A Catholic priest in the Philippines who was arrested for attempting to have sex with a 13-year-old girl is out on bail after paying just 120,000 Philippine Pesos, the equivalent of about $2,386.40 in U.S. dollars.
Monsignor Arnel Fuentes Lagarejos was arrested on trafficking charges after he was caught trying to have sex with the underage girl whom he met through her 16-year-old pimp. (He had allegedly had sex with her once before.) The mother of the victim also received threatening phone calls trying to get her to drop the case.
That was a few days ago, and Lagarejos has since been released after posting bail. This is in large part because he was charged with “trafficking” instead of “rape,” according to the authorities.
At least he’s been relieved from his posts within the Catholic Church. He was previously a priest at St. John The Baptist Parish and President of Cainta Catholic College.
Despite the fact that the Catholic Church is well known for covering up pedophilia among its ranks, in this case it has promised complete cooperation. In a statement issued via Twitter, the Diocese of Antipolo said the charge is “serious.”
“Even as his guilt remains to be proved and the precepts of the Constitution grant him the presumption of innocence, the Diocese has taken every step to hold him answerable for the charges brought against him both before the Republic and before the Church.”
The church added that Lagarejos is “forbidden from having contact with all but his lawyer, his brother-priests, and church authorities.”
“He is particularly forbidden from any communication with minors and from maintaining company with them in any way whatsoever.”
Finally, the church clarified that it “will cooperate with the investigating and prosecuting authorities.”
“The Diocese of Antipolo makes it clear that it will not in any way condone or abet the trafficking of persons, particularly of minors, nor protect the offenders from prosecution, and subsequent trial and punishment when the evidence so warrants.”
I’m glad the Church has taken such an active stance on this issue instead of retreating and helping the offender with his defense. We will have to see how these promises of cooperation hold up over time, though.
On a side note, a friend of mine from the Philippines named Allan saw this story and sent it my way along with a message: “Goes to show that here in the Philippines, even if you’re caught with a minor, you can walk free as long as you’re a ‘holy man’ and you have enough money.”
He makes a good point. I just wish that wasn’t true.
(Screenshot via ABS-CBN News)