US BASED-PINOY PRIEST CHARGED WITH RAPE
A Filipino Catholic priest had been charged in Philadelphia, USA, after raping a teenage girl and filming the sexual harassment.
According to court records, the Rev. Armand Garcia, most recently of St. Martin of Tours Parish in the city’s Summerdale section, surrendered to Philadelphia police Monday — a year after the investigation of his conduct emerged into public scrutiny.
Though investigated, the records of the priest and of his crime five years ago remained intangible.
A spokesperson for the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office refused to comment on the case, and on expounding court records detailing the basis for the charges were not yet available, according to Philly.com who had first full report of the priest’s criminal charge.
Other sources meanwhile, who were familiar with the investigation said the charges began from Garcia’s relationship with an altar girl at Immaculate Heart Parish in Roxborough. The investigators believed that he had sexual contact when she was still 16, though no further details were disclosed.
Garcia, now 49, allegedly had made her drunk, to the extent of drugging her with marijuana
during encounters over a period of years in the parish rectory. The assault ranged also in his living quarters, and other locations, according to the sources of Philly.
The specific count of rape with which Garcia stems from an alleged incident in August 2014, according to court filings. His accuser came forward after he had been transferred to St. Martin of Tours in Summerdale in 2017.
Garcia’s lawyer, William J. Brennan, defended what he described as his client’s otherwise unblemished record in more than a decade serving at various schools and parishes across the Philadelphia region.
“He’s been a priest for a long time, and is still a fully ordained Roman Catholic priest,” Brennan said Tuesday. “This is the only whiff of trouble that I’m aware of.”
Garcia’s arrest timely came as the Catholic Church grapples with the biggest sexual allegations it had ever faced: the priests molesting nuns in the clergy for a series of not only years—but decades.
Church officials, including the pope himself have worked to assure the faithful that they are serious about “cleaning the house” of all known abusers. In the Philippines, President Rodrigo Duterte himself had been distant with the Catholic church, by which most of the times, strikes them with curses and fierce rhetoric, also claiming abuses that he even himself had endured when he was young.
Ordained in 2005, Garcia had passed a background check and had attended child protection-training programs that the Archdiocese of Philadelphia requires for all priests, said archdiocesan spokesperson Kenneth Gavin. He added that Archbishop Charles J. Chaput suspended Garcia and notified parishioners at St. Martin of Tours and Immaculate Heart a year ago as soon as he learned of the allegations that eventually led to the Filipino priest’s arrest.
Since then, Garcia has lived in a private residence in Aston, Delaware County. His ministry has been restricted and the archdiocese is not contributing to his legal bills, Gavin said. Garcia’s name and photo have been removed from parish websites and that of the National Association of Filipino Priests, an organization for which Garcia had served as a regional representative.
“These charges are serious and disturbing,” Gavin said. “The Archdiocese is cooperating fully with law enforcement regarding this matter and remains fervently committed to preventing child abuse.”
Garcia is the first priest whom the Philadelphia authorities have charged with sexual misconduct since the conclusion of a 2011 grand jury investigation that led to prosecution of five priests and the archdiocese’s former secretary for clergy, Msgr. William J. Lynn, who is awaiting retrial on charges that he endangered children by covering up for the abusive priests and their actions.
Only two of those cases resulted in sex-crime convictions. Brennan, who represented the two of priests of the five convicted at the trials that ended with hopeless juries, said that the outcome of those cases should give observers a pause before they rush to judgment.
“The allegations in those cases were very troubling, as is this one,” he said. “But in those cases, there weren’t convictions. We should all remember that everyone is innocent until proven guilty.”
On Monday, Garcia was released via a $250,000 bond. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for March 14.