Not guilty. That's the plea of four members of the Restorationist church called Kingdom of Jesus Christ (KOJC), accused in the sex-trafficking complaints filed against Pastor Apollo Quiboloy, before a United States District Court in Los Angeles, California.
GMA News identified the four members Sunday as Guia Cabactulan, Marissa Duenas, Amanda Estopare, and Felina Salinas who pleaded not guilty through a video conference.
Cabactulan, Duenas, and Estopare were detained by the Federal Bureau of Investigation after a raid in January 2020. They also faced indictment over trafficking allegations.
Based on court records, Cabactulan was ordered detained because the person was a "flight risk."
Salinas, meanwhile, posted $50,000 bail for her temporary freedom.
In a 74-page indictment, Quiboloy, 71, a long-time ally and spiritual adviser of President Rodrigo Duterte, and other KOJC church members were accused of recruiting females ages 12 to 25 as personal assistants, or "pastorals," adding they were required to prepare Quiboloy’s meals, clean his residences, give him massages and have sex with him during what they called "night duty."
There was no immediately available reaction from the Davao-based KOJC but Quiboloy earlier said he forgave his accusers: “I forgive all my detractors. I forgive all those betrayals. I forgive all the traitors. I forgive all of those who have come to see the truth and turn their back on it. I forgive all of it.”
But in a later statement, Quiboloy warned and urged the public to stop "persecuting, prosecuting and maligning" him, or suffer more from the coronavirus pandemic.
In related developments, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra had said the government might investigate Quiboloy, based on the evidence that US authorities had gathered.
Guevarra earlier said the pending appeal on a rape complaint against Quiboloy would not stop his possible extradition to the United States on sex trafficking charges.
Guevarra said although there was an appeal on a criminal complaint against Quiboloy, this could not be used as a ground to stall his possible extradition to the US, since no charges have been filed against him before a Philippine court.
“The pendency of the appeal before the Office of the Secretary is not an obstacle to extradition because there is no indictment in a Philippine court as yet,” the Justice Secretary said. (See full story online at manilastandard.net)
“But extradition is not a simple process,” he added.
Guevarra said the Department of Justice and the Department of Foreign Affairs must first evaluate and determine if the US case was covered by the extradition treaty between the United States and the Philippines.
Guevarra had said a complaint of rape, child abuse, ill-treatment under the Revised Penal Code, trafficking in persons through forced labor and trafficking in persons through sexual abuse were filed against Quiboloy in Davao City last year.
However, these charges were dismissed and a petition for review was filed before the DOJ last year. There was only one complainant.
Guevarra assured the public that there would be no special treatment given to Quiboloy.
The DOJ “would perform its mandate under the law, regardless of the persons involved,” he said.
Aside from the extradition treaty, the Philippines also has an existing Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty with the US that could be used in dealing with criminal matters in their country.