Leave the Securities and Exchange Commission alone

December 11, 2018

A LOT of pressure must have been put on the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for the regulatory body to pay attention and spend precious time “investigating” a small community-based missionary church in far-flung Sarangani Province.

The involvement of the SEC in this religious-politico row earned much sympathy for the agency and have led many to ask whether or not it has become vulnerable to the wiles of powerful interests looking for ways to neutralize enemies.

The saga began when the SEC was allegedly misled into probing an alleged “investment scam”. The object of the probe was a Christian missionary group  called “Kapa Community Missionary International” and led by a certain Pastor Joel Apolinario.

The church group’s membership consists of plain local folks -- farmers, fishermen, micro-entrepreneurs -- who are attracted to Apolinario’s charismatic preaching and programs that support their basic needs.

The SEC probe reportedly centered on allegations that Apolinario was soliciting “investments” and had been promising exorbitant returns just to lure potential investors.

As it turns out, the group does nothing more than ask for financial contributions -- a practice not limited to this small congregation.

What the SEC may not have known earlier was that the Church group had been the target of alleged extortion activities by certain influential personalities in the Mindanao region.

Apolinario had also reportedly been the target of black propaganda and threats of physical harm coming from powerful political quarters who have been alarmed by Apolinario’s ability to attract adherents to his community-based church.

Was the SEC being used by the Church’s enemies to stop it from growing and pursuing its mission?

If the answer is “yes”, then this is one unfortunate development. This would show not only the vulnerability of the SEC to the machinations of shadowy characters.

Apolinario’s congregation belongs to the so-called “Pentecostal” sector of the Christian denomination.

This is different from the mainstream Protestant Churches. The latter are mostly Philippine branches of their affluent mother churches in North America from which they derive a lot of financial support. In contrast, many of these Pentecostal churches -- sometimes called “interdenominational” -- have to survive on their own.

And, unlike their wealthy cousin, the Roman Catholic Church, these small community-based churches do not own large real estate and do not run revenue-generating institutions like schools and hospitals.

The members of these small community-based are supposed to support their Church through the practice of “tithing” -- giving a portion of their earnings to a pool of funds earmarked for common needs.

Given the financial capability of the members of these church groups similar to Apolinario’s Kapa Community, we doubt if the tithe would suffice.

This must be why pastors like Apolinario reach out to others and ask for donations.

Well, even the wealthy churches still do this and the SEC has so far never been asked to probe them. It baffles us that the SEC should be used to stop these little churches from raising funds to support its members’ needs.

To stop pastors of small churches from doing that would be to kill the spiritual hope of many poor Filipinos in southern Philippines.

There’s no stopping powerful personalities from killing these straggling community churches, but we hope they spare the SEC from these schemes.

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