Priest’s rape trial set
TAGUM CITY—The trial of a Catholic priest accused of raping a 26-year-old woman in Compostela Valley has been reset after a postponement even as the woman’s family said it was seeking the help of the women’s rights group Gabriela in its quest for justice.
The woman said she welcomed an order by the Department of Justice (DOJ) to press charges against Fr. Melvin dela Cuesta, reversing a decision of the provincial prosecutor’s office to dismiss the complaint.
“I’m happy and thankful that finally my case was given attention,” said the woman, now a mother of a year-old boy by her live-in partner.
In a resolution, the DOJ, through Undersecretary Leah Tanodra Armamento, ordered Prosecutor Graciano Arafol to file the rape complaint against Dela Cuesta at the Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 3 in Nabunturan town. The priest is now assigned to the Mt. Diwalwal quasi-parish in Monkayo town.
Arafol, in a complaint filed at the regional trial court on August 15, said he found probable cause to indict Dela Cuesta for rape based on affidavits prepared by the victim and witnesses.
Court records said the alleged rape happened in the early hours of July 24, 2006, when the victim, then a 21-year-old parttime clerk of the St. Therese of the Child Jesus parish, was asked by the priest to give him a massage.
The victim, in an interview with reporters on Saturday, said it had been Dela Cuesta’s practice to ask her for a massage after long trips.
She said she tried to fight back, but the priest was “too strong. I was very afraid.” Results of tests dated August 2 confirmed the sexual abuse.
“No woman in her right mind would openly acknowledge the violation of her person and allow the examination of her private parts if she has not been raped,” the DOJ resolution said.
The hearing was set for September 28 at the RTC Branch 3 in Nabunturan after it was postponed on September 5.
Efforts to reach Dela Cuesta for comment proved futile. Frinston L. Lim, Inquirer Mindanao
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