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Quiboloy allegations of a US-Marcos plot against him not just a rant

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EVANGELIST Apollo Quiboloy, who heads the second largest non-Catholic Christian church in the country, has called for the ouster of “President Marcos and First Lady Lisa Marcos.” He claimed Marcos’ administration is an “evil and unrighteous organization and is cooperating with the US government’s plot to kill him.”

Malacañang has ignored the accusations; most media has dismissed these as baseless rants.

They go a long way back. The real target is Duterte. SMNI PHOTO

Quiboloy, who is addressed as “Pastor,” may merely be frantic over the likelihood that this administration will very actively aid the US Federal Bureau of Investigation, which has filed grievous charges against him, listing him among the FBI’s fugitives.

His call to oust Marcos is unlikely to take off at all, as Quiboloy has little if any, support from the Philippine economic and political elite — which always determines major political developments in this country. However, he has huge support among the masses, especially in Mindanao. His church claims to have 5 million true believers, including 2 million abroad. The politically powerful Iglesia ni Cristo has 3 million members.

As much as Marcos has ignored it, the pastor’s call is another body blow to Marcos’ political support and popularity, coming on the heels of his or his cousin House Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez’s bogus “signature campaign” to amend the Constitution. That has been exposed as a vile conspiracy, which would have even been used as bribes to get people to sign the petition, P28 billion in taxpayers’ money intended to help the poorest.

While the figure of his church’s claimed members is likely exaggerated, he seems to have indeed at least a million followers, which has enabled him to amass vast tracts of land and even a two-engine Cessna Citation Sovereign jet that costs $18 million and a $6 million Bell 429 helicopter.

However, Quiboloy’s wealth may not have been accumulated solely through tithes (a percentage of a believer’s income). A number of allegations, made in Congress committees, have been made that part of a “pastoral’s” (the term the church uses for its members) duties is to raise money by soliciting contributions in the streets and even selling foodstuff as rice cakes, with these members even brought to Manila from Davao, Quiboloy’s base.

True

Whether those are true or merely fabricated remains to be proven, as there has been not a single case filed in court by a human rights organization here against Quiboloy or officials of his church alleging such crimes.

Quiboloy was indicted together with nine other officials of his church in 2021 by a federal grand jury in the US District Court for the Central District of California “for conspiracy to engage in sex trafficking by force, fraud and coercion and sex trafficking of children; conspiracy; and bulk cash smuggling.” On Nov. 10, 2021, a federal warrant was issued for his arrest.

Quiboloy, though, has claimed that the US officials have repeatedly postponed his trial so that he and officials — all women mostly in their 60s and 70s — have not been given the opportunity to disprove the charges.

I don’t think Quiboloy and his officials are as guilty in the horrible terms the FBI has used. Among other questions, why would Quiboloy, who probably sits on assets worth a billion pesos, engage “in sex trafficking by force.” The “cash smuggling” charges refer to the “discovery” by the US Customs of $350,000 in a case, all in $100 bills neatly folded and stuffed inside socks inside a suitcase. US Customs authorities boarded Quiboloy’s Cessna plane just before it was to leave for the Philippines in January 2018. Why in 2018, when Quiboloy’s church has been soliciting funds from its US-based members for years? The FBI is not above coercing people to give false testimonies, especially as, in this case, the “witnesses” are said to be staying in the US illegally.

2018

I put that date, 2018, in italics to emphasize its significance: It is roughly a year before the campaign to demonize Duterte in order to remove him was launched, with the other part of the plot involving the accusations that his war on drugs involved the crime of mass murder.

Quiboloy founded his “Kingdom of God” in the 1980s, and for decades, it had been an obscure church recruiting poor kids in Davao’s slums and among the rural poor. By the late 1990s, he had already amassed most of the wealth he owned, so he had been a major financial contributor to politicians in Davao and even to Senate candidates based in Manila.

