Extraordinary rendition

The broader view - Harry Roque - The Philippine Star

In American jurisprudence, a fugitive from justice forcibly or violently abducted in a foreign territory cannot invoke such irregularity to escape criminal prosecution in a United States court. The Ker-Frisbie doctrine upholds the jurisdiction of federal courts over criminal defendants kidnapped in countries that have extradition treaties with the US.

In the 1886 Ker v. Illinois case, the Supreme Court ruled that the forcible abduction of a convicted US citizen in Peru presented no valid objection to his trial. The Court applied the landmark doctrine in the Frisbie v. Collins case (1952). It upheld the conviction of a defendant who was kidnapped by Michigan authorities in Chicago and tried in Michigan.

In the United States v. Alvarez-Machain (1992), the High Court overturned the Court of Appeals’ decision that dismissed the indictment of the Mexican national. Against his will, the defendant was seized in Mexico and flown to Texas. He was arrested for the murder and kidnapping of a Drug Enforcement Administration agent and the latter’s pilot. Citing the landmark Ker judgment, the Court said the forcible abduction did not prohibit his trial for violating American criminal laws. It also held that the extradition agreement between the US and Mexico “says nothing about either country refraining from forcibly abducting people from the other’s territory or the consequences if an abduction occurs.”

In short, the American legal system is more concerned about putting a defendant to trial. How he came under court jurisdiction is of secondary importance.  

The above-mentioned cases bring to mind Pastor Apollo Quiboloy, who faces a federal warrant in America. The charismatic evangelist founded the Kingdom of Jesus Christ, The Name Above Every Name (KJOC) in 1985. The megachurch has grown to six million members worldwide.

It is common knowledge that the embattled pastor is a close friend and spiritual adviser to former president Rodrigo Duterte. I have also personal and professional ties with the politically influential leader. FPRRD and I host separate public affairs programs in Sonshine Media Network International (SMNI), which Quiboloy used to head. The SMNI rose to national prominence for its highly incisive presidential and senatorial debates. It was the only broadcast network that openly supported the candidacy of President Bongbong Marcos in 2022. A dedicated news team even covered the BBM-Sara UniTeam campaign trail across the Philippines.  

In the 2016 and 2022 general elections, almost all presidentiables, vice-presidentiables and senatoriables made a beeline to the Tamayong Prayer Mountain to get Quiboloy’s endorsement. I am not ashamed to admit that I was among the candidates. Local politicians in Davao Region and the rest of Mindanao also sought his support.

State-sanctioned abduction

In November 2021, a Sta. Ana, California district court indicted Quiboloy for conspiracy to engage in sex trafficking by force, sex trafficking of children, fraud and coercion, conspiracy and bulk cash smuggling. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has included him in its wanted list.

Recently, the President urged Quiboloy to air his side in the ongoing congressional investigations. The Lower House is looking into SMNI’s supposed franchise violations. Meanwhile, the Senate is probing allegations that he sexually abused former KOJC members. For the record, a witness in the Senate hearing was among those who filed rape, child abuse and human trafficking charges against Quiboloy in 2019. The Davao City Prosecutor’s Office dismissed the charges in 2020 on the ground of false statement and accusation. The alleged victim has appealed the case before the Department of Justice. I believe that her presence in the Senate hearing is nothing but a trial by publicity to further demonize Quiboloy and his church.

In a Feb. 21 statement, Quiboloy said his life and liberty are under serious threat. He has accused the Marcos administration of surrendering him to the US government in blatant contravention of his constitutional and human rights. With 11 of his local compounds reportedly under surveillance by US authorities, he does not want a repeat of a 2020 incident in America. He disclosed that law enforcers forcibly entered and destroyed his house in the US.

The evangelist said the government has colluded with the US State Department, Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and FBI to order his extraordinary rendition or state-sponsored kidnapping (similar to the Alvarez-Machain case). Even worse is the possibility that they might murder or assassinate him during the rendition process. PBBM has dismissed the accusation. Based on Quiboloy’s intel, the FBI has reportedly put a $2-million bounty on his head. The US bureau has also denied this.

Extradition request

Strangely, it has been three years since the district court issued an arrest warrant for Quiboloy. However, the US government has yet to file an extradition request.

Based on our treaty with America, we agree to extradite persons charged with or convicted of an extraditable offense – punishable by more than a year of deprivation of liberty or higher penalty – to the US. And vice versa. Moreover, the Contracting Parties cannot deny any extradition request on the ground that the person sought is a citizen of the Requested State. I recall that in the case of the late Manila congressman Mark Jimenez, our government immediately surrendered him to America for charges of tax evasion and illegal campaign contributions to the Democratic Party. A US district court sentenced him to 27 months in prison in 2003.

Like the pastor, I have not seen any evidence that the prosecution and the police presented to the Grand Jury. Since it is a sealed indictment, Quiboloy must surrender first before he and his legal team can gain full access to the evidence leveled against him by accusers and witnesses. His battery of lawyers has been gearing up for the legal battle but the trial has been postponed several times.

I can only surmise that the evidence presented by the prosecution team might not be compelling enough to secure a conviction. Hence, the case is in danger of being dismissed before trial.  Otherwise, America would have requested our government for the pastor’s extradition right away. Despite Quiboloy’s misgivings about the Marcos administration, I hope PBBM would continue to reassure the pastor that his life and fundamental rights would remain protected and respected. I pray that Pastor Quiboloy remains safe and well while he exhausts all legal avenues to defend himself.

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