DAVAO CITY – Women rights advocates in Davao want more action from government to look into the sex trafficking case filed by the United States Justice Department against Davao-based Pastor Apollo Quiboloy.
The US prosecutors, in a 74-page resolution, said that Quiboloy and officials from his church, Kingdom of Jesus Christ the Name Above Every Name (KOJC), ran what they call a sex trafficking operation that recruited females from 12 to 25 years old and brought to the United States.
The report said the victims were brought to the United States through questionably obtained visas, where they were tasked to do house chores, gave the pastor massages, and perform sex as their “night duty”.
The victims were reportedly threatened with “physical and verbal abuse and eternal damnation by defendant Quiboloy and other KOJC administrators” if they refused.
The victims were also tasked to solicit donations for Children’s Joy Foundation but the collections were used to fund the “lavish lifestyle” of Quiboloy and church leaders, the report added.
The pastor, who enjoys friendship with President Rodrigo Duterte as his ‘spiritual adviser’, can be extradited to face these charges. The Philippine government said they will cooperate with the US authorities.
For women rights advocates in Davao City, they want the government to deliver justice.
Victoria ‘Mags’ Maglana, a development worker who is vying for a seat as Davao City’s first district Congress, said “The people of Davao will take a strong interest in ensuring that justice is served to the women and minors who were reportedly coerced into having sexual acts with Mr. Quiboloy. The sex trafficking indictment against Mr. Quiboloy is our opportunity to do right by our women and girls and uphold rule of law.”
Maglana noted that Davao City has a record of having local legislations protecting women and children and this must be pushed again by civil society advocates, city officials and barangay leaders.
Professor Mae Fe Templa, former undersecretary of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), said there should be a
re-investigation on the foundations set up by Quiboloy.
Templa echoed sentiments by women and children advocates who said the case on the pastor is long overdue, as they have pursued to file cases in the past but the families of victims faced intimidation and counter-charges.
During her stint as undersecretary, she initiated a de-accreditation of the Joy Foundation, but the last time she checked, complaints were withdrawn.
Templa said there could be more cases of trafficking that need to be uncovered in the city, and urged women’s groups and the City Government of Davao to help.
“Let us revive the campaign, have a hotline on victims of trafficking especially on girls recruited for those annual events by Quiboloy,” she said.
Doctor Jean Lindo, the second nominee for Gabriela Women’s Partylist, also said there should be equal implementation of the law, regardless of the pastor’s ties with Duterte.
She reminded that the Philippine government is a signatory to the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).
Lindo laments that powerful personalities have recently evaded investigation, citing the dismissal of drug charges on Julian Ongpin, son of a billionaire official, who is also implicated in the death of Davao-born artist Bree Jonson.
“What is it about our laws that make them inutile when you have a powerful and wealthy perpetrators? This world will never run out of perpetrators but if we have effective mechanisms, that will probably lessen these cases,” Lindo said.