cyber libel in the Philippines

Davao prosecutors trash Quiboloy cyber libel complaint vs Pacquiao

Ferdinand Zuasola
Davao prosecutors trash Quiboloy cyber libel complaint vs Pacquiao

DEBATE. Senator Manny Pacquiao attends the Commission on Election's first presidential debate.

Angie de Silva/Rappler

Controversial Pastor Apollo Quiboloy files the complaint against ex-senator Manny Pacquiao after the politician cited charges of sexual abuse hounding the religious leader as his reason for turning down a presidential debate invitation

DAVAO ORIENTAL, Philippines – Prosecutors dismissed the complaint for cyber libel filed by controversial Davao City-based preacher Apollo Quiboloy against Filipino boxing icon and former senator Manny Pacquiao.

The complaint was filed against Pacquiao after he cited charges of sexual abuse hounding the religious leader in the United States as a reason for his decision to turn down the invitation for him to participate in a presidential debate that was organized by the preacher’s group in February.

Then presidential candidates former presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella, labor leader Leodegario de Guzman, former national security adviser Norberto Gonzales, and now President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. showed up in the debate organized by the Quiboloy-owned Sonshine Media Network International (SMNI) at Okada Manila

Most of the major presidential candidates begged off for various reasons, but Quiboloy took offense when the then-senator referenced the preacher’s case in the US to explain why he had declined the SMNI invitation.

Pacquiao said, “As much as I would like to participate in every debate and public forum related to my bid for the presidency, I am compelled to decline the invitation of Sonshine Media Network International (SMNI), which is owned by Apollo Quiboloy, who, according to the US government, has molested and abused children.”

The ex-senator also said, “I cannot, in good conscience, be part of any activity organized by a man wanted for detestable crimes and who unconscionably used the name of the Lord in vain for religious scams.”

Quiboloy said Pacquiao’s statements were made to “malign, insult, and assassinate his character before the public.”

He also accused Pacquiao of defaming him as early as 2021 when the former senator allegedly accused him of fabricating stories, a matter that prompted him to press charges.

Pacquiao had earlier charged Quiboloy with cyber libel and sought P100 million in damages over the preacher’s criticisms about a Sarangani project that was marred by corruption issues, but prosecutors in Makati dismissed the case in December 2021.

Davao prosecutors, however, stated in the September 7 resolution that Quiboloy failed to present sufficient evidence of actual malice to support his cyber libel complaint against Pacquiao.

The prosecutors said the former senator’s remarks were privileged communication because the statements referred to Quiboloy, a public figure.

The resolution read in part, “(Quiboloy) is not just a well-known individual in the City of Davao, rather he is also widely known all over the country due to his political endorsements to known government personalities during elections, evangelical missions, as well as to his commentaries on certain TV programs.”

They also said there was no proof that Pacquiao gave the remarks with a reckless disregard for truth or falsity.

“The complainant’s contention that the various press releases of herein respondent signify proof of the latter’s malicious intention is not convincing,” read part of the six-page resolution signed by Prosecutor Jose Charito Cortez II and approved by Davao City Prosecutor Jhopee Avanceña.

Malice is one of the elements of libel based on the law, but while it is presumed in every defamatory statement, prosecutors said it cannot hold under the following circumstances:

  • A private communication made by any person to another in the performance of any legal, moral, or social duty
  • A fair and true report, made in good faith, without any comments or remarks of any judicial, legislative, or other official proceedings which are not of confidential nature, or of any statement, report, or speech delivered in said proceedings, or of any other act performed by public officers in the exercise of their functions

Quiboloy, a known friend and spiritual adviser of former president Rodrigo Duterte, is wanted in the US after he and several of his church associates were indicted by a federal jury in late 2021.

They are scheduled to be tried in the first quarter of 2023 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 of money laundering, and international promotional money laundering.

In January, the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) published Quiboloy’s and two of his associates’ wanted posters. –

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