Quiboloy’s key move that distinguishes him from other evangelicals was his establishment in 1987 of Sonshine Media Network International (SMNI), which has grown to become one of the country’s biggest media enterprises. It operates a network of radio and television broadcast stations all over the country.

SMNI now owns and operates two television networks, where the main flagship station, based in Davao City, maintains an uninterrupted 24-hour service through regular repetition of a dozen self-produced Kingdom programs in English, Filipino, and several dozen foreign languages along with news, public affairs, public service, infotainment, sports and entertainment programs. SMNI operates over 17 radio stations all over the archipelago.

Tycoon

Hardly recognized by the political elites in Manila is that Quiboloy has become a media tycoon, although his network’s reach is mainly in Mindanao. Media power in the country converts to political power. Quiboloy backed Rodrigo Duterte with his media empire and with reportedly at least P50 million in donations. Although Duterte won by a landslide because of his charisma with the masses, Quiboloy’s media network was a major factor in his victory. Quiboloy endorsed Ferdinand Marcos Jr. in the 2022 elections and, of course, Duterte’s daughter, Sara.

With politicians in this country being opportunists, many have abandoned Duterte, rushing to the fold of President Marcos and his cousin, House Speaker Romualdez.

Quiboloy remains Duterte’s rock-solid pillar of support, his network, a powerful media organization that would influence people’s minds and affect the outcome of elections in 2025 and especially in 2028.

Why would the US, as Quiboloy claims, want him “terminated”?

During his term, Duterte angered the most powerful nation on Earth by his foreign policy of drawing closer to China and distancing the country from the US. He even bad-mouthed President Obama — the first time any president had done this — and threatened to junk the Visiting Forces Agreement, which was the legal technicality the Supreme Court used in declaring constitutional the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement. This agreement has made the Philippines the US’ floating aircraft carrier ready to pounce on China in the South China Sea and in Taiwan.

Weaponize

Ruling elites — whether international or local — in democracies (and even in authoritarian states, as demonstrated by Putin in his successful jailing of Navalny) seldom use outright force in going after their enemies, who they calculate are crucial for them to eliminate. They instead weaponize the legal system. They find a legal vulnerability in their targets and use these to concoct purported crimes, and pay or frighten alleged witnesses.

The most famous case for such weaponization of the legal system was the sodomy charges brought against then Malaysian deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim in l998, allegedly in a plot devised by Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamed’s group. He was convicted of the charge and jailed but acquitted by a higher court in 2000. Anwar made a remarkable political comeback and became Malaysia’s prime minister in 2022.

Duterte for the Americans — because of his daughter Sara’s plans to run for president in 2028 — remains a very serious threat to their hegemony and to their “Pivot to Asia” program launched to isolate China from its neighbors. Duterte’s vulnerability that could be exploited was his war on drugs, which they exaggerated as resulting in “thousands” of extrajudicial killings. The Philippine Daily Inquirer and the online website Rappler made up their effective propaganda machine.

ICC

The US strategists had then senator Antonio Trillanes 4th and his factotum, party-list representative Gary Alejano, file in June 2017 a case at the International Criminal Court (ICC) accusing Duterte of mass murder undertaken in his war against drugs.

Using Trillanes and Alejano, the US operators calculated that if the ICC found Duterte guilty, he could then be removed through impeachment. The very pro-American Vice President Leni Robredo would then succeed him, who would reverse Duterte’s anti-US policies and bury his plan to terminate the EDCA.

If that didn’t work, Duterte’s demonization would turn public opinion against him, which would politically infect his daughter Sara so much that she would not be able to succeed him. The US, through the ICC, which it controls, is still pursuing the tack of getting that body to convict Duterte and even arrest him, which would have a negative effect on Sara’s image.

For America, it is imperative that Marcos’ successor be as pro-American as him if they are to continue their momentum in making the Philippines its Ukraine in Asia. Note that it is the American FBI — despite its tremendous other tasks to secure America — which devoted resources to get a grand jury to indict Quiboloy.

The US’ ultimate targets in going after Quiboloy really are Duterte and his daughter Sara.


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