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Thursday, May 30, 2024

Quiboloy and freedom of religion

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If Mr. Quiboloy is truly innocent as he claims to be, it is better that he faces the accusations with utmost courage

In recent weeks, Filipinos have been captivated by the drama unfolding in the Senate hearing as it investigates the reported abuses Kingdom of Jesus Christ self-proclaimed appointed Son of God, Pastor Apollo Quiboloy.

During the Senate hearing, Mr. Quiboloy obstinately refused to attend the hearings and through his lawyer decries the supposed violation of his Constitutional rights, arguing the Senate hearing is a usurpation of judicial authority.

Is Quiboloy right to refuse?

The power of the Senate and House of Representatives and their respective committees to conduct inquiries in aid of legislation is clearly spelled out in Section 21, Art. VI of the Constitution.

As clearly explained in extant jurisprudence, “…. This power is intimately connected with the express power of legislation and does not even have to be expressly granted. Nonetheless, the drafters of the Constitution saw it fit to include a provision that would clearly spell out this power.

“The incorporation of the rule on legislative inquiry in the Constitution, however, was not intended to authorize the conduct of such inquiries but to limit them and to forestall possible abuse.”

Moreover, it is an essential prerequisite for its conduct, that it must be in aid of legislation, whether it be under consideration already or still to be drafted.

Is the Senate inquiry in aid of legislation?

I can answer this in the affirmative.

Committee chairman, Senator Risa Hontiveros, mentioned in her opening statement the relevant areas of legislative concern:

• Are there instances of power and authority being misused, or the manipulation of vulnerable individuals (key components of human trafficking)?

• Or is it simply the practice of religious beliefs according to its principles and teachings?

• What changes should be made to guarantee the utmost protection for victims of exploitative religious behaviors without infringing upon the freedom to practice one’s religion?

The inquiry is not to pronounce the guilt or innocence of the pastor.

Not being a court of law, it is beyond the ambit of the Committee’s power to declare him guilty or innocent.

As said, the sole duty of the committee is to make an inquiry as to what areas of concern need appropriate legislation.

Congress cannot properly perform this essential function unless it is equipped with the power to compel the attendance of relevant witnesses, including, and most of all the PAQ, the supreme leader of KOJC.

Neither can Mr. Quiboloy validly refuse to acknowledge the arrest warrants against him on the ground of violation of religious freedom.

The 1987 Constitution guarantees religious freedom and worship which comprises a two-fold aspect, viz., freedom to believe and freedom to act on one’s beliefs.

The first is absolute as long as the belief is confined within the realm of thought.

The second is subject to regulation where the belief is translated into external acts that affect the public welfare.

As such, the guarantee of religious freedom does not serve to shield Mr. Quiboloy or any other religious minister or member for that matter, to be made answerable for overt act/s constituting violation of criminal or penal laws.

A regional trial court in Pasig City ordered the arrest of fugitive Apollo Quiboloy for qualified human trafficking and another warrant in Davao for child and sexual abuse charges.

These are criminal charges outside the purview of religious freedom.

The fact that the warrants were issued is proof there is sufficient evidence to believe that crimes have been committed and that Quiboloy and his co-defendants are probably guilty of such crime/s.

Of course, until proven guilty beyond any shadow of doubt, he is presumed innocent.

Quiboloy is in a serious legal fix.

Aside from local courts, he now finds himself sought after by US authorities, landing him a spot on the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s list of most wanted individuals.

The charges against them range from sex trafficking, fraud, and coercion to visa misuse, bulk cash smuggling, and money laundering.

If Mr. Quiboloy is truly innocent as he claims to be, it is better that he faces the accusations with utmost courage.

By running from the law, he is digging for himself a hole deeper and deeper from which there can be no escape.

Website: tonylavina.com Facebook: Tony La Viña or tonylavs X: tonylavs

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