MANILA, Sept. 23, 2011— Let the court take a decision on the controversial rape case filed against a Catholic priest in the Diocese of Butuan, an official of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) said.
Speaking to protesting members of women’s rights group Gabriela, Msgr. Juanito Figura, CBCP secretary general, said that the court has given Fr. Raul Cabonce the right to explain his side of the story.
The organization has been demanding the bishops’ collegial body to intervene on the issue, which is not possible at the moment, said the CBCP official.
“Since it was brought to court already, the most prudent thing to do is to wait for the decision of the court. The CBCP as a Church body would have to respect the forum of the civil court which is a State body,” Figura said.
He said the Church would definitely not take the allegations sitting down, saying the Diocese of Butuan is already having its own investigation.
According to him, Cabonce should be tried first before the Tribunal of First Instance of Butuan diocese before the case is elevated to the National Tribunal of Appeals.
The CBCP as a body, he said, cannot just intrude on Butuan Bishop Juan de Dios Pueblo’s authority “because he has his own power and authority over his own territory.”
“The CBCP is an organization without prejudice to their power and authority in their respective dioceses. So the CBCP cannot tell them what to do and what not to do,” said Figura.
The 18-year old girl who claimed to have been sexually molested by Cabonce along with Gabriela officials and supporters went to the CBCP office in Manila’s Intramuros district to seek the help of the bishops.
“Knowing well that your pastoral action and intervention could make a lot of difference for Leah’s and other victims’ journey towards justice, we appeal for your immediate action,” they said in a letter addressed to Archbishop Jose Palma, current vice president and incoming CBCP President.
The 2-page letter was signed by Gabriela Secretary General Lana Linaban, Ecumenical Women’s Forum co-convenor Carmencita Karagdag and Sr. Mary John Mananzan, chairperson of Association of Major Religious Superiors of Women in the Philippines.
“It was very difficult for her to accept that Fr. Cabonce, a servant of God, and with whom her mother worked as catechist for five years, would become her sexual abuser,” they said.
Cabonce had already denied the accusations and appealed to the public to “check on the background of the family of the victim before judging me.” [CBCPNews]