Police in Philippines arrest priest for rape

Union of Catholic Asian News (UCA News) [Hong Kong]

March 31, 2023

By UCA News reporter

Philippine police have arrested a 62-year-old Catholic priest accused of raping a 17-year-old choir girl a year ago when he was her parish priest.

Father Conrado Mantac was arrested at his residence in Negros Occidental province in the Western Visayas region on March 29, police said.

The arrest came after the girl’s parents complained to police that Mantac molested their daughter last year when he served as parish priest in Sagay City.

A police official said the charge against Mantac is a non-bailable offense, so he must remain behind bars pending trial.

“He did not resist the arrest. Perhaps, he knew it was forthcoming because he was given a chance to dispute the rape allegations at the prosecutor level,” Sergeant Paul Gaspar, a member of the police team that arrested the priest, told UCA News.

Gaspar said the prosecutor found “probable cause” that Mantac committed rape against the minor in 2022 on several occasions.

“Everyone in the parish respected him so no one dared question his actions,” Gaspar added.

Mantac is reportedly looking for a lawyer for his defense in court.

“His relatives are being careful because the case is very sensitive. Even lawyers do not want to immediately defend a child molester … but at the same time he is a priest, a respected man in Philippine society,” Michael Viray, one of the priest’s parishioners from Sagay City, told UCA News.

Viray said parishioners never suspected Mantac would commit rape although they noticed he was always “close to youths.”

“He would feed them during rehearsals. Sometimes he even attends choir practices. He emphasized the role of the youth in the Church and how parents should be taking care of them because they are the future of the Catholic Church,” Viray added.

Meanwhile, a relative of the victim said the parents were shocked by the crime, so they sought legal action.

“They’re devout Catholics, especially the mother who’s a member of various organizations in the parish. But they pressed charges because they couldn’t believe a Catholic priest would commit such a grave crime against their daughter,” the victim’s uncle, who wished to remain anonymous, told UCA News.

“There is no room for forgiveness now but certainly even if they forgive Father Mantac, they will let the justice and the legal process take its course,” he added.

The priest’s San Carlos diocese issued a statement promising full cooperation with police and justice authorities in the case.

“We have been consistent in our teachings and advocacy against any form of sexual abuse of children, women, and vulnerable persons, and such crimes committed by any person, and especially priests or religious cannot be tolerated,” Bishop Gerardo Alminaza of San Carlos said in the March 29 statement.

“This is a grave crime which contradicts the office of the priesthood,” Alminaza said.

He said the diocese suspended the priest when a complaint was registered last December, the Daily Inquirer reported.

The prelate said he “deeply feels” the suffering of the victim and her family, and the diocese will assist them with support and protection.

Alminaza, however, appealed to Catholics to suspend their judgment as Mantac has the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty.

Children’s rights group, Coalition against Pedophilia, said it welcomes the bishop’s statement but cast doubts on whether justice will be done for the crime.

“There is no priest in the Philippines who has gone to jail because of rape. No one. All victims chose to settle or get paid,” Marilyn Castro, the group’s secretary, told UCA News.