious case of Apollo Quiboloy

A “highly respected person” to Sen. Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa and a “hero” to Sen. Robinhood Padilla, but a sexual abuser, human trafficker and labor exploiter to his disaffected followers. That’s Apollo Quiboloy, the man who proclaims himself as “the appointed son of god” and “owner of the universe.”

On the one hand, he is on the “most wanted” list of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for his alleged participation in a labor-trafficking scheme that brought members of his church, the Kingdom of Jesus Christ, the Name Above Every Name Inc. (KOJC), to the U.S. using fraudulently acquired visas and forced them to solicit donations for a bogus charity. He is also facing charges of sex trafficking, fraud and coercion, conspiracy, and bulk cash smuggling.

Quiboloy founded KOJC in 1985 as a breakaway group from the United Pentecostal Church Philippines, a few years after he was kicked out reportedly for preaching unorthodox doctrines and insulting its pastors. KOJC now claims to have 7 million members.

On the other hand, many Filipino politicians, particularly those seeking higher office, have been seeking him out for his endorsement of their candidacies.

“Quiboloy’s endorsement means the votes of his more than 6 million followers not only in Davao City where his congregation is based but also in other parts of the country and abroad,” according to a press release dated May 10, 2013, from the office of Sen. Loren Legarda, illustrating the religious leader’s political influence.

“Quiboloy’s endorsement is one of the most sought after among religious leaders every election by candidates because of his capability to deliver a command vote,” the Legarda press release added.

Apart from Legarda, Quiboloy also endorsed the 2013 senatorial bids of now-Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri, Francis Escudero, Bam Aquino, Cynthia Villar, Grace Poe, Sonny Angara, Juan Ponce Enrile, JV Ejercito, Nancy Binay, Edward Hagedorn and Richard Gordon.

Legarda, Zubiri, Escudero Villar, Poe, Angara, Ejercito and Binay are incumbent senators who will decide later on what will be the outcome of the investigation by the Committee on Women, Children, Family Relations and Gender Equality chaired by opposition Sen. Risa Hontiveros.

In the 2022 elections, Quiboloy’s endorsement was not as sought after as in past elections in view of his indictment in the U.S. and the issuance of a warrant for his arrest in November 2021.

Even then, the self-styled pastor endorsed the tandem of Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Sara Duterte for president and vice president, respectively.

But on Feb. 21, Quiboloy asked Marcos to resign, accusing him of conniving with the U.S. government to get him arrested and killed. He said he had gone into hiding because his life was in danger.

A week later, Marcos advised Quiboloy to come out, face the congressional inquiries into the allegations of abuses against him and the KOJC and seize the opportunity “to say his side of the story.”

Hindi na kami kompiyansa sa gobyernong ito. Gagawa at gagawa sila ng paraan para kami ay bigyan ng kasalanan,” said Quiboloy, raising the possibility that the Marcos administration would resort to the planting of evidence to implicate him in criminal activities.

Quiboloy suspected that he had fallen from the graces of Marcos because of his close association with former president Rodrigo Duterte and Vice President Sara Duterte. “Bakit ganito sila kagalit at bakit ganito ang kanilang treatment sa akin na isang Appointed Son? … Hindi ko naman kasalanan ako’y maging kaibigan ng pulitikong tulad ni pangulong Duterte, Vice President Sara,” he said.

He claimed that the government would “take over all our properties” and establish a corporation under which the KOJC assets would fall under. In what appeared as a preemptive move, Quiboloy appointed Durterte last Friday as administrator of the properties belonging to KOJC.

Some people say Quiboloy is delusional, given his outrageous claims about himself and his group. Others consider him paranoid, citing his statements that the FBI, the Central Intelligence Agency and the U.S. Embassy have been conducting surveillance on his 11 properties and that a $2-million bounty had been offered in exchange for his arrest.

The FBI and the Philippine National Police have denied knowledge of these. Quiboloy’s statement has apparently triggered the unsealing of the arrest warrant against him and his co-defendants in the California cases.

Quiboloy may be acting the way he does nowadays because past administrations tolerated or even turned a blind eye to his alleged abuses. In my younger years, I was already hearing stories about young girls being offered to the pastor in the belief that doing so would mean blessings to the family and assurance of their salvation.

Several people in high positions of power owe him a political debt for having endorsed their candidacies or their bid for executive positions in the government. Many of them are suspiciously quiet now that Quiboloy is under investigation in the Senate for sex-related crimes and labor malpractice. He is likewise facing a probe in the House of Representatives for alleged violations of its franchise by his Sonshine Media Network International. In retaliation against the House probe, he has asked House Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez to resign.

Quiboloy has been known for rubbing elbows with powerful people, particularly those whose candidacies he had endorsed and who eventually won elective seats, making it appear that he was untouchable despite highly suspicious sources of his wealth. Seemingly, all they cared about was the number of votes he could deliver.

But in 2010, the preacher’s endorsement did not work for now Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro Jr. when he ran for president. Quiboloy said he chose Teodoro over eight other presidential bets because he was the one “chosen by god.”

Do these officials share the “impression” of Dela Rosa, a former national police chief, that Quiboloy was such a “highly respected” person who’s not capable of doing those “disgusting things” he has been accused of, such as sexual abuse of young girls, forcing his church members to beg for money, among others?

Or like Padilla, do they see Quiboloy as a “hero” and a “victim” for having fought the communist movement and “doesn’t deserve to be subjected to this kind of scandal?”

Don’t they believe the testimonies of witnesses who had worked like slaves for Quiboloy? Do they think that Quiboloy’s endorsement made them win and so set aside their obligation to serve the public interest more than their own?

Because they sought Quiboloy’s endorsement of their candidacies, do they believe his assertion that he is “the son of god”?


The views in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of VERA Files.
This column also appeared in The Manila Times.