The Philippine government will cooperate if the United States will seek to extradite Apollo Quiboloy, founder of a church called the Kingdom of Jesus Christ, over sex trafficking charges.
So far, there is no extradition request from the US, but in the event of one, "our treaty obligations are as legally binding on us as our own laws," said Philippine Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra.
"If magkaroon man ng ganyan, magko-cooperate po ang Pilipinas (If ever there is a request, the Philippines will cooperate)," Cabinet Secretary and acting Malacañang spokesperson Karlo Nograles also said on Friday, November 19.
Quiboloy, close friend and spiritual adviser of President Rodrigo Duterte, was indicted by federal prosecutors in Los Angeles for running a sex trafficking operation that threatened victims as young as 12 with "eternal damnation" and physical abuse.
The US indictment said Quiboloy and five other defendants recruited females 12 to 25 years old as personal assistants who would then be asked to prepare the religious leader's meals, clean for him, give him massages, and have sex with him.
A woman earlier filed a rape and child abuse complaint against Quiboloy before prosecutors in Davao City, the President's hometown and where the walled and massive compound of Quiboloy's religious group is based, but the complaint was dismissed later on.
The complainant appealed the dismissal through a petition for review lodged before Guevarra's office at the Department of Justice headquarters in Manila.
"The [rape] complaint also included child abuse, ill treatment under the Revised Penal Code, trafficking in persons through forced labor, and trafficking in persons through sexual abuse," said Guevarra, adding that the petition for review was filed "sometime this year."
Guevarra said there is no need at this point to locate Quiboloy because there is no request for extradition yet.
"Let's cross the bridge when we get there. I have no information indicating that Pastor Quiboloy will not be found in his usual residence or place of work," said Guevarra.
Asked how Duterte's relationship is to Quiboloy, Nograles said, "With regards to personal relationships, dahil ito ay personal relationship, hayaan na lang natin ang Pangulo na magsalita tungkol diyan."
(With regards to personal relationships, because it's a personal relationship, let's just leave it to the President to speak about it.)
Duterte and Quiboloy's friendship spans more than three decades, and the President has admitted before to receiving cars and properties from the religious leader.
Quiboloy's Kingdom of Jesus Christ runs a news organization called SMNI News which books prominent guests and hosts allied to Duterte, including lawmakers Rodante Marcoleta and Mike Defensor.