Members of Davao City-based preacher Apollo Quiboloy’s Kingdom of Jesus Christ (KOJC) church filed a dozen cyber libel complaints against Rappler Incorporated, its journalists, and four people interviewed for a series of investigative reports and videos published on the news website.
The complaints were filed in Davao City on various dates in January or February 2022 by Quiboloy’s coordinators Aubrey Madrid Pelera and Rose Gorgoio Corda, and KOJC ministers Fahad Murphy Ocampo Sangkula and Elias Quinlog Bolanio Jr.
The complaints about violation of the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 were filed against the media company and its journalists: Regional head Inday Espina-Varona, Mindanao bureau coordinator Herbie Gomez, and former researcher Vernise Tantuco.
Also included in the cyber libel complaint were former KOJC members Arlene Caminong-Stone, Faith Killion, Reynita Fernandez, and Ateneo de Manila University professor and sociologist of religion Jayeel Cornelio.
Stone, Killion, and Fernandez narrated their personal experiences as members of Quiboloy’s group in several interviews with Rappler. Their narratives were consistent with allegations in an indictment unsealed in November 2021 by a federal grand jury in the US District Court for the Central District of California, Santa Ana, California.
Stone and Killion are American citizens living in the US, while Fernandez works somewhere in Asia.
Cornelio, meanwhile, gave his expert opinion as an academic and sociologist of religion in one of the Rappler Talk interviews.
All were named in 11 of the complaints. A 12th complaint named only Rappler Incorporated as respondent.
The Davao City Prosecutor’s Office sent out subpoenas to the respondents on February 8, 2022. Rappler received them only on Thursday, February 24.
The doomsday preacher’s workers accused the respondents of “attacking, discrediting, maligning, and destroying” the name of their religious leader, church, and ministry in Rappler’s series of exclusive investigative reports, news stories, videos, and editorials that were published since December 2021.
They said the allegations in the reports were baseless, turned them into a “laughing stock,” “gravely besmirched” their reputation as KOJC members and workers, and belittled and discredited their hard work.
The Rappler reports, however, were an offshoot of the November 2021 unsealing of a superseding indictment by a federal grand jury in the US District Court for the Central District of California against Quiboloy and eight of his church associates: Teresita Tolibas Dandan, Helen Panilag, Felina Salinas, Guia Cabactulan, Marissa Duenas, Amanda Estopare, Bettina Padilla Roces, and Maria De Leon.
Quiboloy and his group 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.
In late January, the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) released wanted posters of Quiboloy, Dandan, and Panilag. The rest of the preacher’s associates named in the indictment document are out on bail in the US.
The US Attorney’s Office in the Central District of California said sex trafficking conspiracy alone, as alleged in the indictment papers, carries a statutory maximum penalty of life imprisonment. – Rappler.com