A case of clerical child rape

Manila Times [Manila, Philippines]

January 15, 2023

By Fr. Shay Cullen

THE many incidents of child sexual abuse by clerics have shamed thousands of good bishops and priests who have been justly angered by the rampant and tolerated child sexual abuse of pedophile priests and some bishops. They feel helpless when their bishop protects the pedophile priest and calls him “his son.” They hunger for justice for the victims and wish to exonerate their own vocation and blemished priesthood.

Church law now says every act of sexual abuse against a child is not only a heinous crime in civil law but is a violation of church law. (www.preda.org) Bishops have been scolded by Pope Francis for covering up child abuse cases among their priests instead of reaching out to help the victims, find them therapy, healing and justice. Instead, they try to buy off the child-victim and the family with money and promises. This is what happened in a case in Cagayan province, northern Philippines, in 2022 outlined below.

Pope Francis says child abuse by a cleric is “a profound wound that cries out for healing.” The latest wound that is being suffered by a child (call her Angelica, not her real name) happened when she was 15 years of age. She complained of being raped and sexually assaulted many times by a priest, Karole Reward Ubina Israel, 29, assistant parish priest in the Parish of St. Vincent Ferrer in Solana, Cagayan.

According to court records, the Catholic priest, of the Diocese of Tuguegarao, was arrested in the act of committing a crime of child seduction and abuse on Oct. 18, 2022, in a rescue and arrest operation planned and approved by lawyer Hector Eduard Geologo, regional director of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), Cagayan Valley. The rescue and arrest were done by lawyer-NBI agent Jonimar Tongdo and his team with the cooperation of the child’s parents.

Angelica, now 16, was a member of the parish youth group helping in the church. Father Israel was their director with moral ascendancy and authority over them, and they trusted him. Then 15 years old, she was invited out by Karole Israel on February 8 for dinner. According to her, he blindfolded her and drove to Aparri, Cagayan. At 2 a.m. the next morning, when they arrived back in Solana, he started molesting her, touching her private parts and kissing her. She was shocked and got out of the car and ran all the way home. She was frightened and afraid to tell her parents lest they would not believe her and blame her for lying and making serious accusations against an influential member of the clergy who are like gods in the rural towns.

According to a resolution of the prosecutor, the priest used his influence and authority and through texting demanded Angelica to meet him again for him to apologize for what happened. When she went to the church, he pushed her into the car and drove to the King’s Man Hotel in Tuguegarao City, and there he raped her. He secretly took videos of the sexual intercourse on his cell phone and sent them to her and threatened to expose them on social media if she would tell anyone or if she refused to obey his commands and have sex with him. He made the child his sex slave. He used vile language when he threatened to destroy her and her family if she told anyone. He raped her many more times even on Holy Thursday in different places — in the King’s Man Hotel, in the car, in the school, in a memorial park.

Angelica was traumatized with fear of punishment, exposure and disgrace. She was depressed and attempted to kill herself three times but hid her pain and suffering. Angelica’s teachers, John Michael Bassig and Maria Christina de Asis, got a message from a friend of Angelica saying she was depressed and suicidal. They talked with her and Angelica found the courage to finally overcome fear and threats and told her teachers how the priest Karole Israel had molested, raped and blackmailed her. Then, they helped her tell her parents.

They immediately contacted the NBI and they planned a meeting between Angelica and the cleric, and he was arrested in his car as he attempted to abuse Angelica again. He was held in detention after the inquest proceedings. He surrendered his cell phone and on it there are videos, evidence of blackmail and sexual abuse, and threats. In addition, there are sworn statements, six clips of sex videos, recorded audio calls and screenshots of conversations whereby the accused demanded the child to go with him. These were filed with a formal complaint to prosecutor Kathleen Joy Ruiz Zuniega, who wisely and judicially weighed the evidence and found probable cause, and sent it to the court. Israel was released from jail when granted bail of P183,000.

The second set of charges, multiple rape and sexual assault and video voyeurism — 18 in all — were made by regular filing. These charges of qualified rape and multiple counts of rape and sexual assault are the content of the powerfully detailed resolution of Assistant City Prosecutor Kristine Marallag-Ave and approved by City Prosecutor Jessie Usita on Dec. 27, 2022. The rape charges are non-bailable.

In his counter-affidavit, the defendant, Karole Reward Israel, denied all the charges and insisted that he and the child were lovers. She was a happy, cheerful child, and it was sex with consent. He asked the prosecutor to disallow the video evidence. That request was denied. The carefully crafted and detailed resolution of the prosecutor pointed out, among many other things, that that sexual acts against the will of a vulnerable child under the moral ascendancy of the priest, even if they were so-called lovers, which they were not, are still heinous crimes of child rape. The recorded voice message of the priest to the victim where he was repeatedly cursing her in vile abusive language shows she was under his total control.

The acts were done under threats, blackmail and intimidation and so prosecutor Kristine Marallag-Ave, to her credit, resolved that there is probable cause and will likely elevate the information to the court. We now await the opening of the trial where the child victim and other witnesses will give testimony.

Since then, Fr. Rino Guaring, most likely on behalf of the Diocese of Tuguegarao, and relatives of Fr. Israel went to the house of Angelica and offered to settle the case out of court and promised money and a college education if she withdrew her complaints. The victim and her family refused and demanded justice. The parents then contacted the Preda Foundation in writing, asking for help and assistance.

Readers who know of an abused child may contact me at 09228768621 or shaycullen@gmail.com confidentially and share essential information such as the name of the victim, age and whereabouts.