Malilong: Go to the Police

By Frank Malilong Jr.
Sun.Star [Philippines]
December 20, 2006

MY friend, Gerry Carillo, is already a good lawyer. There is no need for him to play policeman.

It pains me to watch a government panel, headed by no less than a Cebu City councilor, practically begging someone who is accused of wrongdoing to come out and incriminate himself in the guise of giving the suspect (yes, that is what he is) a chance to air his side. Nice try but it won't work.

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The task of Gerry's panel is purely fact-finding: what really happened inside the confessional during a religious seminar for students at the Abellana National High School. Did one of the priests indeed make immoral advances towards the complaining high school girls in the course of their confession?

The main objective of the investigation is to come up with measures to prevent a repetition of the incident and protect the students and the school. The prosecution of the priest is also an option, depending on the facts that will be established.

And here lies the problem. The panel in a sense wants the priest to help establish the facts that could lead to his criminal prosecution. He may be a man of the cloth and is therefore looked upon to exemplify the Christian values of truth and honesty but he has as much right as anyone against self-incrimination.

And when he invokes it, as he has done so, albeit impliedly, it is not within the powers of Gerry's panel to charge him or his superiors in the archdiocese with obstruction of justice or for the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) to cite them in contempt.

Contempt, my foot! How pathetic of the CHR to raise this threat against someone who, at the most, can be held liable only for acts of lasciviousness or for child abuse while being rendered completely inutile in dealing with the series of salvaging in the city. Get real, people.

Gerry says he has the name of the priest. I'm sure he has shared that information with the CHR because it was he who quoted the agency's top official in the region as saying he will be forced to use their power of contempt against the archdiocese unless it cooperates.

So what do they need the cooperation of the archdiocese for? They want Cardinal Vidal to execute an affidavit that the priest is lecherous? Or is City Hall getting back at the cardinal for being outspoken against the summary execution of criminal suspects and the tacit endorsement that it received from the city's leadership?

I sympathize with the high school girls. I couldn't find a reason why they would falsely accuse a priest of molesting them.

Something bad and traumatic must have really happened to them and whatever it was, its perpetrator has to be punished.

Which is why I am offering this unsolicited suggestion to Gerry and the CHR: Go to the police. They're better trained for this kind of thing.



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