Priest removed from parish in Negros Occidental for alleged child molestation
BACOLOD CITY — A priest has been removed from his parish in Cadiz City, Negros Occidental after the police filed charges against him for allegedly molesting a four-year-old girl.
But San Carlos Diocese Bishop Gerardo Alminaza, who has jurisdiction over the priest, assured the public that the church would not intervene in the investigation to ferret out the truth.
“While we allow the legal process to take its course, the church will proceed with its own canonical process which involves providing pastoral care to the alleged victim and accused and whoever is involved in the investigation,” he added.
Both Alminaza and the police declined to identify the priest as well as the parish where he was assigned.
But a formal complaint was filed against the priest on Wednesday at the city prosecutor’s office in Cadiz for violating the Special Protection of Children Against Child Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act.
The police filed the complaint after the parents of the victim reported the alleged molestation last Saturday.
“The alleged victim is a daycare pupil of the Catholic church where the priest is assigned, and where her mother works as a secretary, said Chief Insp. Robert Mansueto, acting Cadiz police chief.
He said that while there was no penetration, medical examinations on the girl’s genital area showed signs of being touched.
Based on the statement of the victim, Mansueto said the priest allegedly kissed the girl and touched her genitals on several occasions. The last was on Feb. 8, he added.
Mansueto said the parents appeared bent on pursuing charges against the priest especially that the girl had shown signs of being traumatized by the abuse.
In a separate interview, Alminaza said the priest told him about the charges and assured him that he didn’t do it.
“He himself was shocked to be accused of such an action and was willing to face the allegation to prove his innocence,” Alminaza said
“We acknowledge his right to be presumed innocent until proven otherwise and we are committed to assist and cooperate in the process so the truth will come out and justice is served,” he added.
Following the recent guidelines on sexual abuse released by Pope Francis, Alminaza said they had reached out to the family of the victim and offered help for the victim to ensure that she be given proper care and intervention.
“I have assigned a priest to take over temporarily the shepherding of the parish concerned in order to give the accused time to spiritually prepare himself to face the allegations and to give way for an impartial investigation,” he added.
“We are committed to search for truth and to make sure the process will be fair and just to both parties and whoever is responsible will have to face the consequences,” said the bishop./lzb
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