Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Not Over for ‘Lewd’ Priest

Original article
Cebu Daily News

First Posted 10:23:00 07/28/2009
A catholic priest who was earlier accused of inappropriately touching young female students during a religious school activity is not off the hook yet.

The seven students whose case was earlier dropped by the Department of Justice (DOJ) have decided to file a motion for reconsideration contesting the resolution of Acting Justice Secretary Agnes Devenadera, who earlier cleared Fr. Benedicto Ejares of acts of lasciviousness charges.

“The DOJ should have considered the effect of the incident to the victims, not on the accused,” said lawyer Gerardo Carillo, the girls' counsel.

Carillo said he was in the final stages of preparing the motion for reconsideration.

The seven girls, all students of the Abellana National School in Cebu City, maintained that the priest stroked their arms, backs and toyed with their bra straps while he heard their confessions during a Life in the Spirit seminar on Nov. 14, 2006 at the Cebu City Sports Center.

In his counter-affidavit, Ejares said he never “sexually abused” the complainants, and that his actions during the confession were intended to make the students feel at ease.

After a preliminary investigation, the investigating prosecutor recommended that that the seven acts of lasciviousness charges against Ejares be dropped for lack of evidence. Instead, prosecutors recommended charging the priest with seven counts of unjust vexation.

The DOJ reversed the recommendation of the prosecutor, but cited that the allowed time between the commission of the offense and the filing of charges had already prescribed, resulting in the charges being dropped.

Carillo earlier said that the priest's alleged offense caused long-term trauma on the victims, which should be given consideration. /Reporter Ador Vincent Mayol

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