DAVAO CITY—Pastor Apollo Quiboloy’s US-based counsel dismissed as garbage the report of the pastor’s co-accused that she was cooperating with the US government to pin down the pastor.
“I just want to clear something. There’s a reason why the US government leaked this kind information: It’s trying to poison the well,” said lawyer Michael Green, who’s handling Quiboloy’s sex trafficking charges in the US.
“Frankly it’s garbage. Everyone in the world should know how the US [legal] system works. When it issues this statement that there’s a conspiracy, it wants to create impression that the accused, the pastor, is guilty,” Green said. “When I see the government is leaking something, it makes people think what these people have been doing. That’s what they [do:] leak this stuff, make it national, like a Wild West. It’s like a game; but this is not a funny game.”
The lawyer added that the US government leaks “this kind of things as the case progresses.”
“I just feel sad for Maria de Leon. I’m sorry this is happening and it would be happening,” Green said.
He added that he suspects that government prosecutors, “even her lawyer, may have scared her to death and the other dissidents, that if they admit guilt, they may be granted probation.”
Green said by going into plea bargain, de Leon has the opportunity to go back to her family without going to prison.
“She just wants to go home,” Green said last Sunday during an online news briefing hosted by Quiboloy’s Davao City media outfit.
Green and the Filipino lawyers of Quiboloy in Manila and Davao city said any confession or information that de Leon, 73, may give US prosecutors “binds the confession only to the confessor.”
Lawyer Ferdinand Topacio said de Leon is not a member of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ (KOJC) of Quiboloy but only headed a paralegal services bureau in the US.
“She is an independent contractor; meaning, an office which accepts anybody, not only on marriages, visas and anything else.”
Her admission against the pastor would not have an impact on the case saying that an admission by a third party like De Leon “is an act of a third person, made by a person without connection to the main party, meaning it cannot affect anything in the case because the confession binds only the confessor.”
“This is a universally-accepted legal principle recognized not only by our system but even by the US legal system,” Topacio added.
He said De Leon has no direct connection with or had communication with Quiboloy. “As an independent contractor, she has no personal knowledge on how the KOJC is ran; its doctrines on things like marriage.”
He added that it would not be far-fetched that “a senile person as she is may have been pressured to plea bargain or cooperate.”
“She has no personal counsel and she was given a panel lawyer, equivalent to the Philippines’s court-appointed lawyer, whether or not she likes the lawyer or not.”
Besides, Topacio said, “litigation of the sex trafficking charges will happen in 2023. And the universally-accepted legal principle says that any person accused is always presumed to be innocent. It means that the burden of proof lies with the prosecution and not with the accused.”
As with the previous case of the Federal Bureau of Investigation poster soliciting information on the pastor’s whereabouts, Topacio believed that the new press release was another attempt by the US government to intervene in Philippine affairs.
“I think this is part of the pattern of US government to intervene in the elections. The timing—first with the poster, it is totally unnecessary. Now, barely a month to the elections, when everything is silent, they come up with a new development in this case, to pin down the pastor, who is immediately linked to President Duterte,” he said.
De Leon was reported on April 1 to have admitted to federal prosecutors that she had been processing fraudulent documents for members of Quiboloy’s KOJC. It was released for publication by the US Attorney’s Office of the DOJ for the Central District of California.
“That is why it is April Fools’ Day,” Topacio said.