Candle bearer, 17, accuses priest of molestation

A CATHOLIC priest assigned in a parish in the southwestern town of Dumanjug is facing a complaint after he allegedly molested a 17-year-old female altar server.

Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma confirmed the matter during a press conference on Saturday, March 9.

Palma told reporters the priest has been relieved of his duties, while a five-person committee led by Monsignors Rey Penagunda and Raul Go investigates the girl’s allegations.

“The issue has been addressed,” he assured the public.

SunStar Cebu is withholding the name of the priest pending his comment on the allegations.

Penagunda is one of the archdiocese’s two vicar generals, while Go is the judicial vicar.

Palma said part of the investigating committee’s protocol is to determine if there are adverse issues in the parish that involve the parish priest or his team of ministers.

Dumanjug police also confirmed that the 17-year-old girl filed a complaint against the priest last Friday, March 8.

PO3 Irish Buena, head of the Dumanjug Police Station’s Women and Children Protection Unit, said the girl claimed the priest molested her inside the rectory at midnight last Sunday, March 3.

Nene (not her real name) told police she was delivering vitamins to the priest’s room. When she entered, the priest invited her to eat with him and watch TV. He also told her to close the door behind her if she wanted to leave, she said.

But Nene said the priest later invited her to lie down beside him in bed. When she did, she said the priest suddenly embraced and kissed her.

“Ayaw ana (Don’t do that), Father,” Buena quoted the girl as saying. Nene then fled.

Nene is a candle bearer during mass and often sleeps at the rectory on Saturday to prepare for the mass the next day.

Buena said that during the time of the incident, there were many people at the parish, including members of the choir.

Nene’s grandmother said her granddaughter is determined to file charges against the priest, who has served as parish priest in the area for three years.

“We treat him like he is part of our family. I treat him like he’s my own son yet he does that to my own granddaughter. If he does that to anyone, of course they will be disappointed or angered,” Carmen said in Cebuano.

According to Buena, Nene’s family already went to the National Bureau of Investigation 7, which will file against the priest charges of acts of lasciviousness in relation to Republic Act 7610, or the Special Protection of Children against Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act.

Nene also underwent psychiatric and physical assessment at the Pink Room of the Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center in Cebu City.

Carmen said her granddaughter was also assessed by the Department of Social Welfare and Development as she was traumatized by the incident. (from SCG of Superbalita Cebu, JKV)


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