Pacquiao files ₱100M libel, cyber libel suit vs Quiboloy

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 14) — Senator Manny Pacquiao filed a multimillion-peso libel and cyber libel case against Pastor Apollo Quiboloy at the Makati City Prosecutor’s Office on Tuesday.

He said President Rodrigo Duterte's spiritual adviser and owner of SMNI News Channel used his power and influence to spread fake news and false information against him.

The complaint stemmed from Quiboloy’s television appearance and social media post accusing Pacquiao of misusing government funds in the unfinished construction of the Sarangani Sports Training Center that the religious leader said was worth ₱3.5 billion. Quiboloy criticized Pacquiao after the lawmaker alleged there was a "web of corruption" in government, drawing the ire of President Rodrigo Duterte.

Pacquiao, a former representative of Sarangani, said the dilapidated buildings shown by Quiboloy were decades-old facilities and the ₱3.5 billion budget was for a sports training center in Bataan, which he was not involved in.

“He used this deliberate falsehood to brainwash the minds of the Filipino public, recklessly propagating lies to blacken the image and reputation of an honest public servant,” the complaint said.

The boxer-turned-lawmaker is seeking ₱100 million in damages, plus attorney’s fees. He said he will donate the money if he wins the case.

In response, Quiboloy's legal counsels described Pacquiao's complaint as a political tactic for next year's elections.

"The complaint of Senator Manny Pacquiao may be considered as retaliatory and a political move on his part considering that the election is coming and we shall do all within our power to ensure that this complaint will not curtail what is a constitutionally protected speech and expression," they said in a statement.

The pastor's camp also told Pacquiao to be open to criticisms.

"In a democratic society, public officials like Senator Manny Pacquiao should expect criticisms and critical evaluation of their performances from citizens whom they are expected to serve," they said. "In fact, he [Quiboloy] never made any accusation against the good Senator, but only floated a question regarding that matter on behalf of the people who wanted answers."

Quiboloy also addressed the issue in his TV program.

While the matter is nothing personal to him, Quiboloy said Pacquiao should be ready to be scrutinized and criticized as a public servant.

"When he indulged himself in politics, he should be ready to be scrutinized...Be ready to be criticized for that is what you put yourself into, so huwag balat sibuyas at huwag iiyak (do not be sensitive and do not cry)," he said, adding the senator could even come to his program for a debate.

Quiboloy also pointed out that as a taxpayer, he has the "right to criticize and inform the public who are asking about public issues."

"And if your name is involved in it pasensya ka (I apologize) because I will really be scrutinizing it even if you will sue me, even if we go to hell with it, I will fight you there," the pastor said.