Kin of girl ‘trafficked’ by priest moved to safehouse
The family of a 13-year-old girl who accused a priest of paying her for sex has been moved by the Marikina City government to another house for their own protection.
Marikina Mayor Marcelino Teodoro told the Inquirer on Thursday that they decided to transfer the girl’s family to an undisclosed location after her mother reported receiving threatening phone calls from strangers.
One of the callers identified himself as a Major Rosales from Mandaluyong City who claimed he was the girl’s uncle.
According to the girl’s mother, he angrily demanded to speak to the minor and when she refused, he hinted that it would be better for them to drop the case against Msgr. Arnel Lagarejos.
Another caller also made the same request, asking the mother to not file charges “kung maaari” (if possible) against the 55-year-old parish priest of St. John the Baptist in Taytay, Rizal.
“That’s the time we thought the family needed to be relocated. We did not expect her to be receiving threats but the mother told me there were people who had been asking her not to file a complaint or just drop the case [against the priest],” Teodoro said.
All expenses paid
He added that the city government would shoulder the rent for the house as well as the family’s expenses until their lives return to normal.
Lagarejos was arrested on July 28 in Marikina City as he was driving to a motel with the minor. According to the girl, the priest had booked her twice before through her 16-year-old friend. She said that she was paid up to P3,500 each time.
She and the pimp are now under the protective custody of the city’s social welfare department. The pimp faces a nonbailable charge for violating the Anti-Trafficking of Persons Act and is set to undergo diversion programs since he is also a minor.
Teodoro said the city government would help in the young girl’s case. Among the lawyers assigned to her were Rodaflor Laracas of the Public Attorney’s Office and Princess Feliciano, head of the city’s gender and development division.
The prosecutor has yet to set a date for the preliminary hearing of the case.
Teodoro expressed disappointment over the case filed against Lagarejos, saying he should have been charged with the trafficking of a person in relation to child abuse instead of the less serious charge of use of a trafficked person.
‘He got off easy’
“It could have been a non-bailable case against the priest had they related it to child abuse. They failed to emphasize [that the case involved a] minor. It was as if the child was an ordinary [sex worker]. Nakalusot tuloy [He got off easy]. The priest was able to post bail,” he said, adding that they were just after the protection of the young girl.
“This is not a fight between the government and the Church. The bottom line here is we are all after the protection and the best interest of the abused kid,” Teodoro stressed.
“We did not intend to arrest a priest. Never in our wildest imagination [did we think] that the suspect would be a monsignor,” he said.
Before she was caught in the company of the priest, the girl had been apprehended for violating the curfew in Marikina City. Her mother also told Teodoro that in the past months, she had noticed changes in her daughter’s behavior, particularly after her [mother] separation from her husband.
Since his arrest, Lagarejos has been relieved of his posts by the Antipolo diocese. He faces an investigation by the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines which will be conducted by Archbishop Emeritus Oscar Cruz.
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