CAGAYAN DE ORO, Philippines – Controversial Davao City-based preacher Apollo Quiboloy’s lawyers on Sunday, February 6, hinted that they were preparing for a long-drawn-out legal battle in connection with the sex trafficking case and a string of other charges against the founding leader of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ (KOJC) church and his associates in the United States.
“This can go on for years,” said lawyer Michael Jay Green, Quiboloy’s Hawaii-based legal counsel.
Ferdinand Topacio, the lawyer of the preacher who has professed to be the “appointed son of God,” said the “ball is now in the hands” of the US State Department.
“We are now ready,” he told an online news conference organized by the Quiboloy-owned Sonshine Media Network International.
Will Quiboloy turn himself in, face his accusers before an American court, or fight it out and go through the long process based on the extradition treaty between the Philippines and the US? The KOJC leader’s lawyers said they would opt for the latter and exhaust all legal remedies.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra earlier said the extradition process would start with a request from the US State Department to the Philippines’ Department of Foreign Affairs, which would then review and endorse it to the Department of Justice (DOJ).
If in order, the DOJ would then file a petition for extradition with a regional trial court on behalf of the US. The court’s ruling would be subject to appeals.
Green said he and other lawyers advised the septuagenarian preacher to “allow us to do what the law allows us to do.”
He said, “Just because you are a pastor it doesn’t mean you’d give up your constitutional rights. He’s been putting up with this slander and defamation for years…. We’re gonna do exactly what the law allows us to do in the Philippines, and it’s a whole process we have to follow.”
Green said Quiboloy was indicted in the US, and the warrant for his arrest in November 2021 was issued without the pastor being heard first.
“If it was completely one-sided the way it was in the United States to get this warrant, we just want to level the playing field. We want to make it even. He’s presumed innocent…. And that’s our job to do this – to protect the KOJC, to protect the pastor,” Green told a news conference.
Laura Eimiller, the media coordinator for Los Angeles, California, of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), told Rappler: “We cannot comment on extradition proceedings, including whether they have been initiated. There are outstanding arrest warrants for the fugitives and our investigation is continuing.”
The FBI released on Monday, January 31, wanted posters for Quiboloy and two of his associates, Teresita Dandan and Helen Panilag, all wanted in the US 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.
Six other Quiboloy associates – Guia Cabactulan, Marissa Duenas, Amanda Estopare, Felina Salinas, Bettina Roces, and Maria de Leon – were also included in the 74-page indictment document made public on November 18, 2021. None of the six were on the FBI website that carries the photographs and information of the fugitives wanted for sex trafficking.
Topacio said the publication of the wanted posters was “blown out of proportion,” and the FBI didn’t have to do that because “everyone knows where he (Quiboloy) is.”
“There’s an extradition process,” and laws that respect Quiboloy’s rights and afford him the presumption of innocence, Topacio said.
He added, “We will just rely on the provisions of law, on our justice system that has worked so well through all the decades that they have been in place.”
Green has blamed the cases against Quiboloy and his associates on 14 former members of the KOJC led by Nepalese Shishir Bhandari, a former operations manager of the pastor’s Davao-based airline company, Apollo Air.
He said “evil is being done” against Quiboloy, and “to see the pastor in the poster makes me sick in the stomach.”
“There’s a place in hell for people like these,” Green added.
In an interview with Rappler in December 2021, Green accused Bhandari, his lawyer wife Lady Jade Canada, and their family of embezzling funds from Quiboloy’s group and fleeing the country when they supposedly found out they would be audited.
Green said Bhandari fled to Nepal and then to the US where he supposedly provided false information about Quiboloy and his church to the FBI allegedly in exchange for a house and extended visas for him and his family.
Canada’s father, a former barangay chairman in Davao City, reportedly served as one of Quiboloy’s security aides. Members of the Canada family were among the earliest converts to Quiboloy’s church.
Bhandari and the Canadas have yet to respond to Green’s accusations. – Rappler.com
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