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SEC bears ‘God’s’ wrath to keep scam at bay

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) received a boost in its fight against Kapa-Community Ministry International Inc. (Kapa), whose founder and pastor Joel Apolinario was alleged to have used his religious platform to dupe millions of Filipinos in a massive Ponzi scheme.

The SEC announced Monday the Court of Appeals froze Kapa’s bank accounts and other assets last June 4. It declined to provide other details.

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This will be followed by the filing of criminal charges against Kapa’s officers, SEC chair Emilio Aquino said in a briefing on Monday.

The SEC’s press conference came days after President Duterte called on the National Bureau of Investigation and the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group to probe the Surigao del Sur-based religious corporation and other investment scams.

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“We are just trying to present to you that Kapa is running a scam,” Aquino said, adding that the SEC itself has been on the receiving end of public attacks by supporters of Apolinario, who claims to have at least five million members receiving a monthly return or “blessings” of 30 percent in exchange for their donations.

“The financials do not show it has the capacity to deliver, except to rely on new investors to bring in their money,” Aquino said.

Aquino said the SEC sent undercover personnel and learned that the minimum donation was P10,000, meaning those supposed five million members had paid at least P50 billion to Kapa.

This translates to a monthly payout of P15 billion—which Aquino said was “mathematically unsustainable” given Kapa’s assets of under P500,000 and earnings of P5,784 in its latest filing in 2017.

“We have to put a stop to it, otherwise there will be more victims who will be recruited and then bring their money in. Ultimately, it will collapse,” Aquino said.

Apolinario could not be immediately reached for comment.

The SEC earlier revoked the certificate of incorporation of Kapa for allegedly misrepresenting itself to the public.

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“The investment-taking activity of Kapa also constituted a Ponzi scheme, an investment program that offers impossibly high returns and pays investors out of the capital contributed by later investors,” the SEC said.

Kapa has been on the SEC’s radar since March 2017. It had warned the religious corporation for lacking a license to sell investments to the public.

Aquino said the SEC faced criticism from Kapa’s supporters for being anti-poor and for getting in the way of religious activities.

“The fact that you are using the term ‘donation’ doesn’t make it a religious right or practice,” he said.

The SEC last Feb. 14 issued a cease and desist order against Kapa. The order covered the partners, officers, directors, agents, representatives and all other persons acting for and in behalf of the company. It also operates as KAPA Kabus Padatuon (Enrich the Poor), KAPA/ KAPPA (Kabus Padutoon), KAPA-Co Convenience Store and General Merchandise, and KAPA Worldwide Ministry.

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