HOW many times did the priest al­legedly book the mi­nor?

Philippine Daily Inquirer - - FRONT PAGE - By Aie Balag­tas See @ABalag­tasSeeINQ —WITH A RE­PORT FROM TINA G. SAN­TOS INQ

Fri­day night was not the first time Tay­tay, Rizal parish priest Msgr. Ar­nel La­gare­jos had booked a 13-year-old girl through her pimp who was also a mi­nor.

“They had met be­fore. Ac­cord­ing to the girl, [Fri­day] would have been the third time,” Marik­ina po­lice chief Se­nior Supt. Roger Que­sada told the In­quirer in a phone in­ter­view on Sun­day.

The 55-year-old La­gare­jos, parish priest of the Parish of St. John the Bap­tist in Tay­tay, Rizal, was ar­rested by au­thor­i­ties on Fri­day night as he was tak­ing the girl to a mo­tel in Marik­ina City in his sport util­ity ve­hi­cle.

“The girl went with the priest be­cause there was money in­volved. She said the priest paid her P2,500 per book­ing,” Que­sada said.

Ac­cord­ing to him, La­gare­jos met the girl through the 16year-old pimp who was her friend. The po­lice, how­ever, have yet to es­tab­lish how and when the priest met the pimp.

“They did not know he was a priest,” Que­sada said, re­fer­ring to the two mi­nors.

La­gare­jos also hid this in­for­ma­tion from the po­lice af­ter his ar­rest last Fri­day. “He said he was self-em­ployed,” Que­sada told the In­quirer.

Iden­ti­fied by parish­ioners

They fi­nally found out who he was af­ter some po­lice­men from Tay­tay town told them La­gare­jos was their parish priest.

“Con­cerned cit­i­zens also told us that he was their priest,” Que­sada said, adding that they used the in­for­ma­tion to ver­ify his real iden­tity.

A day be­fore La­gare­jos’ ar­rest, the girl and her mother went to barangay of­fi­cials to file a com­plaint against him. At that time, nei­ther the girl nor the pimp knew what he did for a liv­ing.

The girl, ac­cord­ing to Que­sada, com­plained that La­gare­jos had pointed a gun at her and warned her against go­ing out with any other men.

The po­lice have yet to es­tab­lish if La­gare­jos owns a gun since no firearm was found in his pos­ses­sion dur­ing his ar­rest.

Mean­while, the priest has been re­lieved of his du­ties pend­ing a po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the com­plaint against him.

The po­lice and the girl’s mother have filed a charge of hu­man traf­fick­ing against him. He also faces pos­si­ble crim­i­nal cases.

Ac­cord­ing to CBCP News, the of­fi­cial news ser­vice of the Catholic Bish­ops’ Con­fer­ence of the Philippines, An­tipolo Bishop Fran­cis de Leon, La­gare­jos’ su­pe­rior, has stripped him of all his other po­si­tions in the dio­cese, in­clud­ing be­ing pres­i­dent of Cainta Catholic Col­lege.

A check of the priest’s Linkedin ac­count showed that he served as parish priest of the Our Lady of Aban­doned Parish in Cainta, Rizal. He also has a doc­tor­ate de­gree in moral the­ol­ogy from the Pon­tif­i­cal Gre­go­rian Univer­sity in Rome.

“Al­leged vi­o­la­tions against the Anti-Child Abuse Law and Anti-Traf­fick­ing in Per­sons Act are se­ri­ous al­le­ga­tions that have to be dealt [with] by the au­thor­i­ties ac­cord­ingly,” the An­tipolo dio­cese said in a state­ment.

It also as­sured the pub­lic that it “re­spects the nec­es­sary pro­ce­dures as pro­vided by law in or­der to fur­ther in­ves­ti­gate this mat­ter.”

Young sex work­ers tar­geted

Cit­ing a po­lice re­port, the dio­cese said that priest was ar­rested in an en­trap­ment op­er­a­tion con­ducted sup­pos­edly to ap­pre­hend mi­nors in­volved in pros­ti­tu­tion.

La­gare­jos was placed un­der ar­rest af­ter he ar­rived at Blue Wave Mall in Marik­ina City on Fri­day evening where the en­trap­ment was car­ried out.

At that time, he was there to meet with the girl, un­aware that a po­lice team and rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the Depart­ment of So­cial Wel­fare and De­vel­op­ment (DSWD) were there to ap­pre­hend him.

The pimp and the girl are now in the cus­tody of the DSWD while La­gare­jos re­mains in de­ten­tion.

—ANTIPOLODIOCESE FACE­BOOK PAGE

Of­fi­cial state­ment of the An­tipolo Dio­cese on the ar­rest of Tay­tay, Rizal priest, Msgr. Ar­nel La­gare­jos

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