KAPA founder arrested following deadly shootout

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 21) — Police arrested Kapa-Community Ministry International founder Joel Apolinario after two of his companions were killed in a firefight with authorities in Surigao del Sur on Tuesday.

The provincial police office in a report said Apolinario and 23 others were arrested in an isolated resort in Sitio Dahican, Barangay Handamayan in Lingig town at around 7:30 a.m.

A shootout ensued as authorities tried to serve the arrest and search warrants, leaving two unidentified suspects dead. One of Apolinario’s men, identified as Melecio Siano, was rushed to the Bislig City District Hospital after sustaining a gunshot wound on his left leg, police said.

Apolinario and other incorporators and officers of KAPA were ordered arrested for syndicated estafa, a non-bailable offense. The Bislig City Regional Trial Court Branch 29 issued warrants of arrest against them earlier this year.

Short for Kabus Padatoon [translation: making the poor rich], KAPA claims to be a religious group which has been recruiting members and asking them to donate funds to the organization. In exchange, donors are promised a 30 percent monthly return — called "love gifts" or "monthly blessings" — in perpetuity.

The Department of Justice filed criminal charges against the group for violations of the Securities Regulation Code. State prosecutors said KAPA “willfully, unlawfully and criminally” engaged in the selling or distribution of securities to the public without securing a registration statement from the SEC.

In June 2019, the SEC filed a complaint against KAPA for employing a Ponzi scheme, an investment plan that offers high returns and pays investors using money contributed by other investors.

The Court of Appeals has since frozen all bank accounts and properties linked to KAPA upon the request of the SEC.

President Rodrigo Duterte also ordered the shutdown of KAPA and similar investment scams.

KAPA has repeatedly denied allegations of an investment scam, and has insisted it remains a religious group.