THE Taytay, Rizal parish priest arrested in July while on his way to a motel with a 13-year-old girl has been charged with child abuse and trafficking.
The minor and her mother filed the criminal charges against Msgr. Arnel Lagarejos of the Diocese of Antipolo, assisted by Chief Public Attorney Persida Rueda-Acosta.
Lagarejos, 55, is a monsignor, bestowed the honorific for exceptional services to the Church. Following his arrest by Marikina police, he was sacked as parish priest of St. John the Baptist Parish in Taytay and as president of the Cainta Catholic College.
Aside from Lagarejos, also charged before Acting Prosecutor General Severino Gana were alleged pimps Shaira Pedragoza, Ace Lasaca, Aldrei Roque and Luisa David, as well as several “John Does” said to be the child’s “customers.”
The respondents were accused of violations of the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003 or Republic Act (RA) 9208 as amended by the Expanded Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2012 or RA 10364, and the Special Protection of Children Against Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act or RA 7610.
Gana has asked Senior State Prosecutor Lilian Doris Alejo, in charge of cases of violence against women and children, to assign a prosecutor to handle the case.
“It turns out there are two incidents involving the monsignor. Republic Act 9208 or the Anti-Human Trafficking Act applies because of the procurement of the child – she’s 13, a minor,” Acosta noted.
Acosta asked the Department of Justice to admit the child to the Witness Protection Program.
Lagarejos was arrested on July 29 while inside his gray Ford Explorer with plate number TGO-350 at the parking area of Blue Wave Mall on Sumulong Hi-way, in Barangay Sto. Niño, Marikina City.
A report by the Marikina police said Lagarejos allegedly booked the minor, an out-of-school youth, through 16-year-old “ARB,” who served as pimp. They were supposed to meet at the Blue Wave Mall.