THE Department of Justice (DOJ) has filed a case against Monsignor Arnel Lagajeros of the Diocese of Antipolo for molesting a minor.
Lagajeros, 55, was caught in an entrapment operation while inside his gray Ford explorer at the parking area of Blue Wave Mall along Sumulong Hi-way in Barangay Sto. Nino, Marikina City, where he and the minor were supposed to meet.
Lagajeros was not the first local prelate in the Catholic Church accused of sexual harassment or misconduct.
Cotabato Archbishop Orlando Quevedo, then president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), said about 200 priests have been known to have committed sexual abuse or sexual misconduct.
The Manila Times lists some of them:
* Bishops Teodoro Bacani and Crisostomo Yalung.
In 2003, Yalung was accused of having a relationship with Christine Rances, a woman 24 years his junior.
Also in 2003, Bacani was accused by his 33-year-old secretary of hugging her from behind and touching her private parts.
Bacani denied the accusations, but later apologized to the victim for “inappropriate expression of affection”. On August 20, 2003, the Vatican cleared Bacani of the harassment charges.
* Rev. Raul Cabonce
Cabonce was accused of sexual abuse by his 17-year-old helper in Poblacion, Tubay, Agusan del Norte in 2011. The victim said that the incidents happened between September 2010 and March 2011 in the priest’s room in the parish’s convent.
After filing the charges, Bishop Juan de Dios Pueblos discharged Cabonce from his parish and assigned to his bishop’s palace in Ampayon, Butuan City.
Gabriela, a women’s rights group, said that Pueblos protected the priest and urged him to surrender Cabonce to civil authorities.
* Monsignor Cristobal Garcia of the Los Angeles archdiocese
In the 1980s, Garcia was accused of giving cocaine to minors and sexually abusing them. He was also accused of sexually harassing his younger brother at the age of 15.
Garcia, who was removed by the Dominicans, left the archdiocese in 1985. He said that he would seek therapy in his hometown diocese of Cebu.
Then-Cebu Archbishop Cardinal Ricardo Vidal accepted Garcia despite his indiscretions and his priesthood in Cebu was unaffected.
In June 2012, however, Garcia was suspended by Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma.
* Rev. Fr. Agustin Cuenca
Cuenca was accused in August 1990 of sexually abusing two male acolytes, ages 15 and 16. The victims also said that other boys were accused by Cuenca. The criminal case was eventually dropped since the law against acts of lasciviousness applied to boys under 12 years old.
* Rev. Arwyn Diesta
Diesta was accused in 1992 of sexually abusing a teenage seminarian in Los Angeles. LA’s Cardinal Roger Mahony wrote to the Diesta’s Philippines bishop to keep Diesta away from teenagers, but to no avail.
After learning that Diesta worked at a seminary in the Philippines, Mahony wrote to the Vatican, which replied that Diesta would remain a priest.
* Rev. Ruben Abaya
Abaya was a Filipino priest who worked in the United States from 1977 to 1982. He was among the seven Filipino priests involved in a sexual abuse lawsuit by a girl in the Los Angeles archdiocese.
The suit was filed by the victim in 1984, but the LA archdiocese could not locate any of the seven priests which led to the dismissal of the case.
Seven years later, Fr. Santiago Tamayo held a news conference in LA where he admitted the abuse and apologized to the victim. He also asked for forgiveness for recruiting the other priests.
The LA archdiocese paid a settlement of $500,000 to the victim in 2007.
Pope Francis has been vocal against sexual harassment, especially in the Church, saying such cases will have “zero tolerance”.
“We hear these children and their cries of pain; we also hear the cry of the Church our Mother, who weeps not only for the pain caused to her youngest sons and daughters, but also because she recognizes the sins of some of her members: the sufferings, the experiences and the pain of minors who were abused sexually by priests,” Pope Francis said in the Letter of His Holiness Pope Francis to Bishops on the Feast of the Holy Innocents.
“I would like us to renew our complete commitment to ensuring that these atrocities will no longer take place in our midst. Let us find the courage needed to take all necessary measures and to protect in every way the lives of our children, so that such crimes may never be repeated.” RALPH EDWIN VILLANUEVA