Philippine officials promise to help if US requests pastor’s extradition

Camille Elemia
Philippine officials promise to help if US requests pastor’s extradition Pastor Apollo Quiboloy (right) and other supporters join Rodrigo Duterte (center) at a birthday celebration in Pangasinan province, northern Philippines, during the 2016 presidential campaign, March 27, 2016.
Jojo Riñoza/BenarNews

The Philippine government is willing to work with the United States to possibly extradite a presidential spiritual adviser who is the target of an FBI investigation into alleged labor trafficking and sex crimes, Filipino justice officials say.

Last week, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation released a wanted poster for Pastor Apollo Quiboloy, a jet-setting 71-year-old founder of the Philippine-based church known as the Kingdom of Jesus Christ, The Name above Every Name (KJOC).

George Ortha II, chief state counsel at the Department of Justice here, said the agency had not received an extradition request but the DOJ would take proper action regarding the pastor.

“Once we receive the request, we will do our job according to the law and our department’s processes, regardless of the people involved,” Ortha said in a radio interview on Sunday. 

Christianity plays a major role in Philippine society and Quiboloy’s megachurch, headquartered in President Rodrigo Duterte’s hometown, Davao City, is considered a political force that can deliver votes. The pastor is considered a longtime friend of and serves as spiritual adviser to Duterte, who once said Quiboloy had lent him luxury vehicles and homes. 

Ortha said the extradition request would have to come from the U.S. Justice Department, then the U.S. State Department, before being transmitted to the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs and to the Justice Department. The process could take a decade, officials here said.  

“Extradition is supposed to be a summary proceeding, we’re not supposed to be trying the U.S. criminal charges here,” Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra told reporters on Monday.

According to Ortha, the U.S. could request a provisional arrest of the church leader ahead of the extradition request. 

“The problem with provisional arrest, once we receive it and the warrant is issued, he will be arrested. The U.S. has to be ready to file the request within 60 days, because if they cannot file the extradition request, we will release the person,” Ortha said.

On Monday, Duterte’s office did not immediately respond to reporters’ requests for comment.

[FBI website]

In a U.S. indictment filed in November in southern California, where Quiboloy’s church has a branch, he and two other church officials were accused of having forced children there as young as 12 to have sex with the church leader or risk “eternal damnation.”

In its wanted notice, the FBI alluded to the child-sex allegations contained in the federal indictment.

The notice said Quiboloy was wanted for “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.”

“Members who proved successful at soliciting for the church allegedly were forced to enter into sham marriages or obtain fraudulent student visas to continue soliciting in the United States year-round.” 

According to the FBI notice, females were recruited to work as the pastor’s personal assistants –   a job that allegedly required them to clean his residences, cook his meals and have sex with him.

Pastor’s attorney speaks out

Quiboloy lawyer Ferdinand Topacio questioned the timing of the poster and accused the FBI of trying to interfere with the upcoming Philippine general election.

“The only logical reason here is that they are using the closeness of Pastor Quiboloy with President Duterte to target the president,” he told reporters in an online briefing on Sunday.

Quiboloy recently endorsed Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., son of the late Philippine dictator, and Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, Duterte’s daughter, for president and vice president in the May 9 polls.  

“Indirectly, it is undermining the candidacy of Sara Duterte. Indirectly, it might be undermining the candidacy of Bongbong Marcos, or whichever candidate the United States does not want to win in this country,” Topacio said without elaborating.

Quiboloy did not comment on Monday about the FBI’s action, but posted a verse from Ephesians 4 on his Twitter account: “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice.”

Spokesmen for the U.S. Embassy in Manila and the State Department in Washington were not immediately available for comment.

In the Philippines, some lawmakers and critics urged the DOJ to issue a hold departure order against Quiboloy to bar him from leaving the country – an unlikely scenario as only courts can issue such orders, officials said.  

Quiboloy has no pending cases or charges against him in local courts. 

Guevarra, the justice secretary, said his agency could issue an Immigration Lookout Bulletin Order (ILBO) on its own. The order would direct immigration officers to notify the government if Quiboloy attempted to leave the Philippines.

“Urgency is the key factor. We’ll play it by ear as we examine the evidence before us and as outside events unfold. Until the DOJ finds sufficient reason to reverse the finding of the city prosecutor, it has no basis to apply for a precautionary hold departure order,” Guevarra said. 

Jojo Riñoza in Manila contributed to this report.


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