Woman Molested by Pinoy Priest Receives $500,000 Settlement

By Katrina Romero
December 17, 2007

Twenty-three years after being sexually abused by seven different Catholic priests, including a Filipino American priest at a Carson parish, a Southern California woman received a $500,000 settlement from the Archdiocese of Los Angeles on Dec. 4.

Decades after Rita Milla's 1984 confession of sexual encounters unfolded a series of confessions from others alleging abuse by priests, the Church is in the midst of a $600,000 settlement to victims.

Rita Milla said she was working for the rectory when she was seduced by Filipino priest Santiago Tamayo at a Carson parish when she was 16 years old.

"He just leaned over and kissed me," she said in a news report.

That act soon led to intercourse after she turned 18, and it wasn't long before he introduced her to six other priests, all of whom sexually abused her, she said. It didn't stop until she became pregnant by priest Valentine Tugade. Tamayo initially encouraged her to have an abortion and then convinced her to go to the Philippines to have the child, under the premise that she was studying there. According to news reports, Milla said she nearly died giving birth.

Attempts to get help from the church were left disregarded, as the church ignored her pleas for help. Milla said Tugade refused to have anything to do with her or their daughter Jacqueline, now 25.

"He was disappointed actually that she wasn't a boy," she said. Milla has had little contact with Tugade, who was last known to be living in Fremont, California. On the other hand, Tamayo, who went to the Philippines after the Archidiocese convinced him to remain there and paid him checks, returned to the States and publicly apologized to Milla before his death in 1999.

Milla, who had initially wanted to become a nun, said the whole ordeal scarred her, causing her to lose her faith in God.

"It was horrible, because that was my whole identity," she told the L.A. Times. "It was like…ripped away from me. I felt like I was nothing for so many years."


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.