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Priest nabbed with 13-year-old girl gets bail

Information from Philippine church probe into Monsignor Arnel Lagarejos to be sent to the Vatican

Priest nabbed with 13-year-old girl gets bail

Monsignor Arnel Lagarejos of Antipolo was arrested by Philippine authorities on July 28 on a human trafficking charge. (Photo supplied)

Joe Torres, Manila

August 2, 2017

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A Catholic priest in the Philippines facing human trafficking charges after being caught with a 13-year-old girl was granted bail on Aug. 1.

Monsignor Arnel Lagarejos had spent the last few days in detention after he was arrested escorting the girl to a motel in the outskirts of the Philippine capital on July 28.

The priest refused to talk to the media after his release.

In a statement, Antipolo Diocese, to which Lagarejos belongs, announced that the priest "had been relieved of all his pastoral assignments."

He is also forbidden from talking with anybody except his lawyer.

"He is particularly forbidden from any communication with minors and from maintaining company with them in any way whatsoever," the statement read.

The diocese said it is conducting a parallel investigation into the case with Archbishop Oscar Cruz, a canon lawyer, as lead investigator.

The retired prelate said he is already gathering information on the alleged incident and that it will be sent to the Vatican.

He said he is set to interview Lagarejos and "ask him if he accepts the accusations made against him."

If the allegations against the priest are proven, he will be dismissed from the priesthood, said Archbishop Cruz.

"This is considered as the gravest violation of the commandment because this is abuse of minors," said the prelate.

Lagarejos was caught in a police entrapment operation with a the girl he allegedly met through a pimp on social media.

The entrapment was conducted supposedly to apprehend minors involved in prostitution. Initial investigations revealed that a 16-year old pimp mediated the deal between the priest and the girl.

Both the pimp and the girl are in the custody of the Department of Social Welfare and Development.

Antipolo Diocese said it has offered to provide spiritual and psychological support to the girl caught with Lagarejos.

"Whatever counseling and psychological services may be available in the diocese, we will offer in sincere love, affection and compassion to the child," the diocese said in its statement.

The diocese said "it will not in any way condone or abet the trafficking of persons, particularly of minors, nor protect the offenders from prosecution, and subsequent trial and punishment when the evidence so warrants."

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