MANILA — Malacañang on Tuesday did not answer the question on whether President Rodrigo Duterte knows the whereabouts of his close friend and pastor Apollo Quiboloy, who was placed on the US Federal Bureau of Investigation's "most wanted" list for multiple criminal charges.
Acting presidential spokesman and Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles only said that communication between Manila and Washington for the possible extradition of Quiboloy will be coursed through diplomatic channels.
“Any communications should pass through diplomatic channels. The Department of Justice has already spoken on the issue,” Nograles said in a public briefing.
The Philippines' justice department (DOJ) earlier said it will handle the expatriation of Quiboloy according to law and the extradition treaty between Manila and Washington if US authorities formally request the extradition of the controversial pastor.
Chief state counsel George Ortha on Monday said the DOJ has yet to receive an extradition request from the United States.
Quiboloy, leader of the Davao City-based Kingdom of Jesus Christ (KOJC) church, is wanted for allegations of "conspiracy to engage in sex trafficking by force, fraud and coercion and sex trafficking of children; sex trafficking by force, fraud and coercion; conspiracy; bulk cash smuggling."
A self-proclaimed "Owner of the Universe" and "Appointed Son of God," he was indicted in the US last year, along with other members of his church for alleged sex trafficking. The 74-page indictment said victims involved in his alleged sex-trafficking operation threatened victims as young as 12 with "eternal damnation" and physical abuse.
Quiboloy and the church's legal counsel have denied the allegations.
Ortho earlier said it was understandable to have doubts over the possible case, but he appealed to the public to trust the DOJ.
"Whether the subject is someone who is popular, someone who is very close to higher-ups, or the subject is an ordinary person, we follow the same procedure, we apply the same law," he said.
— With a report from Pia Gutierrez, ABS-CBN News