Palace ‘hands off’ arrest of 3 Quiboloy church members in California

Published January 30, 2020, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin

By Argyll Cyrus Geducos

Malacañang distanced itself from the arrest of three members of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ on Thursday, saying Filipinos overseas should always follow the laws of their host countries.

Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo (OPS / MANILA BULLETIN)
Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo made the statement following the arrest by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) of three members of Pastor Apollo Quiboloy’s Kingdom of Jesus Christ in Van Nuys, California, on allegation of conspiracy to commit immigration fraud.

In his Thursday press briefing, Panelo said the country cannot complain if the raid was a legitimate operation and even if Quiboloy was close to President Duterte.

“You must remember that if a crime is committed in any country, then the laws of that country will have to be followed,” he said.”We have to respect them (their laws) the way we ask them to respect ours.”

The US Department of Justice said the arrest was made on allegations of a “years-long” scheme to bring full-time workers to the US under “false pretenses,” turning them into fund-raisers and marrying them to church members who are US citizens to keep them in the country.

The FBI said the trio was accused of securing US visas for fellow church members and requiring them to solicit donations for a charity called Children’s Joy Foundation USA.

An FBI statement identified the arrested church members as Guia Cabactulan, 59, a “top official” of the church who had direct communications with its Philippines’ leadership; Marissa Duenas, 41, who handled immigration documents and kept the victims’ passports; and Amanda Estopare, 48, who was in charge of “financial aspects” and fundraising.

FBI spokesperson Laura Eimiller said the trio was forcing members to, in some cases, work all day and solicit funds supposedly for impoverished children in the Philippines.

“In reality, we believe the money is going to fund the lavish lifestyles of the leaders of this scheme,” Eimillier said. “If they don’t raise enough money, we believe they are abused physically as well.”

Read more: 3 Quiboloy members nabbed in US for human trafficking, fund scam