A 17-year old girl who was reportedly raped by a parish priest in Agusan del Norte is now under the care of women's rights organization Gabriela, an officer of the group said Friday.
In a statement, Gabriela's executive director Lana Linaban said the victim "Leah" (not her real name) is already in their custody, and that the minor has already filed cases last Thursday against Fr. Raul Cabonce, parish priest of Tubay town.
Early in July, a Tubay municipal welfare officer said the girl and her mother had gone missing after reporting the abuse to a group of Catholic nuns.
According to earlier reports, Leah was a scholar of Fr. Cabonce in exchange for her services as a helper in the priest's convent.
The first incident of molestation occurred last February 27, 2011. Subsequent molestations, the last one ending in rape, happened last March 3 and 14, this year, Linaban said.
Two counts of rape, Child Abuse in relation to R.A. 7610 and Acts of Lasciviousness were filed Thursday morning before Agusan del Norte Provincial Prosecutor Office against Fr. Cabonce.
In four-page complaint affidavit furnished to GMA News Online, the complainant, born December 5, 1992, claimed the respondent Priest molested her at the St. Anne Parish convent.
The sexual assaults, according to the complaint affidavit, allegedly began sometime in September and October last year, when she was allegedly requested by the respondent to massage him inside his room in the convent.
The complainant said she was raped twice by the respondent some sometime in February and March this year inside his room.
In her complaint affidavit, she said Fr. Cabonce was formerly Parish Priest of Las Nieves, Agusan del Norte, the girl's home town and where her mother was a catechist and church volunteer servant. Cabonce, who had been was transferred to Tubay, to brought her along to work as a convent girl.
Gabriela-Caraga chairperson Atel Hijos said former Surigao City Mayor lawyer Alfonso Casurra is a pro-bono legal counsel of the victim.
GMA News Online tried but failed to reach Fr. Cabonce, who is allegedly staying at the Bishop's House in Butuan City.
In a radio interview early in July, Cabonce denied the allegations saying: "I categorically deny allegations of rape hurled against me... please check the background of the family of the victim first before judging me."
Meanwhile, 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 said. — with a report by Ben Serrano/LBG, GMA News
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Letâs hope that others, who have witnessed, suspected, or may have been harmed by Fr. Raul Cabonce will find the courage and strength to speak up, contact law enforcement, not the church officials.
Judy Jones, SNAP Midwest Associate Director, USA
“Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests” and all clergy.