Ponzi religions infect Mindanao

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President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, in an interview last Saturday, ordered the immediate shutdown of Ponzi-style investment scams, narrowing down on Kapa Community Ministry Inc. (Kapa), which started in Bislig, Surigao del Sur. He directed both the National Bureau of Investigation and Philippine National Police to carry this order. This is in response to the widespread hysteria over “get rich quick” schemes that people have been easily duped into putting their hard-earned money and life savings for a potential profit of up to 400 percent of the initial investment. As Duterte simply pointed out in said interview, “When it is too good to be true, it is fraud.”

These investment scams are outrageously profitable for the criminals who started it.
Reportedly, the weekly payouts amount in the hundreds of millions and investors in Mindanao take the time to commute hours on the bus with their bags full of cash, to cities where these companies hold office. It is said that these fraudsters even played a huge role in the recent midterm elections, with their throngs of blind foolish followers threatening not to vote for candidates who are unsupportive of their illegal ways.

The scheme relies on a dangerous mix of three things Filipinos are most crazy about: money, religion, and social media. Kapa, for instance, advertises itself as a religious institution whose members are mandated to put in investments, for which they are rewarded 30 percent of it every month. Their founder, Pastor Joel Apolinario, churns out religious epitaphs like he is God’s gift to mankind, ensuring that his people’s religious contributions are not illegal for being beyond the jurisdiction of any court of law.

Apolinario’s pronouncements are made almost real-time, uploaded on Facebook and YouTube, for their followers immediate viewing. For example, after President Duterte’s Facebook Live interview with Pastor Apollo Quiboloy last Saturday, where he ordered the shutdown on Kapa, a view of Apolinario’s response of defiance was uploaded two hours later and is still racking up view counts to this moment.

‘Defiant’ is a word that best describes the followers of Kapa. They find their courage thinking that what they are doing are acts of religious freedom, and the 30 percent investment returns are ‘gifts’ for their faith in Kapa. Should one read the comments made by their followers on social media, you would see how blind and gullible they are, in the hope of getting more ‘gifts’ from Kapa.

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) already ordered the permanent closure of Kapa by making permanent its cease and desist order (CDO), as early as March of this year.
Kapa then filed an application for the issuance of an injunction before the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of General Santos City, which denied it. Despite this, Kapa went on a full misinformation drive in the streets and on the Internet, claiming that the SEC had no jurisdiction in issuing the CDO, since acts of religious freedom are under the regular courts. What is odd is that they claim that the RTC issued an injunction, which it never did. Some reports say that the Presiding Judge of the RTC was also an investor in Kapa, and that the appeal is now pending before the Supreme Court. YouTube videos of Kapa’s Atty. Lyndon Cana from Bacolod can be viewed, where he reasoned the lack of jurisdiction of the SEC. And all this is beneficial to Kapa since the people believed whatever was told to them and Kapa is still in full operation, accepting new members and releasing ‘gifts’ to their faithful followers.

Kapa has spawned offices and followers all over the Philippines, though outside of Metro Manila. Investment scams are said to be prevalent in Mindanao. Another notorious company is Rigen Marketing based in Tagum, Davao del Norte. In an advisory issued in 24 May, the SEC warned the public from investing in Rigen Marketing, which promised a return of a staggering 400 percent of your initial investment. This meant an investment of P5,000 promised a return of a whopping P20,000. It was said that Rigen Marketing’s higher-ups have falsely used names of local candidates as their backers in an attempt to further mislead the public.

We must recall what happened in 2012 with Aman Futures, a similar scheme that started in Pagadian City. The amount said to be defrauded from the people is P12 billion. It was a sad ending for its owners who have fled the country, and whose houses were burned by the victims.

The same fate may happen to Kapa. A Kapa office in Compostela, Cebu, was robbed and burned by five men. This is the perfect crime for having the apparent tolerance of the government. If there’s anything to be learned from Aman Futures, it is time for Kapa to shut down its operations.

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