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U.S. charges church founder and Duterte associate with sex trafficking

U.S. charges church founder and Duterte associate with sex trafficking
Philippines President Photo courtesy of Philippines Presidential Communications Operations Office/Website

Nov. 19 (UPI) -- Federal prosecutors have charged Apollo Quiboloy, the leader of a Philippines-based megachurch and a purported friend and advisor to the archipelago nation's president, Rodrigo Duterte, of trafficking women and girls as young as 12 for his own sexual pleasure.

The Justice Department announced Thursday that Quiboloy, 71, and two administrators of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ, The Name Above Every Name church have been charged with conspiring to traffic young women and girls for sex.

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According to the court document, the trio -- which includes administrators Teresita Tolibas Dandan, 59 and Felina Salinas, 50 -- coerced young women and girls between 12 and 25 years of age within the church to work as personal assistants known as "pastorals" to Quiboloy, who's referred to as The Appointed Son of God.

The pastorals would prepare Quiboloy's meals, clean his residences, give him massages and travel with him internationally including to the United States, the document states, adding that they would also have scheduled sex with him in what they referred to as "night duty."

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"Defendant Quiboloy and other KOJC administrators coerced pastorals into having 'night duty' -- that is, sex -- with defendant Quiboloy under the threat of physical and verbal abuse and eternal damnation by defendant Quiboloy and other KOJC administrators," it said.

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The document adds that the trio told the girls and women that it was God's will and a privilege to perform night duty for Quidboloy "as well as a necessary demonstration of the pastoral's commitment to give her body to defendant Quiboloy as 'The Appointed Son of God.'"

Those who satisfactorily performed their duty would be rewarded gifts, the prosecutors said, including trips to Disneyland, flights on private jets, use of cell phones and yearly payments they called honorariums.

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Prosecutors identified Dandan of Davao City, Philippines, as the international administrator of the church and an overseer of its operations in the United States and Salinas of Kapolei, Hawaii, of being responsible for collecting and securing passports and other documents from church workers in the state.

The three were among nine people named in a superseding indictment that was returned Nov. 10 but unsealed Thursday.

The superseding document adds six defendants and expands upon charges from a one-count indictment announced in February of last year charging three top church administrators of conducting a labor trafficking scheme that forced church members to solicit donations for a fraudulent charity called the Children's Joy Foundation USA.

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While the bogus charity's workers raised funds purportedly to aid impoverished Filipino children, prosecutors said most of the money went to finance the lavish lives of the church leaders and finance the religion's operations.

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The three defendants were arrested on accusations of bringing workers for the charity to the United States through student visas or arranging sham marriages with other U.S. citizen church employees.

The indictment announced Thursday identifies three minors who were victims of the church's sex trafficking operation and states the conspiracy began in 2002 and continued until at least 2018.

Three of the six newly added defendants to the indictment have been arrested, including Salinas. Quiboloy, who is a purported friend of Duterte, is believed to be in the Philippines.

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