The city Prosecution Office has rejected the case filed against Pastor Apollo Quiboloy by the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) over the alleged illegal construction of a Millennial City Complex at Tamayong, Calinan.
Chief city prosecutor Calixto Esparagoza said the alleged violation of R.A. 8435, otherwise known as the Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Act of 1997, could not stand against Quiboloy.
Investigating prosecutor Raul Bendigo said “R.A. 8435, which is made as the basis of the charge against the respondents, is of doubtful applicability.” Prosecutors yesterday released the four-page resolution on the case filed by DAR officer Ronaldo Orig, who said Quiboloy converted a prime agricultural land into a prayer complex without approval from the DAR office.
The DAR claimed that Quiboloy, who owns the four parcels of land, failed to secure a proper DAR permit before constructing buildings, fences, and other infrastructure projects on his properties. In his investigation, Bendigo however said the DAR complaint is defective as it failed to allege that Quiboloy’s land is within an area previously declared as a Strategic and Fisheries Development Zone (SAFDZ).
Bendigo said there is no exact claim that the government invested in the area where the land in question is located. “It is clear that for the law’s penal provision to apply, the land involved must be shown to be within an area declared by the Department of Agriculture as SAFDZ,” he said.
Also, he rejected Orig’s claim that Quiboloy’s activity altered the physical characteristics of the agricultural land rendering it suitable for non-agricultural purposes without a DAR approval. Despite the developments in the property, Bendigo said it has not detracted the food and flower production program of Quiboloy’s group.
Moreover, he noted the assessment of Bureau of Soil and Water Management (BSWM) director Rogelio Concepcion that the “agricultural character of the particular lot has not been compromised.”
The BSWM, the prosecutor said, also clarified that the unfinished building constructed close to the perimeter fence could hardly disturb the growth of trees and other agricultural commodities.