Catholic Priest charged for trafficking of 13-yr-old

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THE Department of Justice has been asked to prosecute Msgr. Arnel Lagarejos for human trafficking charges following his arrest by the Marikina police last July for allegedly “booking” a 13-year old girl from a pimp.

Aside from Lagarejos, the complaint for violation of the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act has also been filed by the victim’s mother against Shaira Pedragoza, Ace Lasaca, a minor and several John Does who allegedly acted as pimps.

Public Attorneys’ Office Chief Persida Rueda Acosta, who accompanied the complainant to the DoJ, stressed that they have enough evidence to pin Lagarejos and his co-accused in the case.

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Acosta said the case falls under the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act considering the age of the victim—she was only 13 years old.

“We have enough evidence not only based on the victim’s testimony but also the text messages on her cellular phone and posts on her social media account wherein she positively identified Lagarejos,” Acosta said in an interview.

Early this month, Lagarejos managed to post bail three days after he was arrested at a motel along Sumulong Highway in Marikina.

However, Acosta and Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II said the latest complaint against Lagarejos was different from the case pending in Marikina.

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“He is out on bail on the first human trafficking case but there is a pending trafficking case and then this one so he will have to face three cases. So this is different from the case previously filed wherein the accused was able to post bail,” said Aguirre, who met with the complainant and Acosta.

According to Acosta, an investigation conducted by the PAO Marikina office headed by Rodaflor Laracas showed that Lagarejos was involved in two prior incidents with the victim before he was arrested.

Earlier, the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines announced that Antipolo Bishop Francis de Leon had stripped Lagarejos of his post at the St. John the Baptist Parish in Taytay, Rizal.

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He was also removed as president of the Cainta Catholic College.

At the same time, the CBCP assured the public that it respected the criminal procedures initiated by the police against Lagarejos.

The church investigation is separate from the ongoing probe conducted by the police.

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