CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines – The US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has included controversial Davao City-based preacher Apollo Quiboloy and two of his associates in its most wanted list.
The FBI published posters of Pastor Quiboloy and his church associates Teresita Dandan and Helen Panilag on January 31, alongside several other fugitives from Mexico and China.
“Apollo Carreon Quiboloy, the founder of a Philippines-based church, is wanted for his alleged participation in a labor trafficking scheme that brought church members to the United States, via fraudulently obtained visas, and forced the members to solicit donations for a bogus charity, donations that actually were used to finance church operations and the lavish lifestyles of its leaders,” the FBI poster read.
It also said that “members who proved successful at soliciting for the church allegedly were forced to enter into sham marriages or obtain fraudulent student visas to continue soliciting in the United States year-round.”
Quiboloy, a preacher who commands the loyalty and obedience of his followers in the Davao-based Kingdom of Jesus Christ (KOJC) which he founded, was on top of the FBI list, followed by Dandan and Panilag.
The FBI said Quiboloy’s followers who excelled in the solicitations were then allegedly forced to enter into sham marriages or obtain fraudulent student visas so they could continue with their fund-raising activities.
US authorities alleged that Quiboloy’s “pastorals” or personal aides served the preacher his meals, cleaned his residences, gave him massages, and were required to have sex with him – a practice referred to as “night duty.”
The FBI said Quiboloy has ties to Calabasas, California, Las Vegas, Nevada, and Kapolei, Hawaii.
‘Top overseer, church administrator’
The FBI also released the poster of Dandan, KOJC international administrator and one of the top overseers of the alleged bogus charity operations in the US.
She is wanted for her alleged role in a labor trafficking scheme that brought members of the KOJC to the US via fraudulently obtained visas so they could solicit donations that didn’t go to charity.
The FBI said the funds were used to finance the Quiboloy church’s operations and for the lavish lifestyles of the group’s leaders.
Dandan was also accused of playing a central role in recruiting female victims, including minors, to work as Quiboloy’s pastorals.
Like Dandan, Panilag was also included in the FBI list of fugitives for her involvement in the Quiboloy group’s alleged labor trafficking scheme, visa fraud, and bogus charity work.
“Panilag is the alleged one-time top church administrator in the United States who oversaw the collection of financial data from church operations around the globe,” read part of her FBI poster.
Quiboloy was ordered arrested on November 10, 2021, after he and his associates were indicted by a federal grand jury in the US District Court for the Central District of California, Santa Ana, California.
US prosecutors charged the preacher, Dandan, Panilag, and six others for conspiracy to engage in sex trafficking by force, fraud and coercion, sex trafficking of children, marriage fraud, fraud and misuse of visas, bulk cash smuggling, promotional money laundering, concealment money laundering, and international promotional money laundering. (READ: US indictment: Quiboloy ‘victims’ worked ‘long hours’ to solicit; funds sent to PH)
The other Quiboloy associates included in the 74-indictment made public on November 18, 2021, were Guia Cabactulan, Marissa Duenas, Amanda Estopare, Felina Salinas, Bettina Roces, and Maria de Leon. The indictment papers enumerated 94 overt acts of the preacher and his associates.
Michael Jay Green, Quiboloy’s lawyer in Honolulu, Hawaii, earlier told Rappler that the charges against the KOJC leader and his associates were the handiwork of a disgruntled Nepalese, who used to work as operations manager of the pastor’s airline company, Apollo Air.
‘No extradition request yet’
The Philippine government earlier said it would cooperate in the event of an extradition request from the US in relation to Quiboloy’s case.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said that the Philippine government has yet to receive any official communication from the US government.
“We have not received any official communication from the US government…. Extradition cannot be done motu proprio, especially if the subject is our own citizen. Any communication will be coursed through diplomatic channels,” Guevarra said.
Asked about Quiboloy’s inclusion in the FBI’s most wanted list, Guevarra said, “I’m sure the FBI knows where Pastor Quiboloy is. I’m also sure that the FBI knows the proper legal procedure to enable the US justice system acquire jurisdiction over Pastor Quiboloy’s person.”
Explaining the extradition process, the DOJ chief said that the US State Department will have to make the extradition request, which will be checked by the Philippines’ Department of Foreign Affairs prior to endorsement to the DOJ.
“We then file a petition for extradition with the proper RTC on behalf of the US government. The rest of our judicial process, including appeals, follows. In case the issuance of a warrant of arrest becomes necessary, the subject may post bail for his provisional liberty,” Guevarra said.
Asked if the matter could be elevated to the Supreme Court, Guevarra said that there have been instances when this happened but the extradition requests “were ultimately implemented.”
On whether the DOJ planned to issue a hold departure order or immigration look-out bulletin order, the Cabinet official said, “We’ll study the legal basis for such an action in the absence of any official request or communication from the US side.”
Quiboloy is a close friend and spiritual adviser of President Rodrigo Duterte. He had publicly endorsed the presidential bid of former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. and his running mate Davao Mayor Sara Duterte, the President’s daughter. – with a report from Loreben Tuquero/Rappler.com