Parish Priest Defended, Hit

Sun.Star [Philippines]
February 14, 2006

A member of the Cebu Provincial Board (PB) denied that politics had something to do with the filing of a rape complaint against the parish priest in Maslog, Danao City.

PB Member Agnes Magpale, who heads the committee on women and children, said yesterday that the 18-year-old woman was brought to her office by the dean of her school.

She referred her to the Children's Legal Bureau, Ecpat and the Provincial Women's Commission.

"Padre, niingon baya ang Ginoo nga di ta mamakak and please don't link this to the landfill because we are considering another place for the landfill (Father, God said that we should not lie)," said Magpale, who represents the fifth district where Danao City belongs.

Maslog has been identified as the site of the Integrated Solid Waste Management Facility for 13 northern towns and cities.

Fr. Jose Belciņa has spoken out against the sanitary landfill in his homilies.

Magpale, however, said that they are also looking at the possibility of putting up the facility in a coastal area because the wastes from other places will be transported by barge.

"Rape is an entirely different issue," the PB member said.

Belciņa, in interviews with different local media, has denied the woman's allegations.

The Danao City Prosecutor's Office also asked the priest to submit his counter-affidavit.

The rape complaint was filed last Friday.

Some parishioners in Maslog have expressed their support for Belciņa and have asked him to stay on, after the priest announced last Sunday that he is going to take a leave.

Cebu Archdiocesan media liaison officer Msgr. Achilles Dakay said it is good that Belciņa's side is also heard.

The investigating team that Cebu Archbishop Ricardo Cardinal Vidal created to look into the case met yesterday but the proceedings will be kept confidential until probe is completed.

Presbyteral Council secretary Msgr. Roberto "Boy" Alesna heads the team, with Bishop Vicente Manuel and Msgr. Cayetano Gelbolingo as members.

Alesna, in a radio dyLA interview yesterday, said they are willing to help the woman who accused Belciņa of raping her in three separate occasions inside his room at the convent.

The archdiocese, Dakay said, has offered Belciņa a lawyer but the priest has not asked for legal assistance just yet.

The woman's aunt and the woman's boyfriend came to the defense of the priest yesterday.

Benita Ruiz, 44, said it is difficult to believe that Belciņa could have raped her niece last July 22 because the priest was in Manila to prepare for his trip to Germany.

On the Dec. 25, the second time the alleged rape took place, Ruiz told Superbalita that there too many visitors at the convent for the Christmas party for the priest to have a chance to abuse her niece.

Justine Makaluluoy, 20, also said that his girlfriend should have told him about the rape before bringing the case to the lawyers.

Although the Children's Legal Bureau helped the 18-year-old with her affidavit-complaint, lawyer Joan Saniel said the woman did not ask for their legal assistance.

Saniel also said that she only learned that the complaint was filed by lawyer Yvonne Artiaga through the media.

Speculations that politics was involved in the case came up after it was reported that the woman went to PB Member Magpale for help.

But Magpale said the choice of Maslog as site for the sanitary landfill is not yet final.

Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office chief Glen Baricuatro also said that the technical working group of the Integrated Solid Waste Management Facility is considering other sites in northern Cebu.

These areas still need approval from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and must go through feasibility study and social engineering.

The Province has formed a northern cluster composed of 13 of towns and cities in the north that will benefit from the landfill because these areas have the biggest bulk of wastes compared to other parts of the Province.

Maslog Barangay Captain Josefina Quiros was quoted in a dyLA report as saying that in a recent barangay consultation, only a few residents expressed opposition to the project, while majority wanted it implemented as soon as possible.

She said that after getting the general sentiment of the residents the barangay council passed a resolution endorsing the project.

PB Member Victor Maambong, who heads the committee on environment, is urging local officials of Carcar and other first district towns to also offer to host a sanitary landfill in the south, just like what Danao City did. (MBG/JGA/AIV/DPS of Superbalita)


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