Apollo Quiboloy

PRIMER: Investigations, cases against Apollo Quiboloy

Herbie Gomez

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PRIMER: Investigations, cases against Apollo Quiboloy
Can Senator Risa Hontiveros compel embattled Pastor Apollo Quiboloy to attend the Senate committee hearing, cite him in contempt, and order him arrested?

CAGAYAN DE ORO, Philippines – Senator Risa Hontiveros on Tuesday, February 27, once again called on doomsday preacher Apollo Quiboloy to face his accusers and address the serious allegations raised against him in an ongoing investigation.

Hontiveros made the call just one week before the fourth hearing set by her committee regarding the alleged abuses committed by the Davao-based Kingdom of Jesus Christ (KOJC) against its former workers and members.

The senator earlier warned that she would cite Quiboloy in contempt and have him arrested unless he showed up at the March 5 hearing of the Senate committee on women, children, family relations, and gender equality.

In a statement released on Tuesday, Hontiveros said the committee, as it investigates matters in aid of legislation, “has the power to compel the attendance of witnesses, no matter how well-connected they are.”

PRIMER: Investigations, cases against Apollo Quiboloy

She said Quiboloy, who styles himself as the “appointed son of God,” is not above the law and the country’s institutions.

“In the past, Cabinet officials, lawmakers, an incumbent Senate president, and even a former president have submitted to Senate subpoenas and appeared as witnesses. His (Quiboloy’s) constitutional rights, like all witnesses, are respected. Pero hindi siya mataas pa sa presidente, sa Senado, at sa batas (But he is not higher than the President, the Senate, and the law),” she said in a statement recorded on video.

Quiboloy has wielded much influence as a religious figure in the country. He has maintained a close friendship and unwavering support for former president Rodrigo Duterte, with their ties dating back to Duterte’s time as mayor of Davao City. Throughout Duterte’s presidency, Quiboloy served as his “spiritual adviser,” cementing their long-standing relationship.

Hontiveros also noted that Quiboloy and his followers called the witnesses who appeared before the Senate committee as cowards for not showing their faces in public, yet the KOJC leader himself declared his intention to disregard the Senate subpoena.

She pointed out that Quiboloy’s accusers have executed affidavits against the preacher and his church associates.

Addressing Quiboloy, Hontiveros said, “Bukas po ang Senado para sa panig ‘nyo. Hinihintay namin kayo (The Senate is open to your side. We are waiting for you).”

Why is Quiboloy being summoned? 

The Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Office served the subpoena to Quiboloy, through his lawyer Marie Dinah Tolentino-Fuentes, on February 22, after the preacher ignored invitations to attend three previous hearings at the Senate.

Hontiveros’ committee has been tasked by the Senate to look into allegations of human trafficking, sexual abuse, violence, and other misconduct involving the preacher and his organization.

Can Hontiveros compel Quiboloy to attend the hearing?

She can, according to Section 17 of the Senate rules governing the conduct of committee investigations. The authority of Senate committees includes the “power to summon witnesses and take their testimony and to issue subpoena and subpoena duces tecum, signed by its Chairman, or in his absence by the Acting Chairman, and approved by the President.”

“Within Metro Manila, such process shall be served by the Sergeant-at-Arms or his assistant. Outside of Metro Manila, service may be made by the police of a municipality or city, upon request of the Secretary,” reads a clause in the Senate rules. 

Can the committee cite Quiboloy in contempt and order him arrested?

Section 18 of the Senate rules on panel investigations provides that a “contempt of the Committee shall be deemed a contempt of the Senate.”

The rules also provide that “such witness may be ordered by the Committee to be detained in such place as it may designate under the custody of the Sergeant-at-Arms until he/she agrees to produce the required documents, or to be sworn or to testify, or otherwise purge himself/herself of that contempt.”

How are the accusations before the Senate connected to Quiboloy’s cases in the US? 

Former KOJC members have testified on the alleged abuses of Quiboloy and his church associates before Hontiveros’ committee since the panel started the hearings on January 23. 

Their narratives – including that of two Ukrainian women who alleged that Quiboloy sexually abused them in the name of religion – have been consistent with and corroborated by the allegations made also by former KOJC members in the United States against the Davao-based preacher.

Quiboloy and eight of his associates were indicted by a federal grand jury in a US District Court in Santa Ana, California, in 2021.

What are the pending cases against Quiboloy in the US?

The 74-page indictment document shows that the preacher and the other accused have been charged with the following crimes:

  • 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
  • International promotional money laundering

The indictment papers enumerate 94 overt acts of the preacher and his associates.

Why is the FBI after Quiboloy?

The US court ordered Quiboloy and his associates arrested on November 10, 2021. Except for Quiboloy and two others, Teresita Dandan and Helen Panilag, the others either surrendered or were arrested by US authorities, and subsequently bailed out.

The others who have been indicted along with Quiboloy are the following:

  • Guia Cabactulan
  • Marissa Duenas
  • Amanda Estopare
  • Felina Salinas
  • Bettina Roces
  • Maria de Leon

At least one of those accused has subsequently agreed to turn state witness against Quiboloy’s group.

On January 31, 2022, the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) included Quiboloy, Dandan, and Panilag, among several other fugitives from Mexico and China, in its most wanted list, and published their separate wanted posters on its website.

The FBI’s “most wanted” poster on the KOJC leader reads, “Apollo Carreon Quiboloy, the founder of a Philippines-based church, is wanted for his alleged participation in a labor trafficking scheme that brought church members to the United States, via fraudulently obtained visas, and forced the members to solicit donations for a bogus charity, donations that actually were used to finance church operations and the lavish lifestyles of its leaders.”

When will the US trial begin?

On November 3, 2022, Judge Terry Hatter Jr. of the US District Court-Central District of California reset the trial of Quiboloy and his co-accused in Los Angeles from March 21, 2023, to March 19, 2024. Subsequently, in late 2023, the trial was again moved to November 2024.

In the 2022 order, Hatter granted the request of five of the defendants – Salinas, Cabactulan, Duenas, Estopare, and Roces – to be given more time to prepare their defense, based on the US Speedy Trial Act.

What about extradition?

Based on the US-Philippines extradition treaty, an extradition request must be made through diplomatic channels.

But nearly three years after the indictment of Quiboloy and his associates, the US has yet to submit a formal extradition request for the preacher, Dandan, and Panilag, according to the Philippine Department of Justice (DOJ).

What sanctions have the US imposed on Quiboloy so far?

In late 2022, the US announced sanctions against the KOJC leader through its treasury and state departments, a move that coincided with International Anti-Corruption Day and on the eve of International Human Rights Day.

The sanctions include the following:

  • Freezing of all of Quiboloy’s assets and holdings within the US or held by individuals based in the US
  • Freezing of entities owned, directly or indirectly, by Quiboloy by 50% or more
  • Ban on all transactions by people in the US, in transit or otherwise, involving Quiboloy’s assets or interests within the US
  • Ban on giving or receiving contributions, funds, goods, or services for Quiboloy’s benefit.


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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.