Duterte's spiritual adviser Quiboloy charged with sex trafficking in US

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 19) — United States prosecutors have filed sex trafficking charges against Apollo Quiboloy, megachurch leader and President Rodrigo Duterte's spiritual adviser, for coercing underaged girls and young women to have sex with him under threats of “eternal damnation.”

The US Department of Justice on Thursday announced the indictment of Quiboloy as the founder of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ, The Name Above Every Name (KOJC). The "international administrator" of KOJC in the US Teresita Tolibas Dandan and one-time top administrator Helen Panilag were also charged.

The top three church officials remain at-large. The US Justice department said in a statement that the defendants are believed to be in Davao City, the turf of the Duterte family.

US officials also arrested Felina Salinas, Maria de Leon, and Bettina Padilla Roces on Thursday and the three were expected to make their initial appearances on the same day in United States District Court in Los Angeles and Honolulu.

They were believed to be in charge of directing funds solicited from church members to church officials in the Philippines and processed fraudulent marriages and immigration-related documents for KOJC workers, the statement added.

They are part of the new superseding indictment that expanded the number of defendants to nine in charges filed against several KOJC administrators in 2020.

RELATED: FBI arrests 3 Quiboloy church members in US on immigration fraud charges

Prosecutors charged Quiboloy, Dandan, and Salinas with participating in a conspiracy to engage in sex trafficking by force, fraud, and coercion.

The defendants allegedly recruited females aged 12 to 25 to work as personal assistants, called “pastorals,” for Quiboloy.

According to the 74-page indictment charge, three of the five female victims were minors when the alleged sex trafficking began, the US DOJ statement said.

It said the indictment stated that the victims prepared Quiboloy’s meals, cleaned his residences, gave him massages, and were required to have sex with the pastor as part of “night duty.” The victims were allegedly ordered to have sex with Quiboloy on a schedule determined by the church leader and others, including Dandan.

"Quiboloy and other KOJC administrators told pastorals that performing ‘night duty’ was ‘God’s will’ and a privilege, as well as a necessary demonstration of the pastoral’s commitment to give her body to defendant Quiboloy as ‘The Appointed Son of God,'" the indictment alleged.

Those who followed orders were rewarded with luxurious hotel rooms, vacations, and yearly cash payments based on their "performance." The indictment said the funds came from the money solicited by KOJC workers in US.

The nightmare didn't end for the victims who were able to escape. They faced harassment in front of other KOJC members to discourage other victims from leaving so the church can further conceal the sexual abuse, the statement added.

“Quiboloy would give sermons broadcasted to KOJC members around the world, in which he would allege that victims who escaped had engaged in criminal conduct and sexually promiscuous activity, and therefore faced eternal damnation," the indictment read.

It also said the sex trafficking scheme started no later than 2002 and continued to at least 2018.

Quiboloy, Dandan and Salinas are charged in at least three of five substantive counts of sex trafficking by force, fraud and coercion.

Other crimes

The superseding indictment also outlines KOJC’s nationwide soliciting operations, which allegedly gave rise to additional criminal conduct, including forced labor, labor trafficking, document servitude, marriage fraud, and money laundering.

Under Quiboloy’s direction, KOJC administrators allegedly brought workers from the Philippines to the United States and confiscated all forms of identification before forcing the workers to spend long hours illegally soliciting money for KOJC outside of businesses across the United States.

KOJC workers told potential donors their money would be used by Glendale-based Children’s Joy Foundation to help impoverished children, the money was actually used to directly finance KOJC operations and the lavish lifestyle of KOJC leaders, including Quiboloy, according to the indictment.

The United States Federal Bureau of Investigation arrested three KOJC members and charged them with conspiracy to commit immigration fraud back in January 2020.

Quiboloy is no stranger to charges. He is facing several allegations of cash smuggling. A former follower also filed a case against him in Davao City in 2019 for rape. His camp has denied the allegations.

The Quiboloy-Duterte connection

Quiboloy said his friendship with Duterte goes way back when his congregation was just starting out with 15 members. The pastor admitted giving properties, a house, and a vehicle to Duterte. He also lent helicopters and other aircraft during the 2016 presidential campaign.

Duterte, who doesn't often grant one-on-one interviews with mainstream media, has repeatedly been interviewed on Quiboloy's TV show.

Malacañang said Quiboloy is a private individual who can legally defend himself. Acting presidential spokesperson Karlo Nograles added that Duterte will decide if he will keep Quiboloy as his spiritual adviser.

CNN Philippines is trying to the comment of Quiboloy and the other church leaders on the latest charges in the United States.