SUNBURSTS: Tagum the epicenter of scams?

Jun Ledesma

In his inaugurals as re-elected City Mayor of Tagum, Allan Rellon looks to the future of this capital as the ‘City of People’. Hardly had the din of the applause ebbed another man was gunned down. The victim was the fifth person who was executed by still unknown gunman or gunmen.

It used to be that the victims were involved in drug trafficking, this time however, the loose talk is that the killing has something to do with the investment scams that had proliferated in Tagum City. I am not prepared to accept that rumor even as it is persistent because the authorities are still in the process of investigation. What is troubling moreover is that at the rate people are being summarily executed in broad daylight, the situation is definitely alarming.

The occurence of summary liquidations in Tagum came on the heels of the recent midterm elections. There was sudden bonanza in the city. It is no secret that election spending in this vote-rich city was unprecedented. By some estimates, over a billion pesos was splurged in the 1st district alone for the simple reason that the number of registered voters is said to be greater than those of the combined voters of other towns. of moreover ushered in a new dimension of criminality in the capital of Davao del Norte which, like Davao City, is known for peace, tranquikity and deveopment during the time of no nonsense Mayor Rey Uy. This time however, the police authorities are as confused and still has to point out who are the perpetrators and why are people being killed.

One thing is certain however, Tagum has become the epicenter of pyramiding scams and not a few had fallen victims to the get-rich-quick investment Ponzi-styled scheme. President Duterte had issued a direct order to the National Bureau of Investigation, Crime Investigation and Detection Group of the Philippine National Police following the declaration of the Securities and Exchange Commision that the likes of Kabus Padatoon (KAPA) is a fraud. Roughly translated, it means or it promises that the poor will get rich.

The tentacles of KAPA spread so quickly with stories from radio personalities spreading the opiating stories of “donors” getting back not less than 30% each month for whatever they amount the place in the KAPA Ministry founded by a former disc jockey from Bislig, Surigao. His name is Pastor Joel Apolinario. No one from among his disciples in the broadcast medium explained how he became a pastor for unlike other religious denominations KAPA does not even have a modicum of a house of worship.

In fact majority of those who donate huge amount of money are Catholics and a few members of the indigenous people in South Cotabato and agusan.

Apolinario started his caper in the isolated town of Bislig. But the pyramiding scheme in that laid back town collapsed as there were not enough recruits to sustain its operation. He faced a number of estafa complaints but somehow got away with the cases by way of amicable settlements. The story had it that he and his family later relocated to General Santos City and resumed his “ministry” this time with a registered name KAPA.

By the time Pres. Rodrigo Duterte ascertained the extent of KAPA’s operations, Apolinario himself boasted that he has no less than 5-million members. It was in the segment of Pastor Apollo C. Quiboloy’s televised program “Give Us This Day” where the President ordered the SEC, NBI and CIDG to shut down the operations of KAPA and to arrest those involved in what he termed as grandscale estafa. By some conservative estimates at an average of P10,000 per donor, Apolinario could easily be the country’s uncontested business genius with ₱50-billion or more percolating in his bank vaults. In less than a year, the man rides in luxury vehicles and a helicopter. So step aside Manny Pangilinan and Ayala brothers.

When Duterte issued the order, Apolinario had the gall to call for a massive rally in Davao City to cripple city traffic and then later in General Santos City where the President was scheduled to distribute certificates of land titles to agrariran reform beneficiaries. The Davao demonstration never materialized while in General Santos KAPA was able to muster a few hundred which later fizzled out. The later issued a veiled threat that the Dutertes will lose their support in 2022.

KAPA skirted Davao City for obvious reasons. It’s the hometown of the President and you do not try that adventurism in the city. Still not a few who are lured into the scheme would quietly scoot to either Digos in Davao del Sur or Tagum City to donate their hard earned money, procceds of loans, sale or mrtgage of their lands. Jun Digamon, a hard hitting radio commentator who consistently warned of the fraudulent investment received threats instead. Meantime in Tagum KAPA reared several clones among these are Regin Marketing, Ever Arm. Forex Marketing Willness 2.1 Titan 29 Marketing and Hermie Marketing. The owners, managers, recruiters and collectors behind these firms were reported to have gone into hiding afraid of reprisals from the donors.

The government crackdown resulted in the stoppage of operations and thus far over a hundred million in cash had been confiscated by raiding teams. These had also discourage would-be donors from placing their money in the shady Ponzi-style money placements. The anticipated ‘pay outs’ of those who had already donated their money fizzled in thin air. Many attempted to withdraw their investments, but since they acceded in the deal that their placements are to be acknowledged as donations their is nothing much to hope for in terms of recovery.

As I write this piece, i received fresh information that those involved in the operations of pyramiding scheme and had collected millions from donors had gone into hiding. What is worrisome is that the victims are not seeking government intervention and the possibility that they will take the law into their hands is not remote.

The problem here is that despite the crackdown and confiscations of cash and assets, i still have to hear formal complaints filed by government authorities. In the case of Joel Apolinario, he had been granting interviews to big networks and it serms suspiciously funny that government operatives cannot “invite” him too. This, despite the President’s order.

Back in Tagum City while Mayor Rellon exudes confidence that investors will come to this capital, for now not even Ponzi, if he is alive today, would set foot in that city. Not while the mysterious deaths remains mysterious.

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