MANILA - The priest who was allegedly caught bringing a 13-year-old girl into a motel has been relieved from his posts, the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) said Monday.
Msgr. Arnel Fuentes Lagarejos, 55, was stripped of his duties as parish priest of St. John The Baptist Parish and as president of Cainta Catholic College, while a probe is being conducted.
"Igagalang at susundin ng Diocese of Antipolo ang proseso ng batas sa alegasyong human trafficking ng isang menor-de-edad na kinakaharap ng isa sa mga parish Priest ng Diyosesis," the CBCP said.
Archbishop Emeritus Oscar Cruz said CBCP's National Tribunal is studying every angle Lagarejos' case, as allegations of child abuse is considered a very serious offense for the clergy.
Cruz, who also heads the tribunal within the church that deals with sexual allegations against priests, emphasized that the Catholic church will not tolerate immorality.
"'Yung pagkakasala sa kabataan, mabigat na mabigat pong kaso 'yan para sa simbahan. That is a grim and very serious offense, na 'yung menor de edad ay pagsamantalahan," he told DZMM.
Cruz will finish gathering evidence and testimonies from people with direct knowledge on the case before he submits the files to Rome.
"But it does not mean he is guilty before proven innocent. He is innocent until proven guilty," stressed Cruz, saying the decision on whether or not to punish Msgr. Lagarejos lies in the Vatican.
The church leader also said that priests and bishops are not saints, and are also prone to mistakes. Cruz is now asking the Catholic faithful to pray for the clergymen who face challenges in their duty.
Lagarejos was arrested in an entrapment operation last Friday in a mall along Sumulong Highway. He allegedly attempted to have sex with a teenager he was about to meet through a pimp who is also a minor.
The 55-year-old priest, who was assigned in Marikina City and Rizal, is known to be a staunch critic of the Reproductive Health Law. He is facing charges for violating the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act.