Monsignor Arnel Lagarejos of the Diocese of Antipolo was arrested by Philippine authorities on July 28 for charges of human trafficking. (Contributed photo)
The Philippine public attorney filed a qualified human trafficking charge on Sept. 4 against a senior priest arrested in July for procuring the sexual services of a 13-year-old girl.
The Public Attorney's Office charged Monsignor Arnel Lagarejos of Antipolo Diocese with the non-bailable crime.
"This is separate from the case previously filed where the accused was able to post bail," Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre said.
Qualified trafficking is when the offender is a member of the military, law enforcement agency or a respected institution such as the church.
Lagarejos was arrested July 28 in an entrapment bust near a motel in Manila's eastern suburbs following a tip-off from the girl's mother, police said. He was charged with simple human trafficking and posted US$3,000 three days later.
Aguirre met the girl and her mother after their lawyers filed the qualified human trafficking case against the priest and four alleged pimps.
Mother and daughter have applied for the government's witness protection program, said Aguirre.
Under the country's anti-human trafficking law, the number of incidents and the young age of the victim can elevate a case to non-bailable status.
Early in August, retired Archbishop Oscar Cruz said the priest's case would be heard by a congregation of the clergy.
Its findings will be sent for review to Pope Francis, who will have the final say on the recommendation.