Philippine vice-president backs fugitive pastor

Union of Catholic Asian News (UCA News) [Hong Kong]

March 12, 2024

By Ronald O Reyes

A controversial Philippine-born pastor accused of financial and sexual crimes has drawn support from the nation’s vice president Sara Duterte after he laid out 17 conditions to show up for a Senate investigation into his alleged crimes.

Pastor Apollo Quiboloy, 73, the founder of Kingdom of Jesus Christ sect who claimed himself as the “appointed Son of God” made the demands in a video posted on social media in February-end.

“I stand in solidarity with the call for the implementation of law and justice in the future issue of Pastor Apollo Quiboloy and Sonshine Media Network Inc. [SMNI],” the daughter of Rodrigo Duterte said in a statement on March 11.

“In the ongoing hearings, it seems that Pastor Quiboloy has been given a guilty verdict even though this hearing was based only on the allegations of witnesses who concealed their identity and could not prove their credibility,” she said in Filipino.

Rodrigo Duterte is known to have close ties with Quiboloy who is a fugitive on the wanted list of the US Federation Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

The FBI accused him of conspiracy to engage in sex trafficking by force, fraud, and coercion, sex trafficking of children, conspiracy, and bulk cash smuggling, among others.

He was temporarily detained in Hawaii in 2018 after authorities found US$350,000 in cash and rifle parts in his private plane before fleeing to the Philippines.

Last year, global video streaming platform YouTube banned his two channels, accusing him of using the channels to reach out to victims of his alleged sex crimes.

In 2021, he made headlines after calling the new Covid variant “a punishment from God.”

Sara Duterte claimed that many believe what the pastor is now suffering is “violent and unfair” adding that the indefinite suspension of the broadcasting network SMNI is an issue of media freedom.

“Incidents and allegations like this are no joke, and they deserve to be given a fair fight and in the right court,” she added.

The statement came after Quiboloy made the demands which included the unmasking and revealing of the names of witnesses, not restricting his answer to any questions to a “yes” or “no,” and the right to personally cross-examine the witnesses.

He also asked that all the expenses during his trip, including the food, five-star hotel accommodation, and dietary requirements must be covered by Risa Hontiveros who summoned him for a hearing.

He also asked for a “notarized letter” from the senator to prove the Philippine lawmakers “are not conspiring with the United States government and security agencies” to kidnap or assassin him, and the presence of his 50 private guards during the hearing, an opportunity to bring his witnesses and secure the landing and departure of his private jet upon his arrival in Manila and departure to Davao City in the southern Philippines.

He termed his demands “greater than the 10 commandments of God.”

Senator Hontiveros blasted the pastor for what she labeled as “out of the world” demands.

“We will not bend the rules and procedures for you even if you are, as you say. a self-appointed son of God. We are not for you to command,” Hontiveros said during a press briefing on March 11 in Manila.

“Why would the Senate adjust for him?” asked the senator, who is chairwoman of the Senate committee on women, children, family relations, and gender equality.

Hontiveros assured support to all victim-survivors of Quiboloy and also sought an arrest warrant, citing that he did not appear for the hearing despite being summoned for the third time.

Philippine National Police said they are ready to assist the lawmakers in arresting Quiboloy.