This is a news release from GABRIELA.
A 17-year old girl who was reportedly raped by a parish priest in Agusan del Norte is currently under the care of GABRIELA. The girl, together with her mother sought the help of the women’s group to ask assistance in seeking justice for her plight.
“Leah” was a scholar of Fr. Raul Cabonce in exchange for her services as househelp inside the priest’s convent in Tubay, Butuan City. The first incident of molestation occurred last February 27, 2011. Subsequent molestations, the last one ending in rape, happened last March 3 and 14. “Leah” was threatened with a curse (isusumpa ang buong pamilya) and threat her to cut her scholarship to prevent her from telling anyone about the sexual violence. During the said incidents, the priest also made sure that his guns and a bladed weapon was in plain sight of “Leah” while violating her inside his room.
With the help of GABRIELA, “Leah” filed 3 cases – acts of lasciviousness, child abuse, and rape – against the priest after she underwent psychosocial processing for the trauma she experienced. “Leah was greatly affected by her traumatic experience. She could not imagine that this could happen to her considering that she trusted the priest as a man of God,” said Lana Linaban, Secretary General of GABRIELA. “This only goes to show that exploitation and abuse occur even in places that seem safe. We are saddened that the crime happened within the very institution that is supposed to uphold morality. The priest exploited Leah’s trust and violated her despite her young age.”
According to Linaban, there may be more victims like Leah, especially in poor remote areas. “Like Leah, there may be other girls who are not given the opportunity to finish their studies because of lack of resources. And often, like Leah, they are exploited because of their poverty.”
GABRIELA encouraged the Roman Catholic hierarchy to take the necessary steps to help “Leah” get the justice that she deserves. They called on the Church to investigate the case and file the necessary charges against the priest should they find enough basis. “It is not enough to transfer the erring priest to another parish where he can still violate other girls. He should be made accountable under the State laws as well as Church laws,” Linaban concluded.