'Secret' Tribunal to Decide on Fate of Priest in Double-Rape Charge

By Florence F. Hibionada
News Today [Philippines]
February 26, 2007

Fellow priests of Fr. Martin Alarcon alongside a group of other lay ministers will decide whether he deserves another chance and continue to be part of the Clergy or cease to be one.

Named sole respondent in two counts of rape pending before the Iloilo Provincial Prosecutors' Office, Alarcon has been 'stripped' of Pastoral assignments amidst the controversy generated by the sex charges. He may, however, say mass albeit on a "private capacity" while told not to report for Church duties.

This, as Jaro Archbishop Angel Lagdameo disclosed the creation and ongoing investigation done by the Archdiocesan Tribunal, identities of the members withheld for propriety reasons. The Tribunal's probe results will serve as basis for Archbishop Lagdameo to ultimately rule on Fr. Alarcon's fate saying "I am waiting for its conclusion in order that I, as shepherd, may act in the best interest of truth and justice."

With no deadline revealed for the Tribunal in as far as resolution of the case on hand is concerned, the investigation will work around the premise and guidelines set by the Canon Law and the Pastoral Guidelines on Sexual Abuses and Misconduct by Clergy.

This is the first rape case for the Jaro Archdiocese and the last, if they can just have their way.

Only on his seventh year, Fr. Alarcon's most recent task was with the Carles Parish Church in Carles, Iloilo serving as assistant Parish Priest here. Locals reached by The News Today (TNT) similarly expressed shock and sadness over Alarcon's plight with the prevailing sentiment of disbelief on the supposed love affair he had with the 25 year-old accuser. As such, the rape charges came as "double-disbelief" with the parishioners saying they want a speedy resolution to the case.

The beleaguered priest remained out of media's reach yet the Archdiocese in a press conference Friday officially addressed the issue acknowledging that Alarcon's plight has "saddened" them while adding, "one thing we assure you, we have taken the matter seriously."

"We did not want this to happen," Reverend Father Excel Jaen, spokesperson for Archbishop Lagdameo said in a written statement. "As much as possible, we don't want this to happen again."

In the entire exchange with the local media, Fr. Jaen appeared somber while letting Fr. Philipp Niel Antenor-Cruz and woman lawyer, Cynette Lovelyn Mirasol address reporters present.

From Fr. Alarcon's whereabouts to the details that transpired in the supposed "peace talks" with the accused priest's self-confessed lover, Fr. Antenor-Cruz and Mirasol, counsel for the "Church process" provided direct answers.

"We are here to protect the rights of both involved," Fr. Antenor-Cruz stressed while adding that the incident has since caused them to make some reflections, re-examinations and formation of yet more measures that will provide the Church the "opportunity to grow."

Mirasol for her part explained that her role in the "Church process" primarily involved her assistance in drafting the letter-complaint to the Archdiocese. Said move was needed in order for an 'in-house' investigation to be made. Yet as said woman lawyer clarified, whatever statements were made by Fr. Alarcon's accuser remains a privileged communication.

And no 'character-statements' please, Mirasol replied when asked about Fr. Alarcon's reputation from within his peers saying such might affect the outcome of the case.

Meantime, an appeal for prudence and sensitivity from the media was also made by Fr. Antenor-Cruz amidst heightened media interest generated by the supposed forbidden love affair of the two involved.

Regan Arlos, RMN 774 reporter, sought clarification on the reported plan to ex-communicate network reporters following the intense news coverage and story follow-ups made on Alarcon's case.

"It is more of an illusion than a reality," Fr. Antenor-Cruz replied in jest.


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