The priest accused of taking a 13-year-girl to a hotel for sex has asked the Department of Justice to drop the charges against him.
Instead of filing his counter-affidavit in Friday’s preliminary investigation hearing, Father Arnel Fuentes Lagarejos, aged 55, submitted an urgent motion to dismiss the case. He did not attend the proceedings.
Under the rules, a motion to dismiss is a prohibited pleading, which led Assistant State Prosecutor Karla Cabel, the handling prosecutor, to treat the motion as Lagarejos’ counter-affidavit.
Lagarejos’s four co-respondents were meanwhile able to submit their respective counter-affidavits.
Lagarejos was caught taking the girl into a motel on July 28 in an entrapment operation in Marikina City. Reports at the time said the priest pulled a gun on cops, although this was later denied. The girl was allegedly pimped out by a 16-year-old friend.
Pray for Father Lagarejos
Following his arrest, Antipolo Bishop, Francisco de Leon, said: “Let us refrain from issuing unnecessary comments that might worsen the situation. Instead we appeal for all the faithful to pray that the truth may come out.”
The Public Attorney’s Office, counsel for complainants “Anna” and her mother “Marie”, was given up to September 29 to submit its reply to Lagarejos’ motion and the rest of the respondents’ counter-affidavits. Lagarejos will have an opportunity to file his rejoinder affidavit on October 9.
The complaint is for two counts of the non-bailable offence under Republic Act 9208 (Anti-Human Trafficking Act), and pertains to two alleged previous incidents when Lagarejos had allegedly booked “Anna”.
Lagarejos has already been removed by the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines from his post at St John the Baptist Parish in Taytay, Rizal, and also as president of the Cainta Catholic College.
The priest is out on a 120,000-peso bail for a ‘trafficking in persons’ case already pending before the Marikina Regional Trial Court involving a separate incident for bringing the same alleged victim to a motel. He is subject to a government immigration lookout bulletin.