Quiboloy FBI
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Manila: A free-to-air TV channel associated with Filipino pastor Apollo Quiboloy is on the brink of going off-the-air.

While Quiboloy faces serious charges and is on the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) wanted list, it’s not the US authorities' allegations which include visa fraud, illegal sex and labour trafficking driving the channel's shutdown.

Instead, it is the alleged violations of the Sonshine Media Network International (SMNI) hosts — Lorraine Badoy at Jeffrey “Ka Eric” Celiz — which prompted a Philippine congressional probe and move to withdraw its broadcast licence.

On Monday, a House of Representatives panel passed a resolution compelling the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC), the industry regulator, to suspend SMNI’s franchise. The parent company, Swara Sug Media Corp, is linked to Quiboloy’s Kingdom of Jesus Christ (KOJC).

On Thursday (December 14), the Philippine House of Representatives announced it will “invite” Quiboloy to appear in its inquiry on the alleged franchise violations, as lawmakers said he is the network’s "ultimate beneficial owner.” Quiboloy’s lawyer claimed that the pastor’s position at SMNI is merely “honorary”.

It remains unclear if Quiboloy, a self-declared "Appointed Son of God", would show up in Congress.

House resolution

During Monday’s Congressional hearing, Isabela 6th District Rep. Faustino “Inno” Dy proposed the adoption of an amended version of HR No. 1499, initially authored by PBA Rep. Margarita Nograles, who argued that SMNI failed in its responsibility by deliberately disseminating misleading content.

In addition to US cases faced by Quiboloy, there are already pending charges of rape, child abuse and trafficking lodged against him with the Philippine Department of Justice, Senator Riza Hontiveros told local media. These were filed December 2019, the senator said.

On Thursday (December 14), Senator Hontiveros formally asked Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla to issue an "Immigration Lookout Bulletin Order" (ILBO) against Quiboloy.

Who is Quiboloy?

A self-described account of the birth of Quiboloy, 73, involves God coming to his mother as a "cloud" to declare him as His "son". Members of the KOJC, also called “Kingdom citizens”, believe that salvation is exclusive to them.

Last month, in his programme “Sounds of Worship”, the pastor cited Bible verses as he advised Filipino lawmakers to be good stewards of the people's trust and against what he termed as "abuse of power".

Duterte and Quiboloy
Former President Rodrigo Duterte (left), a known confidant of Quiboloy, hosts a weekly programme on SMNI, reportedly controlled by the pastor.

Hosts in focus: Badoy and Celiz

Celiz and Badoy are hosts of the SMNI show “Laban Kasama ang Bayan” (Fight with the People), an anti-communist platform, which they used to launch an attack against alleged improprieties of House Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez.

Notably, Celiz and Badoy were accused of making unsupported claims about Speaker Romualdez's travel expenses. The Congressional resolution cited SMNI's violation of the terms and conditions outlined in Republic Act No. 11422.

The House resolution emphasises that SMNI's mandate involves avoiding the deliberate spread of false information to protect public interest.

On December 5, during a committee hearing, a House panel found Celiz in contempt for refusing to disclose his source of the false information on Romualdez's supposed travel expenses. A defiant Celiz also labeled the panel a "kangaroo court" and invoked his Constitutional right, expressing his right to refuse to answer questions regarding the source of his allegation.

Lawmakers took offence at Celiz's responses, noting that he declined to provide a name four times and lectured the panel on due process. Surigao del Sur 2nd District Representative Johnny Pimentel cautioned Celiz about the potential contempt citation, urging him to respect the committee and maintain proper decorum.

The alleged Php1.8-billion travel expenses of House Speaker Romualdez which Badoy and Celiz highlighted in their programme turned out to be Php4.347 million, according to the House probe. The panel was also told that total travel expense of the House was Php39 million.

Celiz attributed the information to a "source" from the Senate, the upper legislative chamber. He argued that revealing his source would set a dangerous precedent, jeopardising the protection of sources provided under Philippine law.

Dr Lorraine Badoy (left) and Jeffrey
Dr Lorraine Badoy (left) and Jeffrey "Ka Eric" Celiz were detained in the House of Representatives after their contempt ciation. On December 7, both Celiz and Badoy declared a “hunger strike” in protest of their detention, until Wednesday, when they were released. Image Credit: Screengrab

Badoy (left) and Celiz were detained in the House of Representatives after their contempt citation. On December 7, both Celiz and Badoy declared a “hunger strike” in protest of their detention. On Wednesday, when they were released.

Duterte’s ex-spokesperson, legal counsel chime in

Former President Rodrigo Duterte, known as a close associate of Quiboloy, also hosts a weekly programme on SMNI. Lawyer Harry Roque, former spokesperson of Duterte, expressed "concern" over the House resolution against the channel, and stressed the Constitutionally-guaranteed freedom of expression. He also urged lawmakers to respect the question of the people.

In an earlier hearing held on November 30, Celiz clarified that the said statement was “only a question and not an accusation”. Celiz said the question he got was from a “reliable source” and from an “unlisted number” so he threw it on the air during the live broadcast.

Roque also emphasised that the role of the media as the people's watchdog, and cited the Constitutional guarantees on freedom of expression. He said House’s action is designed to intimidate and suppress the SMNI.

Duterte’s former Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo also said SMNI should not be made party to Congressional probe on alleged disinformation by hosts Badoy and Celiz.

Panelo also told Senator Hontiveros: "Do not use (the) Senate for propaganda; if the allegations vs Pastor Apollo C. Quiboloy are true, file a case (against him).”
On Thursday, Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel voiced his endorsement on Thursday for Senator Hontiveros's initiative to probe the leader of the KOJC leader.

FBI alert on Quiboloy

On its official website, the FBI states: “Quiboloy has ties to Calabasas, California, Las Vegas, Nevada, and Kapolei, Hawaii.”

The FBI also gives words of caution on Quiboloy:

"Apollo Carreon Quiboloy, the founder of a Philippines-based church, is wanted for his alleged participation in a labour trafficking scheme that brought church members to the United States, via fraudulently obtained visas, and forced the members to solicit donations for a bogus charity, donations that actually were used to finance church operations and the lavish lifestyles of its leaders.

"Members who proved successful at soliciting for the church allegedly were forced to enter into sham marriages or obtain fraudulent student visas to continue soliciting in the United States year-round.

"Furthermore, it is alleged that females were recruited to work as personal assistants, or “pastorals,” for Quiboloy and that victims prepared his meals, cleaned his residences, gave him massages and were required to have sex with Quiboloy in what the pastorals called “night duty.”

“Quiboloy was indicted by a federal grand jury in the United States District Court for the Central District of California, Santa Ana, California, for conspiracy to engage in sex trafficking by force, fraud and coercion and sex trafficking of children; sex trafficking by force, fraud and coercion; conspiracy; and bulk cash smuggling, and on November 10, 2021, a federal warrant was issued for his arrest.”