CAGAYAN DE ORO, Philippines – The United States embassy in Manila on Tuesday, February 8, denied claims made by lawyers of controversial Kingdom of Jesus Christ (KOJC) leader Apollo Quiboloy that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) intentionally published the wanted posters of the doomsday preacher and two of his associates close to the Philippine elections.
“The FBI’s release of a wanted poster for Kingdom of Jesus Christ founder Apollo Quiboloy follows a multi-year effort by law enforcement. It is unrelated to the Philippines’ ongoing presidential election campaign,” Heather Fabrikant, spokesperson of the US embassy in Manila, said in a text message to Rappler.
The US embassy’s statement came two days after two of Quiboloy’s lawyers – Ferdinand Topacio in Manila and Michael Jay Green in Hawaii – told an online news conference on Sunday, February 6, that they found the timing of the publication of the posters by the FBI “very suspect” given that the elections were nearing.
While stating that it was a conjecture, Topacio proceeded to say that the release of the wanted posters was meant to discredit President Rodrigo Duterte and undermine the candidacy of his daughter, Davao Mayor Sara Duterte, who is seeking the vice presidency.
Ms. Duterte officially launched her candidacy alongside her running mate and presidential front-runner Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. on Tuesday.
Green, Quiboloy’s lawyer in Hawaii, told the news conference that the superseding indictment in November 2021 was supposed to have been unsealed in January last year. He 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.”
Quiboloy is known for his close ties with President Duterte. The pastor also publicly endorsed the Marcos-Sara Duterte tandem in Davao City on February 1, just a day after the FBI published the wanted posters of Quiboloy and his associates Teresita Dandan and Helen Panilag on its website.
Topacio said, “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… 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.”
The FBI in Los Angeles, which released the posters, declined to respond to the allegations and the defense lawyers’ statements.
Quiboloy and eight of his associates have been wanted in the US since November 2021, when they were indicted by a federal grand jury in the US District Court in California 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 money laundering, and international promotional money laundering.
The other defendants named in the 74-page indictment were Guia Cabactulan, Marissa Duenas, Amanda Estopare, Felina Salinas, Bettina Roces, and Maria de Leon. – Rappler.com
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