Filipino Public Defender Helps San Mateo County Priest Seek Pardon for Molesting Girl

By Elizabeth Pfeffer
San Mateo County Times
February 13, 2009

The Philippines' top public defender has vowed to help get a pardon for a former San Mateo County priest who was convicted of molesting a young girl from his Daly City parish.

Jose Superiaso, 54, was sentenced to 10 years in prison for having sexual relations with a 12-year-old girl from 1994-1995 during his tenure at St. Andrew Catholic Church in Daly City. He was also a priest at Our Lady of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in Belmont, and at Our Lady of the Pillar Church in Half Moon Bay.

Superiaso is not eligible for parole until 2013.

But Chief Public Attorney Persida Rueda-Acosta, in a phone interview from Manila, Philippines, said he is assisting Superiaso in applications for a pardon by President Barack Obama or Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Superiaso was born and ordained in the Philippines. If granted clemency, he will return to his native country and revert to his spiritual duties, said Rueda-Acosta.

"I believe that by serving half of his sentence he has been rehabilitated," Rueda-Acosta said. "If, in fact, there is any truth to the alleged charges."

Superiaso is forbidden from resuming ministry in the United States by the U.S. Bishops' "Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People," which addresses sexual abuse of minors by clergy.

"In light of this zero tolerance policy, Superiaso would never be allowed to minister in this archdiocese again, nor in any other U.S. diocese," said San Francisco Archdiocese spokesman Maury Healy. "Our hope is that he would not be permitted to exercise the ministry of the priesthood in the Philippines."

Superiaso was arrested in 2003 when the victim, who he frequently baby-sat in the 1990s, reported the molestation. At the time, he was living and working in New Mexico.

Following a complicated and drawn out mistrial in which her age during the period of contact was called into question, Superiaso ultimately settled with prosecutors in 2005 and pleaded no contest to six counts of lewd and lascivious acts against a child under 14. He acknowledged having sex 30-40 times with the girl.

Pardoning Superiaso would be a mistake, said Barbra Dorris, outreach director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.

"If you pardon a child molester, everything we know about them says he will continue to do that throughout his lifetime," Dorris said. "It isn't like he robbed a bank and maybe he won't rob another one."

Lisa Page, spokeswoman for Gov. Schwarzenegger, would not speculate on the likelihood Superiaso's request will be seriously considered. She confirmed that an application had been sent for him to fill out, but that it hadn't been returned yet.

Acosta said a letter of appeal has been mailed to President Obama. The White House did not respond to multiple inquiries regarding a possible pardon of Superiaso by presstime.

Superiaso is currently serving out his sentence in the California Rehabilitation Center in Norco.


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