Philippine priest nabbed 'en route to motel' with 13-year-old girl

MANILA (THE PHILIPPINES DAILY INQUIRER) - A priest who heads a Catholic school in the Philippines was arrested on Friday (July 28) night as he was allegedly taking a 13-year-old girl to a motel in Marikina City.

Monsignor Arnel Lagarejos, 55, underwent inquest proceedings on Saturday afternoon for alleged violation of the Anti-Human Trafficking in Persons Act following his arrest around 6.30pm on July 28 near Blue Wave Mall on Sumulong Highway in Barangay Sto. Nino.

A report to Chief Supt. Romulo Sapitula, Eastern Police District director, said a joint team from Marikina police and the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) caught Lagarejos in his sport utility vehicle (SUV) with the minor.

He allegedly came to know the girl, an out-of-school youth, through a 16-year-old "pimp", who was also arrested that same night.

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The arrests were made based on information from the girl's mother, who earlier alerted the Marikina police.

SUSPECT TIGHT-LIPPED

In an interview, the city police chief, Senior Supt. Roger Quesada, said Lagarejos initially described himself as a self-employed man when arrested but later admitted he was a priest during questioning.

Lagarejos, who remained in detention as of press time, refused to be interviewed by reporters.

Quoting statements from the mother and the arrested gay teenager, Quesada said Lagarejos was caught as he was about to take the girl to a motel on Sumulong Highway.

Seized from the pimp was his smartphone containing text messages purportedly about his transaction with the priest for the girl.

Sapitula said barangay officials and social workers had actually spoken with the girl a day before the entrapment.

The girl then said Lagarejos actually brought her to a motel for the first time in June and warned her "at gunpoint" not to let other men "book" her.

Based on the suspect's LinkedIn account, Lagarejos is the current president of Cainta Catholic College (CCC) and former parish priest of the Our Lady of Abandoned Parish also in Cainta.

His credentials, which are also listed in the CCC website, include a doctorate degree in Moral Theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome.

During the entrapment operation, Quesada said, the girl's mother and a police team waited at the spot where Lagarejos was expected to meet with the pimp.

When the priest arrived in his SUV, he was joined in the vehicle by the teenager and the girl. The pimp later got out after receiving 500 pesos (S$13.40) from Lagarejos.

The priest then drove off with the girl but was later stopped by the arresting team along Sumulong Highway.