The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) is allegedly asking for donations to pay for the legal fees of Monsignor Arnel Lagarejos, who is facing charges of violating the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003 after getting caught with a 13-year-old girl on July 28.
Lagarejos was accused of attempting to have sex with the teenager, whom he met through a teenage pimp.
On August 2, it was reported that the priest was released after posting bail worth P120,000. He spent three days at the Marikina City police jail.
According to the story woven by pinoyobserver.com, a satirical blog, Archbishop Emeritus Oscar Cruz paid for the P120,000 that Lagarejos posted for his bail.
There were also several direct quotes attributed to Cruz, including the following:
- “Each of every centavo.” (Cruz was quoted saying, referring to how much the CBCP paid for in Lagarejos’ bail.)
- “Priests accused of any criminal offence are responsibility of the Church.”
- “He is now in a private house resting because he feels exhausted.”
- “Humanly speaking that is what I know. He is not in a physical condition to do so.”
- “I take the word of my right person there that he is not feeling well.”
Statements 3, 4, 5 are true, as Cruz was also quoted saying the same thing in the reports by GMA News and Philippine Daily Inquirer when asked whether he believed Lagarejos would leave the country.
But statements 1 and 2 are the exact opposite of what Cruz actually said.
Cruz said “not even one centavo” was paid by the Catholic Church when Lagarejos posted bail. He said that it was the priest’s family who raised P120,000 for his bail bond.
As for the extent of the Church’s responsibility for the Catholic priests investigated for a criminal offense, Cruz actually said that the priests themselves must pay for their own legal fees.
“Priests accused of any criminal offence are responsible for their own legal costs,” Cruz added.
Cruz said that the CBCP is asking Catholic members to help pay for Lagarejos’ legal fees, which might amount to at least P500,000.
Cruz allegedly added: “We are asking good Samaritans and Christians with good heart to help Father Lagarejos’ plight to clear his name.”
When we checked the last statement from Cruz about asking for donations, we found that the only website that carried the direct quote is Pinoy Observer alone. Cruz’ statement alone about how priests should shoulder their individual legal fees if they get charged for a criminal offense easily proves that the CBCP asking for donations is one big fat lie.
Cruz is the lead investigator the CBCP’s probe into Lagarejos’ case.
The Diocese of Antipolo issued a statement on July 31 saying that they will not protect Lagarejos.
“The diocese makes it clear that it will not in any way condone or abet the trafficking or persons, nor protect the offenders from prosecution, and subsequent trial and punishment when the evidence so warrants,” Antipolo Bishop Francis de Leon said in a statement quoted on the CBCP site.
Still, people fell for the fake story.