Sunday, November 14, 2010

Diocese threatens accuser
Youth accuses Catholic priest of rape

By Juan Escandor Jr.
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 01:12:00 11/14/2010

Filed Under: Youth, Rape, Churches (organisations), Philippines - Regions, Police, Social networking

NAGA CITY, Philippines—A 17-year-old-boy has filed a complaint of rape with the provincial prosecutor’s office here against a Roman Catholic priest.

Even as the prosecutors’ office of Camarines Sur had yet to act on the accusations of the boy against Monsignor Peter Beriña, the Archdiocese of Caceres issued a statement strongly denying the allegation.

In the statement released on Tuesday, Archbishop Leonardo Z. Legaspi warned that the Archdiocese of Caceres was “prepared to take appropriate legal action against the people behind these defamatory accusations.”

The parents of the boy, aided by the police, initiated the complaint.

Senior Inspector Santiago Orozco, police chief of Camaligan, Camarines Sur, neighboring town of Naga City, said it took investigators five days to discover the identity of the alleged rapist, traced through the plate number of the car that he used.

Orozco said that on November 1, the boy reported to the Camaligan Municipal Police Office that he escaped from a man who sexually molested him in a “boarding house” in that town.

He said the alleged rape victim wrote down the plate number of an Innova car, which was later traced to the name of the priest.

Orozco said they also searched the social networking site Facebook and matched the name of the owner of the Innova car to the photo that was posted online. The boy identified the man in the Facebook photo as his alleged molester.

PO2 Sonia Z. Florece, investigator of the women and children’s desk, said the boy told investigators that he was asked by the man with the Innova car to help him bring a sack of rice somewhere.

The boy narrated to the police that he boarded the car and was brought to an elementary school in Naga City. The man then drove the boy back to Camaligan town but stopped at a place which the boy erroneously identified as a “boarding house.”

Florece said the “boarding house” turned out to be a motel.

The boy claimed he was able to escape when the priest went to the bathroom.

Florece said the boy said he was helped by room boys of the motel hide from the priest, who then left.

The boy said he wrote down the plate number of the Innova car when the priest hastily drove out of the motel.

Defending the priest, Archbishop Legaspi said it was not Beriña who used the Innova car at that time but the priest’s driver, who used the car “without the knowledge and permission of the monsignor and entered a local motel with a female companion on the date and time of the alleged incident.”

“Attempts to destroy and discredit the Church have been made by some sectors and individuals. The Church is currently looking into the possibility of some malicious ploy against the Church and its priests,” the prelate said.

“We are saddened by the fact that this false and malicious accusation is being made at the time when our priests are having their annual clergy retreat. Thus, we beg for prayers, especially at this time,” Legaspi said.

Provincial Prosecutor Agapito Rosales said the rape complaint against the priest had yet to be raffled among the prosecutors and the suspect would be given a chance to answer the charges against him.

Rosales said the prosecutors would follow due process in determining if there is probable cause to indict the priest.

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