The provision on religious freedom was cited by some supporters of the controversial KAPA organization as basis to challenge the decision of the government to shut it down.
Some members likewise shared testimonies how much they supposedly benefited from the investment or donation scheme of the group.
Government agencies took legal action against KAPA or Kabus Padatoon officials after President Rodrigo Duterte alleged that its operations were a big investment scam early this June.
The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filed a criminal complaint against the organization for the Department of Justice last June 18.
Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV noted on Facebook on June 14 the constitutional religious freedom of KAPA if it were registered as a religious organization at the SEC.
“Kung totoo ang impormasyon na registered ang Kapa sa SEC bilang isang religious organization at ang sinasabing ‘investment’ ay nakasaad sa mga dokumento bilang ‘donation,’ then walang karapatan at kapangyarihan si Duterte at ang gobyerno na pigilan ito dahil sa constitutional guarantee of religious freedom.”
As long as the members were aware of the operations beforehand, Trillanes said the government should not interfere with it even if it appears as fraudulent.
“Kahit pa na mukha ngang Ponzi scheme ang pamamalakad ng Kapa, basta maliwanag sa mga myembro nito na kung sakaling hindi bumalik ang kanilang pera, hindi sila pwedeng magreklamo dahil nga, simula’t sapul ito ay kanilang “donation” sa kanilang simbahan.”
Trillanes then suggested that the members could file a case of impeachment against Duterte.
“Para sa mga lider at myembro ng Kapa, mag file ng kasong impeachment laban kay Duterte for culpable violation of the Constitution (i.e. Art. II, Sec. 6) dahil sa pagbaliwala nito sa kanilang religious freedom.”
The provision on religious freedom is stated in Section 5 of the Bill of Rights:
“No law shall be made respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. The free exercise and enjoyment of religious profession and worship, without discrimination or preference, shall forever be allowed. No religious test shall be required for the exercise of civil or political rights.”
In an attempt to air its side, the KAPA Community Ministry International Inc. claimed that local authorities are spreading rumors that one of the religious group’s branches is trying to compete with other branches.
“Ang ginagawa nila ngayon nagpapakalat ng fake news na may branch namimigay ng blessing para magalit ang ibang branch at members hanggang sa mag-file ng complain,” its post on Facebook read.
“Alam nila wala silang laban ‘pag dinala sa korte kaya ang ginagawa nila tayong mga members ang pinapaaway nila hanggang sa masira ang ministry,” it added.
It’s difficult to validate such claim as the government has not mentioned a specific KAPA branch.
A Twitter user who introduced herself as a benefactor of the “donations” from KAPA expressed dismay over the group’s online critics.
“I am one of the benefactors of this so-called scam na pinaglalaban niyo. And yes, nakakapag-aral ako dahil din dito. With the small amount of money my father made from farming, I am now able to study a course I wanted sa isang university na hindi dapat kakayanin ng konting salapi lang,” user @dalandannica said.
I don't know why but my blood boils whenever I see the w0ke people of social media make fun of the people who invested in KAPA. Tell me, have you ever experienced poverty? Because clearly the fuckng government who you so much adore can't even provide a decent job ++
— Mav (@dalandannica) June 10, 2019
Emilio Aquino, chairperson of the SEC, said KAPA’s activities constituted a Ponzi scheme given the similar nature of offering impossibly high returns acquired from previous investors.
KAPA promised 30% of monthly returns to new investors after making a one-time donation of at least P10,000.
Pastor Joel Apolinario, had been running this since it was established in Surigao del Sur in 2015.
On June 8, Duterte ordered its closure, along with other investment scams in the country, during an interview with his friend and another religious leader Pastor Apollo Quiboloy.
In the following week, members of the faith-based community held a protest in General Santos City in Mindanao on the day the president was also in the city.
Apolinario, moreover, appealed to Duterte via a live broadcast.
Early this week, the SEC filed the criminal complaint against KAPA before the Department of Justice for violating Republic Act 8799, or the Securities Regulation Code.
The agency also froze P100 million in KAPA assets.
As of writing, the National Bureau of Investigation is looking for Apolinario and his wife, who is also a KAPA officer.