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Why a Filipino Megachurch Founder Is on the Run, Claiming the U.S. Wants Him Dead

4 minute read

A Philippine televangelist and “spiritual adviser” to former President Rodrigo Duterte wanted by the FBI said he has gone into hiding, accusing officials in the U.S. and Philippines of seeking to “eliminate” him.

Apollo Carreon Quiboloy, who founded the Kingdom of Jesus Christ, The Name Above Every Name (KOJC) megachurch, posted a 37-minute audio recording Wednesday on the YouTube channel of his TV network Sonshine Media, claiming that, according to his “reliable sources,” U.S. government bodies are now seeking to conduct “rendition” on him instead of extradition for sex trafficking charges he is facing stateside. Rendition is the surrender by a state of a fugitive to another state charging the fugitive with a crime, though details of Quiboloy’s supposed rendition were scant.

Quiboloy, who is facing various charges in the U.S. in relation to a sex trafficking scheme and is wanted by the FBI, also claimed that there was a $2-million bounty on his head, and that U.S. operatives are constantly surveilling his compounds. The FBI has denied such bounty, while the U.S. Embassy in the Philippines issued a statement saying it is “confident that Quiboloy will face justice for his heinous crimes.”

“It’s not only rendition, but also elimination,” he added. “If possible, they can assassinate me.”

The televangelist’s accusations come as both chambers of the Philippine Congress have issued summons against him as part of investigations into his megachurch’s involvement in sexual and physical abuse crimes and alleged violations by his TV network. He has not appeared in those investigations, and both houses have warned that he could be arrested for skipping them.

Malacañang, the office of the Philippine President, has not responded to TIME’s request for comment on Quiboloy’s accusations.

Quiboloy, meanwhile, argues the pursuit of his case is highly politicized. “It’s not my fault that I am friends with politicians like President Duterte, Vice President Sara [Duterte-Carpio],” he said in the video.

Who is Apollo Quiboloy?

Quiboloy, 73, has referred to himself as “the Appointed Son of God.” His church, KOJC, is a Christian sect in the largely-Catholic Philippines that claims to have some 4 million followers locally and another 2 million worldwide. 

Court records show that sometime around 1998, KOJC founded the Children’s Joy Foundation (CJF) “to provide children in the Philippines with various residential services, medical, psychosocial, educational support and emergency assistance to harness their potential in community and nation building,” according to their website. CJF began operating in the U.S. in 2007, court documents show. 

Quiboloy also owns a TV and radio broadcast network. Duterte had regularly made appearances in Quiboloy’s TV network even after stepping down from the presidency in 2022.

The self-styled pastor has previously been dogged by controversy, and in 2014 was accused of land grabbing by Filipino indigenous peoples, but members of the sect denied Quiboloy’s involvement. 

What charges is Quiboloy facing?

A superseding federal indictment in the Central District of California unsealed in November 2021 charged Quiboloy, along with two other church administrators, of conspiring in a sex trafficking operation between 2002 and 2018, recruiting girls and women aged between 12 and 25 to work as the pastor’s personal assistants, or “pastorals.” Court documents state that Quiboloy and other church administrators coerced these pastorals into having sex with him, under the threat of “physical and verbal abuse and eternal damnation.”

Quiboloy was indicted for conspiracy to engage in sex trafficking by force, fraud and coercion and sex trafficking of children; sex trafficking by force, fraud and coercion; conspiracy; and bulk cash smuggling. A federal warrant was issued for Quiboloy’s arrest on Nov. 10, 2021, and the FBI released wanted posters of him and his two church lieutenants in February 2022. Quiboloy’s camp, in response, said the pastor and KOJC leaders had been “maliciously accused in this present controversy.”

In December 2022, the U.S. Treasury Department froze the assets of Quiboloy and more than 40 other individuals due to their links to human rights abuses and corruption. In response, the pastor’s legal counsel said the accusation was “outrageous grandstanding and utter politics by the U.S. government.

What is the status of Quiboloy’s case now?

Proceedings for the case were scheduled to begin on March 19, according to court documents, but have since been postponed to Nov. 5, with the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California acknowledging that the case was “so unusual and so complex.”

The Philippines has an extradition treaty with the U.S., but as of December, there has been no request from the U.S. to extradite Quiboloy.

Quiboloy, in his 37-minute rant Wednesday, said: “I have been handed over to foreigners… If this is true, own up to it. If I’m wrong, correct me. My life is now in danger.”

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