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MANILA, Philippines – Were there any Philippine laws violated when President Rodrigo Duterte’s close ally and spiritual adviser, Apollo Quiboloy, supposedly sent his “pastorals” to the United States, forced them into street-level solicitation working “long hours,” and then sent those funds to the Philippines as a United States (US) indictment alleged?
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said he can “give a more definitive answer once we receive an official extradition request from the United States.”
“If the evidence further shows that some acts other than those covered by the US indictment have been committed here, then that’s a cue to conduct a separate domestic investigation,” said Guevarra.
Federal prosecutors in Los Angeles, California, indicted Quiboloy and other officials of his Davao City-based church Kingdom of Jesus Christ (KOJC) of sex trafficking for allegedly forcing victims as young as 12 to have sex with the religious leader or else be doomed to “eternal damnation.”
The 74-page indictment, a copy of which was obtained by Rappler, said KOJC administrators including Quiboloy, who brands himself as the “appointed son of God,” “fraudulently obtained US non-immigrant visas” for “certain KOJC workers from the Philippines” on pretense that they “were traveling to the United States to engage in church-related concerts and similar religious activities.”
“When in reality, they were bringing the KOJC workers to the United States to engage in street-level solicitation throughout the country,” said the indictment.
“KOJC workers were unaware of the actual purpose until they were forced by defendants…to solicit on the streets nearly every day, year-round, working very long hours, and often sleeping in cars overnight, without normal access to over-the-counter medicine, and, at times, sufficient clothing,” the indictment added.
When the “victims” prove capable of meeting daily solicitation quotas, the indictment said “KOJC administrators fraudulently obtained student visas for such workers or by forcing them to enter into sham marriages with other KOJC workers who had already obtained United States citizenship.”
The US-based defendants, according to the indictment, would track the money from solicitations and “would direct the flow of solicited funds from the United States to KOJC administrators in the Philippines.”
The case summary said the Quiboloy case involves sex trafficking by force, fraud, and coercion; sex trafficking of children; conspiracy; and cash smuggling.
Under the Philippines’ extradition treaty with the United States, a request must prove that the crime is an “extraditable” offense, which must meet certain standards.
Guevarra said one of the standards is for the threshold of the US evidence to meet the same threshold of evidence if the crime happened in the Philippines.
If the potential Philippine law violated is trafficking, Guevarra said it could be a transnational crime “where various elements of the offense are committed in different jurisdictions.”
“That’s why we need to see the evidence in the hands of the US. No point in duplicating efforts if the offense and the victims are exactly the same in both jurisdictions,” said Guevarra.
Both Guevarra and Malacañang Spokesperson Karlo Nograles earlier committed to cooperating with the United States should they request for extradition.
A legal counsel for KOJC earlier said “we are confident and ready to face whatever is hurled against Pastor Quiboloy and the Kingdom leaders,” according to a statement posted on Quiboloy’s official website.
Rappler is still trying to talk to a representative.
The statement called the indictment “another vicious attempt to bring down Pastor Apollo C. Quiboloy,” and said the victims in California “are the same dissidents who miserably failed in their attempt to bring Pastor Quiboloy into the case in Hawaii,” referring to the February 2018 incident where the religious leader was temporarily detained after his private flight bound for the Philippines was intercepted and caught carrying an unauthorized amount of cash that reached $350,000.
Preaching continues in Davao
A KOJC official, Felina Salinas, was charged over the Hawaii incident but was cleared by a Hawaii court in October 2020.
Salinas was among the defendants in the latest US indictment and was identified there as the “lead KOJC administrator in Hawaii.”
In a Facebook post, Quiboloy said he had been “a second father to Felina” since she was 14 years old, and her father was allegedly killed by a member of the New People’s Army. Quiboloy has red-tagged or accused of being communist rebels, prominent Filipino personalities, including Vice President Leni Robredo.
Quiboloy is in Davao City, and in a preaching on Sunday, November 28, said the newly detected COVID-19 Omicron variant was God’s punishment for his “persecution.”
“All talks about possible extradition will be mooted if the person sought to be extradited opted to voluntarily surrender to the jurisdiction of the requesting state and defend himself/herself with the assistance of counsel in the appropriate legal proceedings in the requesting state,” Guevarra earlier said.
Guevarra will resolve a local case against Quiboloy: a complaint of rape, child abuse, and sex trafficking previously junked by prosecutors in Davao City but appealable to the secretary of justice through a petition for review. – Rappler.com