CAGAYAN DE ORO, Philippines — Controversial lawyers for Davao City-based preacher Apollo Quiboloy on Sunday, February 6, hinted they were bracing for a drawn-out legal battle over the sex trafficking and sex trafficking case. a series of other accusations against the founding leader of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ Church (KOJC) and his associates in the United States.
“It can go on for years,” said attorney Michael Jay Green, Quiboloy’s Hawaii-based legal counsel.
Ferdinand Topacio, the lawyer for the preacher who has professed to be the “named son of God”, said the “ball is now in the hands” of the US State Department.
“We are ready now,” he told an online press conference hosted by Quiboloy-owned Sonshine Media Network International.
Will Quiboloy surrender, face his accusers in US court, or fight and go through the lengthy process based on the Philippines-US extradition treaty? Lawyers for the KOJC leader said they would opt for the latter and exhaust all legal remedies.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said earlier that the extradition process would begin with a request from the US State Department to the Philippines Department of Foreign Affairs, which would then review and approve it at the Ministry of Justice. Justice (DOJ).
If in order, the DOJ would then file an extradition request with a regional trial court on behalf of the United States. The court’s decision would be subject to appeal.
Green said he and other attorneys advised the septuagenarian preacher to “allow us to do what the law allows us to do.”
He said, “Just because you’re a pastor doesn’t mean you give up your constitutional rights. He has endured this slander and defamation for years…. We’re going to do exactly what the law allows us to do in the Philippines, and it’s quite a process that we have to go through.
Green said Quiboloy was charged in the United States and the warrant for his arrest in November 2021 was issued without the pastor being heard first.
“If it was completely one-sided like it was in the United States to get this warrant, we just want to level the playing field. We want to level the playing field. He’s presumed innocent…. And that’s our job to do it — to protect the KOJC, to protect the pastor,” Green said at a press conference.
Laura Eimiller, media coordinator for Los Angeles, California, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), told Rappler, “We cannot comment on extradition proceedings, including whether they have been initiated. There are outstanding warrants for the fugitives and our investigation continues.
The FBI on Monday (January 31) released wanted posters for Quiboloy and two of his associates, Teresita Dandan and Helen Panilag, all wanted in the United States for conspiracy to engage in sex trafficking by force, fraud and coercion, sex trafficking marriage fraud, visa fraud and misuse, bulk money smuggling, promotional money laundering, concealment money laundering and international promotional money laundering.
Six other Quiboloy associates – Guia Cabactulan, Marissa Duenas, Amanda Estopare, Felina Salinas, Bettina Roces and Maria de Leon – were also included in the 74-page indictment made public on November 18, 2021. None of the six are was on the FBI website which contains the photographs and information of fugitives wanted for sex trafficking.
Topacio said the release of the wanted posters was “overkill” and the FBI didn’t have to because “everyone knows where he (Quiboloy) is.”
“There is an extradition process” and laws that respect Quiboloy’s rights and grant him the presumption of innocence, Topacio said.
He added: “We will rely only on the provisions of the law, on our judicial system which has worked so well for all the decades that they have been in place.
Green blamed the cases against Quiboloy and his associates on 14 former members of the KOJC led by Nepali Shishir Bhandari, former chief operating officer of the pastor’s Davao-based airline, Apollo Air.
He said “the damage is done” against Quiboloy, and “seeing the pastor on the poster gives me a stomach ache”.
“There’s a place in hell for people like that,” Green added.
In an interview with Rappler in December 2021, Green accused Bhandari, his lawyer wife Lady Jade Canada and their family of embezzling Quiboloy’s group funds and fleeing the country when they found out they would be audited.
Green said Bhandari fled to Nepal and then to the United States where he allegedly provided false information about Quiboloy and his church to the FBI, allegedly in exchange for a house and extended visas for him and his family.
Canada’s father, a former barangay president in Davao City, was reportedly one of Quiboloy’s security aides. Members of the Canada family were among the first converts to the Quiboloy church.
Bhandari and the Canadas have yet to respond to Green’s accusations. – Rappler.com