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Friday, June 21, 2024

DOJ welcomes Quiboloy trial transfer

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The Department of Justice (DOJ) on Wednesday lauded the Supreme Court’s (SC) decision to grant its request to transfer the venue of the sexual and child abuse trial against Kingdom of Jesus Christ (KOJC) founder Pastor Apollo Quiboloy and five others from the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Davao City to the Quezon City RTC.       

DOJ Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla stressed that the DOJ expressed concern for the safety of those involved in the prosecution of Quiboloy and prompted its request for transfer of venue.     

“Witnesses, judges, our prosecutors and their families will no longer have to fear for their safety, the wheels of justice can now freely roll through this journey,” Remulla said, in a statement.    

“This is a major breakthrough in our pursuit for justice as we relentlessly delve into the truth behind all these accusations against the embattled church leader,” it added.     

The SC’s Second Division on Monday said it found compelling reasons to allow the transfer of venue of the cases as these involve public interest, considering that Quiboloy is a well-known religious leader who remains influential in the province.         

The Coufrt also directed the Clerk of Court of Branch 12, RTC, Davao City to forward the entire records of  the said cases to the   Office of the Executive Judge of the Quezon City RTC, within three days from notice.        

On the other hand, the   Quezon City RTC Executive Judge was ordered to immediately raffle the cases, upon receipt of the case records, among the judges in the  station for immediate resolution of the cases.       

The Court also directed judges in Davao City and in other  stations in Mindanao where future related cases involving Quiboloy and  his co-accused may be filed to motu proprio order the transmittal of the  records to the Office of the Clerk of Court of the Quezon City RTC  and Metropolitan Trial Court, Quezon City, as the case may be.      

But Quiboloy’s camp was surprised  with the SC’s decision to grant the DOJ’s request for the transfer of venue.    

Quiboloy’s counsel Israelito Torreon said the ruling failed to follow the Office of the Court Administrator-Circular No. 162-2022-A which simplified the procedure for transferring the venue of cases.     

Under the circular, the request for transfer should be filed directly with the court where the case is pending.    

The presiding judge will then comment on the request and issue an order for the parties to submit their comments within five days.    

The judge is then mandated to forward the request and comments to the OCA within five days for transmission to the SC.   

 “Such procedure has not been followed in this case as we did not even receive a copy of the Petition itself,” Torreon said.    

“Knowing the foregoing, there may have been violation of due process as the parties were never heard about the matter,” he added.    

Torreon also surmised that Court’s decision was based on “unfounded and unsubstantiated” claims of bias in Davao City court which should be construed as an attack on the judiciary.    

“The Supreme Court 2nd Division may not have been informed that two of our motions, including the latest motion to quash information have even been denied and we have to raise the matter on certiorari to the Court of Appeals,” Torreon pointed out.    

“These rulings demolish whatever imagined bias that the Justice Secretary may have painted upon the Supreme Court vis-a-vis the RTC Judge who is handling the case in Davao City,” he added.     

Torreon said Quiboloy’s camp will file a motion for reconsideration before the Court to reverse its decision as this would unjustly burden all the accused and their witnesses.   

“The financial costs, hassles and inconvenience that will ensue upon the accused, their families, followers, supporters and most especially witnesses as a result of the transfer of venue may not have been brought to the attention of the Honorable Supreme  courts, hence, we will endeavor to raise these matters to the attention of the Honorable Justices in the hope that they will change their minds on the issue,” the lawyer said.     

But he assured that their camp would abide if the court would stick with its decision.   

SC spokesman Camille Sue Mae Ting acknowledged that the requirements under the circular were dispensed with by the Office of the Court Administrator due to the “urgent nature” of the request made by the DOJ  and the involvement of public interest.

“This has been done by the Supreme Court in several cases, such as in the case of slain Negros Oriental Governor Roel Degamo,” Ting stressed.

Editor’s Note: This is an updated article. Originally posted with the headline “SC grants plea to move Quiboloy case to QC.”

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