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Priest named in human trafficking case
By Maniolo B. Jara September 06, 2017
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MANILA: A new criminal complaint of qualified human trafficking was filed against a Filipino priest, the president of a Catholic-run college in Rizal province in Southern Luzon, who was earlier arrested by the police in July for child abuse for allegedly trying to bring a 13-year-old girl to a motel.

The complaint against Monsignor Arnel Legarejos, 55, was filed before the Department of Justice by the girl and her mother with the assistance of Presida Acosta, the chief of the government-run Public Attorney’s Office.

Specifically, the complainants accused Legarejos of allegedly violating the country’s Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003. Acosta also revealed the complainants also asked Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre to place them under the government’s Witness Protection Programme, citing the threats they have been receiving since the arrest of and filing of charges against Legarejos.

Acosta said the new criminal complaint against Legarejos was separate from the child abuse case earlier filed against the priest for which he was allowed by a regional court to post a $2,400 bail for his temporary liberty.

But Acosta emphasized the new criminal charge of qualified human trafficking was non-bailable as mandated by law.

Citing a police report, Acosta disclosed that Legarejos had transacted with a pimp, also a minor, at least twice for the sexual services of the girl before his arrest in July.

Police said that when arrested , Legarejos initially identified himself as a businessman when he was brought to Marikina police headquarters for questioning.

But police said Legarejos later admitted he was a parish priest as well as the president of a Catholic-run college in the town of Cainta, Rizal.

The Catholic diocese of Antipolo City in Rizal which has jurisdiction over Legarejos earlier suspended him from his priestly duties including saying Mass pending an investigation.

The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) announced it was conducting a separate investigation that, if found guilty, could lead to a recommendation for the Vatican to dismiss or “defrock” Legarejos

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