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DOJ asked to reconsider resolution clearing priest

CEBU, Philippines - The Department of Social Welfare and Development asked the Department of Justice to consider its resolution exonerating Father Benedicto Ejares from criminal liability over his alleged “inappropriate” conduct during confessions of students of Abellana National School three years ago.

Cebu City Councilor Gerardo Carillo, a DSWD consultant, cited the DOJ’s failure to appreciate the psychological findings on the effects of what the priest did to the victims.

Carillo said they have argued on the psychological effects of the incident to the victims which he said constitute the violation of the Republic Act 7610.

As a result of the incident, Carillo said, the victims were traumatized and lost their respect for the priest.

He explained that they have certificates issued by competent psychologist stating the psychological trauma suffered by the victims after the incident.

These facts were not considered by the DOJ, which dismissed the complaint for child abuse against Ejares.

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The psychological trauma suffered by the victims was the ground used by the Cebu City Prosecutor’s Office in filing the case before the court against Ejares. It said Ejares violated Section 10(a) of RA 7610, which states other forms of child abuse.

Carillo is hoping that Justice Secretary Agnes Devanadera’s resolution ordering the withdrawal of the information of the criminal case against Ejares will be reconsidered.

Devanadera, in granting Ejares’ petition for review, ordered the withdrawal of the case, saying that the provision of the law used by the city prosecutor does not apply in this case.

In her nine-page resolution promulgated last July 6, Devanadera said that other forms of child abuse will only apply when the acts complained of are not covered under the Revised Penal Code.

She said Ejares should have been sued for unjust vexation which is defined under the RPC. However, considering that the complaint was filed two months after the incident happened, he could not be prosecuted anymore because the case has already prescribed.

Unjust vexation is a light offense which has a prescriptive period of two months.

But the DSWD argued that the DOJ should have delved more into the psychological effects of the incident to the victims instead of looking only at the actuation of the priest itself.

Ejares, one of the seven priests invited to hear confessions during a Life in the Spirit Seminar facilitated by the Oasis of Love at the Abellana National School in 2006, was accused by at least seven high school students of sexual harassment.

The complainants, who are all minors, claimed that while hearing their confessions, Ejares place his arms around their shoulders pulling them closer to him.

According to them, Ejares inappropriately touched them from shoulders down to the forearms, stroking and tickling them. The priest even allegedly toyed with the straps of their brassieres. — Fred P. Languido/LPM (THE FREEMAN)

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