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CAGAYAN DE ORO, Philippines – Former followers of controversial doomsday preacher Apollo Quiboloy are upset about what they see as delaying tactics employed by the defense lawyers of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ (KOJC) church leader and his associates in the United States.
The Davao City-based preacher and some of his associates are facing the prospect of life imprisonment in the US for each of several sex trafficking conspiracy counts alone. If convicted of fraud, cash smuggling, and money laundering, they could receive sentences ranging from five to 20 years each.
“They filed for another extension, pushing it from March 2024 to November 2024. They have been doing this multiple times; nakakasuka na (it’s becoming nauseating),” Arlene Caminong Stone, a former KOJC member and one of the most vocal critics of Quiboloy’s group, told Rappler on Wednesday, December 13.
At least two other former followers of Quiboloy confirmed to Rappler that the KOJC’s defense team in the US sought another extension from the court, but their reason for the pleading remains unclear as of posting time.
Meanwhile, Stone released to Rappler a video on Tuesday, December 12, where she alleged that there was an attempt to pay her into keeping silent as early as 2019.
“There [was] no specific amount. But they told me I could name my price as an exchange [for a] public apology and admission na gawa-gawa ko lang lahat pinagsasabi ko (But they told me I could name my price in exchange for a public apology and admission that everything I’ve been saying was fabricated),” Stone told Rappler.
In the video, Stone, who once served as one of Quiboloy’s “pastorals,” also welcomed a move in the Senate to look into the practices and alleged abuses of Quiboloy’s church.
According to Stone and US prosecutors, “pastorals” are women in the KOJC who perform a variety of tasks for Quiboloy, ranging from simple household chores to the extraordinary. In an earlier interview, Stone alleged that some of the women ended up as “spiritual wives” of the self-styled “appointed son of God.”
One of the former followers of Quiboloy who spoke to Rappler on condition of anonymity said they have not lost hope and were in high spirits especially when they learned about the move in the Senate to start a committee investigation, in aid of legislation, into Quiboloy and his group’s practices and alleged abuses.
“With what is happening now diyan sa Pinas, medyo nabubuhayan naman (With what is happening now in the Philippines, there’s a bit of morale boost). Sana lang may (We just hope there’s going to be a) follow-through,” the ex-KOJC member said.
Senator Risa Hontiveros has proposed a resolution that seeks a go-signal for the Senate Committee on Women, Children, Family Relations, and Gender Equality to start an investigation into allegations of large-scale human trafficking, rape, sexual abuse, and violence, and child abuse against Quiboloy’s group.
On November 18, 2021, a federal grand jury in Los Angeles, California indicted Quiboloy and eight 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 of money laundering; and international promotional money laundering.
Many of those accused either turned themselves in or were arrested and are out on bail.
Quiboloy, along with two associates, Teresita Tolibas Dandan and Helen Panilag, are on the US Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) most wanted list. They have not appeared in court in the Los Angeles criminal case.
A US district court originally set the trial on March 21, this year, only to reschedule it on March 19, 2024, to allow Quiboloy’s group to prepare their defense.
The court’s decision was made following a plea from five of Quiboloy’s co-defendants – Felina Salinas, Guia Cabactulan, Marissa Duenas, Amanda Estopare, and Bettina Padilla Roces. They asked for a trial date extension, citing the US Speedy Trial Act.
The court’s reasons for rescheduling the trial to the first quarter of 2024 are as follows:
- The ends of justice served by the continuance outweigh the best interest of the public and defendants in a speedy trial.
- Failure to grant the continuance would likely make a continuation of the proceeding impossible or result in a miscarriage of justice.
- The case is so unusual and so complex, due to the nature of the prosecution and the number of defendants, that it is unreasonable to expect preparation for pretrial proceedings or for the trial itself within the time limits established by the Speedy Trial Act.
- Failure to grant the continuance would deny all counsel for defendants the reasonable time necessary for effective preparation, taking into account the exercise of due diligence.
- The period from March 21, 2023 to March 19, 2024, constitutes a reasonable period of delay. – Rappler.com
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