MANILA- The founder of a religious group accused of masterminding one of the country's biggest investment scams said Monday he will remain in hiding out of fear for his safety amid an ongoing manhunt operation against him.
Pastor Joel Apolinario, founder of Kapa-Community Ministry International, insisted that he will not surrender to authorities unless members of the religious corporation ask him to do so.
"Naniniguro lang po...Hindi naman sa diskumpiyado ako pero nananatili pa rin sa isipan ko ang aking kaligtasan," he told radio DZMM in an interview.
(I'm just being sure... It's not that I don't have confidence but my safety is on top of my mind.)
Apolinario said he would surrender to authorities, only upon Kapa members' request.
"Nanatili pa rin ako na may duda dun sa pagpapasuko sa akin," he said.
(I still have doubts on the orders for me to surrender.)
"Sabagay, darating din ang panahon na kung gusto na ng mga members na ako ay lumantad para sa kanila ay pati buhay ko po itataya ko po basta para sa kagustuhan ng mga members," he said.
(When the time comes that Kapa members say I should surrender then I would even offer my life just for the members.)
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said Monday he would use all available and legal means to secure Apolinario's safety so that the pastor could return the money of Kapa members who were allegedly scammed.
"As Secretary of Justice, I will use all the human powers in my hand and within the limits of our laws to give protection to Pastor Apolinario. It is to everyone's interest, especially to his millions of followers, that he remain alive to return their hard-earned money," he said in a text message to ABS-CBN News.
Guevarra added that as a pastor, Apolinario should know that surrendering to authorities is the "righteous thing to do."
"If he is a true shepherd who cares for the safety of his flock, he ought to know that presenting himself to the authorities and sorting out his mess, instead of hiding to protect himself, is the righteous thing to do," he said.
Apolinario claimed that Kapa members advised him to go into hiding after their group was linked to an investment scam by no less than President Rodrigo Duterte.
"Opo sir [nagtatago po ako]. Hindi ko yan maiwasan dahil sa advise na rin ng mga miyembro at may mga nag-aadvise na rin na hindi mabuting mailantad ako sa mga naghahabol sa atin," he said.
(Yes, I am in hiding. I can't help it because of the advice of Kapa members as well as advises that it's not good to expose me to those who are after Kapa.)
Earlier this month, Duterte ordered authorities to arrest officials of the corporation over investment scam allegations. He also warned Filipinos that "if it is too good to be true, it is really wrong."
Apolinario, however, did not answer directly whether Kapa members who were allegedly scammed can still have their money back.
"Kung magpapatuloy po na ipasara ang Kapa at hindi po kami mabibigyan ng pagkakataon na makapag-operate muli yung aming ministry so talagang sasabihin natin na parang suntok sa buwan na iyon..." he said.
(If the closure of Kapa will push through and we won't be given a chance to operate anew then I can say that returning the money would be a punch to the moon.)