MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine Department of Justice (DOJ) will consider putting the influential but embattled Pastor Apollo Quiboloy on immigration lookout if there’s urgency.
“We can issue an ILBO (Immigration Lookout Bulletin Order) motu proprio (on our own). Urgency is the key factor. We’ll play it by ear as we examine the evidence before us and as outside events unfold,” Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra told reporters Monday, February 7.
The United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) put out a wanted poster for Quiboloy and two other officials of his Davao-based Kingdom of Jesus Christ (KOJC) over an earlier indictment for sex trafficking for allegedly forcing victims as young as 12 to have sex with the religious leader or else be doomed to “eternal damnation.”
Quiboloy has been visible, continuing his preaching from Davao City, and endorsing the tandem of former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. and Davao Mayor Sara Duterte, current 2022 elections survey frontrunners.
An ILBO would not bar Quiboloy, known to have his own choppers, from leaving the country. It instead sets up an alert mechanism so authorities would be able to closely monitor his whereabouts. As Guevarra said, the DOJ can make this move on its own.
A Hold Departure Order (HDO) cannot be issued against Quiboloy because he has no pending charge in court, as only courts can issue HDOs in relation to a case. However, prosecutors were given a recent power to apply for a precautionary HDO (PHDO) if they are still resolving a complaint in their level.
Complaints for rape, trafficking and child abuse were filed against Quiboloy, but these were dismissed by Davao City prosecutors. It is under review by Guevarra himself.
“Until the DOJ finds sufficient reason to reverse the finding of the city prosecutor, it has no basis to apply for a precautionary hold departure order,” said Guevarra.
Guevarra said as of Monday, the DOJ has not yet received any endorsement for Quiboloy’s extradition to the United States, although he said the first to receive the request would be the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA). We will update this story once we hear from the DFA.
FBI Los Angeles Press Officer Laura Eimiller told Rappler on Monday: “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.”
According to Guevarra, it’s the DFA which will make the substantial assessment of the extradition request – meaning if it is covered by the Philippines-US extradition treaty. The primary test to determine if it’s an extraditable offense is if it’s punishable under both the Philippine and US laws, and if the penalty is imprisonment of more than one year.
If and when the DFA determines that it is an extraditable offense, it will be endorsed to the DOJ so prosecutors can file the petition for extradition before a local court. If and when this happens, Quiboloy still has remedies available to him under regular procedure, including appealing whatever it is the trial court orders.
It is uncertain how long this process could take.
“Extradition is supposed to be a summary proceeding, we’re not supposed to be trying the US criminal charges here. But we have had cases where the process reached the Supreme Court, but were ultimately implemented,” said Guevarra.
If and when the local complaint under review against Quiboloy progresses, it could complicate the matters even more, but Guevarra told DZMM Monday, “Nasa pag-uusap ‘yan ng dalawang government kung puwedeng ipahiram muna dun sa foreign government.” (It can be an agreement between the two governments if we can lend the subject to the foreign government for the meantime.)
The US indictment alleges that the abused Church workers were brought in from the Philippines using visas obtained through misrepresentations. The funds that the workers solicited off California streets under allegedly inhumane conditions were sent back to the Philippines, according to the indictment.
Were Philippine laws violated as well? Guevarra said they’d be able to assess once formal request has been made.