THE LAWYER of religious leader Apollo C. Quiboloy, who has been indicted for sex trafficking and bulk cash smuggling among other charges in a United States court, questioned the timing of the release of a “most wanted” poster on the accused by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation last week. 

Ferdinand S. Topacio, who was hired by Mr. Quiboloy to handle the cases, said in a virtual press conference on Sunday that the publication of the poster on FBI’s official website is being used to tarnish President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s reputation.

Mr. Quiboloy, known as a long-time friend and spiritual adviser of the President, was indicted in a California district court on Nov. 10, 2021 and a federal warrant has been issued for his arrest.

Mr. Topacio maintained that the charges, including forcing women as young as 12 to have sex with the religious leader, are fabricated. Two associates are also named in the cases.

“They are polluted witnesses who are disgruntled members with axe to grind against the pastor,” Mr. Topacio said of the victims. 

The lawyer said the timing may be a “distraction and an issue” against Mr. Duterte’s administration as the May 2022 elections near, in which the US might be interfering. 

Asked what Washington would gain from “destroying” the President in his last few months in Malacañang, Mr. Topacio said it may be to undermine the vice-presidential run of Mr. Duterte’s daughter, Sara, and the candidacy of her running-mate Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos, Jr. 

Mr. Quiboloy publicly endorsed the Marcos-Duterte tandem last week in his home base Davao City.

Mr. Topacio also warned the public that “any libelous statements” against Mr. Quiboloy will be “dealt with to the fullest extent of the law.” 

“No one should underestimate our resolve to protect the interests of Pastor Quiboloy.” 

The US and the Philippines have an extradition treaty that was signed In Nov. 1994. 

Gabriela Women’s Party Rep. Arlene D. Brosas, meanwhile, asked the Justice department to issue a hold departure order against Mr. Quiboloy “while the extradition request remains pending.”

The Justice department may issue a hold order to monitor any attempt of a “wanted” individual to leave the country. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza