The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has allegedly asked the mother of the 13-year-old victim of attempted sexual abuse to forgive the priest, as per the story’s headline.
The story from philnewscourrier.blogspot.com was posted on Facebook on Saturday, July 29, and has already gone viral with over 17,000 shares, as of writing. It was also picked up by other blogs, such as thephilippinepolitics.com, internationallatestupdates.blogspot.com, and newspaperph.com.
On Facebook, it has spread further after it was shared by pages such as OFW GLOBAL MOVEMENT Supports President Rody Duterte, Atty. Rody R. Duterte Supporters, The Pandora’s Box, OFW GLOBAL MOVEMENT – Milan Italy Chapter, and more.
Even Abraham Purugganan, former President Gloria Arroyo’s adviser on special concerns, also shared the story.
According to philnewscourier.blogspot.com, CBCP President Archbishop Socrates Villegas spoke in connection to the arrest of Monsignor Arnel Lagarejos when he was caught en route to a motel with a 13-year-old girl.
Villegas was said to have said during his homily on Sunday, July 30: “As Christians, we are bound to forgive those who sin against us as we ask God to forgive our sins. So much so if the sin was not really committed.”
The article noted that while Villegas did not explicitly mention Msgr. Lagarejos, the archbishop reminded the mass-goers that even priests also commit sins and said, “No one is excuse for committing sins, even we priests are prone to commit mortal sins.”
The latter part of the article narrated the circumstances behind Lagarejos’ arrest in the evening of July 28 in front of Marikina City’s Blue Wave Mall during an entrapment operation targeting the 16-year-old pimp.
However, the story came from a less than reliable blogspot. We could not find any other report carrying the story that Villegas has asked the victim’s mother to forgive the arrested priest.
Archbishop Villegas’ friend also reached out to Memebuster to ask for help in debunking the fake news, which cited Villegas’ alleged homily on July 30. However, the archbishop denied making such a homily, calling the quoted statement an “invented quotation.”
Philnewscourier.blogspot.com has published several unconfirmed reports with statements that can be found on the blogspot alone. These include the stories about the Liberal Party’s plan to discuss the potential removal of Senators Antonio Trillanes IV and Risa Hontiveros as allies; Trillanes’ plan to request Google and Facebook to delete his BBC interview which isn’t true because he even said himself that it was his ‘proudest moment’ in his public life; and CBCP’s statement allegedly agreeing to free the Maute parents in exchange for the freedom of the captive priest in Marawi City when the truth is the CBCP left the fate of the priest to the government.
Aside from the blogspot being an unreliable source of information, the CBCP, the organization Villegas is leading, has already announced on July 30 that it has suspended the priest and is investigating him for allegedly soliciting the services of a minor through another minor. The CBCP said that the probe will run parallel to the PNP’s human trafficking probe into the priest. It added that the investigation and suspension of Lagarejos would continue regardless of whether or not legal charges are filed against him. The probe will be conducted without requiring the priests’ cooperation because CBCP only needs witness testimonies.
When we checked philnewscourier.blogspot.com’s About Us page, we found out that they could not guarantee a 100% accuracy of every article published on their website and even urged their readers to be “responsible enough” before they read or share anything that they find on the Internet.
CBCP conducts probe
Archbishop Emeritus Oscar Cruz, who is leading the probe into the priest for CBCP, explained what will happen once the investigation is over.
“Kapag ang Simbahan ay nakita na talaga na merong pagkakamali, at saka talagang dapat parusahan ‘yung pari, ipinapadala sa Roma [ang resulta ng imbestigasyon]. ‘Pag parusa ng Simbahan ay iyong pagkapari mo, pagka-estadong pari mo, ay aalisin sayo,” Cruz said.
According to CBCP news, Lagarejos was relieved from his duties in Taytay, Rizal parish. Antipolo Bishop Francis De Leon, has also stripped him of all his positions in the diocese, including being the president of Cainta Catholic College.
The Antipolo diocese said that they will “respect the necessary procedures as provided by law in order to further investigate the matter.” It also called on the public to “refrain from issuing unnecessary comments that might worsen the situation” and appealed “for all the faithful to pray that the truth may come out.”
Reports said that the girl and her mother filed a complaint against Lagarejos a day before his arrest, not knowing at the time that he was a priest. The girl said that she went with the priest because she would get paid in return.
“The girl went with the priest because there was money involved. She said the priest paid her P2,500 per booking,” Marikina police chief Senior Supt. Roger Quesada told the Inquirer on July 30 via phone interview.
Lagarejos was later identified by his parishioners, some cops from Taytay.
The police has filed human trafficking charges against Lagarejos, who is now in detention, while the minors are in the custody of the DSWD.
Not the first fake news about CBCP
This is not the first fake article against CBCP. Earlier in July, there was another fake news about how the CBCP allegedly urged the Bulacan massacre victims’ kin to forgive and forget the suspect. The story came from the fake news site, Pinoy Observer, that is now claiming to be a satirical blog.
This caused Manila Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle to speak out against fake news makers, who said that basic human decency entails telling the truth.
“I think it is part of basic human decency to love the truth, and to abhor falsehood,” Tagle said in a press conference during the 4th Philippine Conference on New Evangelization on July 4.
He added, “We all get hurt when there’s fake news about us. But why do we enjoy when we spread false news about other people?”
Tagle said he is all for being critical as long as the criticisms are based on the truth.
“So we should look back at ourselves. If we know that it’s not true, then why are we going to spread it?” he said.
Tagle did acknowledge the difficulty in distinguishing the truth from the lies.
“I myself don’t know what to do. What is know is that maybe it’s up to the conscience of every person to dictate what’s true or not,” he added.