MANILA, Philippines (UPDATE) – A parish priest has been accused of raping a minor in Tubay, Butuan City in Agusan del Norte.
According to 17-year-old “Leah” (not her real name), she was molested and raped by Fr. Raul Cabonce inside the St. Anne Convent in Tubay, where she worked as a househelper in exchange for being a scholar of the priest.
“Parang bahay ko lang ‘yun. Tapos masaya pa ko dahil nagse-serbisyo ako sa isang pari,” sabi ni Leah.
Leah said the first incident of molestation occurred on February 27, 2011, when she was asked by the priest to give him a massage. Leah said the priest began kissing her and touching her private parts.
“Sabi niya, huwag ka mag-fight back para hindi kita masaktan. Natakot na ako, tapos sabi niya hawakan mo ‘yung ilalim ng unan. Paghawak ko, nandun ‘yung baril,” said Leah.
Two more occasions of molestation occurred during March 2011, said the victim. She said the priest raped her on March 14.
The priest allegedly threatened to hurt her and cut her scholarship if she told anyone about the sexual abuse.
“Sabi niya huwag mo ko [pigilan] sa plano ko para hindi kita masaktan [at] kung gusto mo pa makita pamilya mo,” Leah said.
Leah added that the priest made sure that his gun was always in plain sight to scare her.
After graduating from high school, Leah ran away from the convent and sought help from the Missionary Sisters of Mary. She is now in the custody of women’s group GABRIELA.
In a press statement, GABRIELA said the group is saddened by the alleged crime.
"This only goes to show that exploitation and abuse occur even in places that seem safe. We are saddened that the crime happened within the very institution that is supposed to uphold morality. The priest exploited Leah's trust and violated her despite her young age," said Lana Linaban, Secretary General of GABRIELA.
GABRIELA urged the Church to investigate the case and file the necessary charges against Fr. Cabonce should they find enough basis.
"It is not enough to transfer the erring priest to another parish where he can still violate other girls. He should be made accountable under the State laws as well as Church laws," Linaban said.
Fr. Cabonce is facing charges of child abuse, acts of lasciviousness and rape.
According to the office of Butuan Bishop Juan de Dios Pueblos, their lawyers are still reviewing the case against Fr. Cabonce. -- Report from Maan Macapagal, ABS-CBN News