By Denise A. Valdez

THE founder and other key officers of Kapa-Community Ministry International (KAPA) — which the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) tagged as possibly “the largest investment scam in the Philippines in recent years” — have been ordered arrested by the Regional Trial Court of Bislig City on fraud charges.

In a statement, the corporate regulator said the court on Tuesday issued the warrants of arrest against KAPA Founder and President Joel A. Apolinario, Trustee Margie A. Danao and Corporate Secretary Reyna L. Apolinario.

The court also called for the arrest of KAPA promoters identified as Marisol S. Diaz, Adelfa Fernandico, Moises Mopia and Reniones D. Catubigan.

The issuance of arrest warrants followed the criminal charges filed by the Department of Justice against KAPA last year for violations of the Securities Regulation Code.

“It is about time that the people behind KAPA answer the criminal charges filed against them,” SEC Chairperson Emilio B. Aquino said in the statement. “May this serve as a reiteration of the Commission’s resolve to stamp out investment scams and shield the investing public from fraud and other abuses in the corporate sector.”

In an e-mail to BusinessWorld, Officer-in-Charge Oliver O. Leonardo of the SEC Enforcement and Investor Protection Department said the regulator has been pressed in recent years by the surge of illegal investment schemes.

“Among others, we have noticed how the internet — particularly social media — has made it easier for fraudsters to recruit investors and somehow evolve from one form to another,” he said, noting how KAPA was able to recruit millions through Facebook and YouTube.

KAPA is estimated to have collected about P50 billion from supposed five million members when the SEC ordered its closure last year. The organization operates by masking as a religious group that solicits P10,000 in “donations” from each member, in exchange of monthly returns of 30% in “blessings” or “love gifts” for life.

“We recognize the need to continue educating the public about investing. We know that many victims of investment scams only wanted the best for themselves… Unfortunately, a few saw this as an opportunity to satisfy their greed,” Mr. Leonardo said.

Since the year started, the corporate regulator has issued 10 advisories against illegal investor groups. These advisories are uploaded on the SEC website, with at least 69 groups flagged by the regulator last year alone. This is on top of cease-and-desist orders against 12 groups, the revocation of registrations of three groups and the filing of criminal complaints against five groups.

“The SEC is scaling up its information, education and communication campaigns to empower the public and keep them from falling for investment scams,” Mr. Leonardo said.

He added it is important to educate the public that investment scams are “nothing but a case of robbing Peter to pay Paul.”

“Investment scams are doomed to fail, putting their victims’ future in jeopardy,” Mr. Leonardo said.