Apollo Quiboloy

Quiboloy’s lawyers say case meant to smear Duterte, undermine Sara, Bongbong bids

Herbie Gomez

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Quiboloy’s lawyers say case meant to smear Duterte, undermine Sara, Bongbong bids

Marcos photo by Mau Victa/Rappler; Sara Duterte photo from Davao City Government Facebook page; Rodrigo Duterte photo by King Rodriguez/Presidential Photo

Apollo Quiboloy's Hawaii-based lawyer, Michael Jay Green, says US federal prosecutors waited for months and intentionally unsealed the superseding indictment close to the Philippine elections

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines – Lawyers of Davao City-based preacher Apollo Quiboloy on Sunday, February 6, questioned the timing of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) publication of posters of the founder of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ (KOJC) and two others wanted in the US for a string of charges that include sex trafficking, fraud and coercion, cash smuggling, and money laundering.

Lawyer Ferdinand Topacio, Quiboloy’s legal counsel in Manila, said the charges against Quiboloy and the FBI’s release of the posters were intended to indirectly discredit President Rodrigo Duterte, and undermine the vice presidential bid of Davao Mayor Sara Duterte, and that of former senator and presidential frontrunner Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.

Quiboloy is known to maintain close ties with Duterte and serves as the President’s spiritual adviser while his daughter and Marcos are running mates, politicians whose election bids the preacher has publicly endorsed.

“We all have to be in a state of abject denial to say that the United States has not been interfering with our elections as far as we can remember,” said Topacio as he accused “some sectors” in the US of throwing the monkey wrench on the Philippine elections. 

Topacio added, “Indirectly, it is undermining the candidacy of Sara Duterte. Indirectly, it may be undermining the candidacy of Bongbong Marcos or whichever candidate the United States does not want to win in this country.”

He pointed out that the charges against Quiboloy came only after President Duterte rose to power in 2016.

Topacio said, “They are using the closeness of Pastor Quiboloy with President Duterte para gibain indirectly si Pangulong Duterte (to indirectly destroy President Duterte).”

He added, “Without going into the merits of the case, ang timing po ng paglabas nitong poster na ito is very suspect (the timing for the publication of the poster is very suspect).”

Topacio said the posters were unnecessary, but the FBI’s “purpose [is] to humiliate and embarrass the pastor.”

Quiboloy’s lawyer in Hawaii, Michael Jay Green, said US federal prosecutors intentionally indicted Quiboloy and several of his church associates in November 2021, close to the Philippine elections. He claimed US prosecutors had told a federal court the superseding indictment would come in January 2021.

Green said, “They know the relationship of this church and pastor to your President. They know there’s mutual respect, back and forth. They know when the election is. They waited till November to unseal the indictment. That wasn’t by accident. They waited 10 months to bring the superseding indictment. That wasn’t by mistake… They certainly waited… to get as close to your elections as possible.”

The US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) kept its cards close to its chest. Laura Eimiller, FBI media coordinator for Los Angeles, California, told Rappler on Sunday, “We’ll have no comment on the case or statements made by the defense as the prosecution is pending.”

The FBI published posters of Quiboloy and his associates, Teresita Dandan and Helen Panilag, on January 31, alongside several other fugitives from Mexico and China.

Quiboloy was ordered arrested on November 10, 2021, after he and his associates were indicted by a federal grand jury in the US District Court for the Central District of California, Santa Ana, California.

Quiboloy, Dandan, Panilag, and six others were charged with 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.

Other Quiboloy associates included in the 74-page indictment made public on November 18, 2021, were Guia Cabactulan, Marissa Duenas, Amanda Estopare, Felina Salinas, Bettina Roces, and Maria de Leon. 

Topacio criticized the FBI for releasing the wanted posters, saying there was no need for the Bureau to ask the public for information about Quiboloy because the pastor was not hiding.

He said the stigma the posters caused was “horrible,” and the act was “despicable.”

“He (Quiboloy) does not deserve that treatment,” said Topacio, adding that US authorities should follow the process in the extradition treaty between the Philippines and the United States. –Rappler.com

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Herbie Gomez

Herbie Salvosa Gomez is coordinator of Rappler’s bureau in Mindanao, where he has practiced journalism for over three decades. He writes a column called “Pastilan,” after a familiar expression in Cagayan de Oro, tackling issues in the Southern Philippines.