House gave Quiboloy due process, enough time to explain side

Apollo Quiboloy (inquirer photo)

THE House of Representatives has followed due process in citing Pastor Apollo Quiboloy in contempt and ordering his arrest, and has given him enough time to explain his side, Parañaque City Rep. Gus Tambunting, who chairs the House Committee on Legislative Franchises, said Wednesday.

He made the statement in response to the call of Vice President Sara Duterte for a “fail trial” for Quiboloy. The vice president made the appeal in a statement broadcast by Sonshine Media Network International (SMNI), which is identified with Quiboloy.

“Well, I think she was mentioning, dapat sa korte. Ginagalang po natin ang opinion niya. Dito naman po sa Kongreso, ang pinag-uusapan po ay iyong prangkisa ng SMNI at iyon po ay ibinigay ng Kongreso. Kung ito po ay binigay ng Kongreso, Kongreso rin po lang ang puwedeng bumawi po nito,” Tambunting told a news briefing.

“At iyon naman pong proseso, as far as due process is concerned, dito po sa hearing namin, six months has been given, five months of hearing, six hearings were conducted. And palagay ko, mas maraming sinabi ang kampo ni SMNI kesa po sa mga congressmen. Talaga po lahat po ng kanilang paliwanag ay ating pinakinggan at pinagbigyan po natin lahat ng katanungan nila,” he said.

The legislative franchise committee has repeatedly invited Quiboloy to its hearings on alleged violations by SMNI of the broadcasting privilege Congress had renewed for 25 years during the Duterte administration. The religious leader never showed up.

At the end of its sixth hearing on Tuesday, the committee cited Quiboloy in contempt for ignoring its invitations multiple times.

The panel also endorsed plenary approval of a bill terminating SMNI’s broadcasting privilege for allegedly violating at least four conditions in its franchise, including the mandate to be fair and accurate in its broadcasting, dispersal of at least 30 percent of its shares of stock to the public, obtaining the permission of Congress for its change of ownership, and the reportorial requirement.

The committee postponed the enforcement of its arrest order for a few days upon the insistent appeal of Quiboloy’s lawyer Ferdinand Topacio, who pleaded with the panel to give him some time to talk to his client.

Questioned by committee members if he could convince the pastor, who is reportedly in hiding, to come out and appear before the House, Topacio said he was making no commitment other than to talk to his client.

Surigao del Norte Rep. Johnny Pimentel, committee vice chairman, reminded his colleagues that Quiboloy was “already a flight risk and might attempt to escape” since the Senate has earlier cited him in contempt and ordered his arrest.

“The mere fact na nagbigay pa rin ng palugit ang committee ng tatlong araw on the request of Atty. Topacio just shows you kung gaano hong kaluwag ang committee sa pagbibigay po ng lahat po ng request nila. Maski na po sa limang buwan ni minsan ay hindi dumating si Pastor Quiboloy – inimbitahan po siya apat na beses – ay pinagbigyan pa rin na on the special request of Atty. Topacio na bigyan po hanggang Biyernes,” Tambunting said.

“So talaga ho lahat ho ng pagbibibgay at luwag ay binigay ho namin during the five-month hearing. Nagsimula po kami November at kahapon lang po nadesisyunan,” he said.