Priest facing rape charges to be investigated by Church panel; alleged rape victim, 18, undergoing therapy

( Fr. Raul Cabonce is set to face a Church committee investigating rape allegations made against him by a former house help of St. Anne Convent in Tubay, reports ABS-CBN News. According to the 18-year-old victim, "Leah," she was 17 when she was molested and raped by the priest inside the convent. Cabonce, however, denied the accusations.

According to GMA News, Leah alleged she was first groped by the priest in September last year before she was repeatedly sexually assaulted on February 27, March 3 and 14 of this year, with rape supposedly taking place on the last date. Cabonce, who has reportedly sought refuge in the Bishop’s residence in Butuan City, earlier maintained his innocence: "I categorically deny allegations of rape hurled against me... Please check the background of the family of the victim first before judging me," the priest said in a radio interview in July.

According to ABS-CBN News, Leah is currently in the custody of the women’s rights group Gabriela. "Dalawang bagay ang kailangang gawin ni (Butuan Bishop Juan de Dios) Pueblos, ang isuko si Fr. Cabonce sa mga kinauukulan para harapin ang mga kasong kriminal na isinampa laban sa kanya, at kagyat na simulan ang paglilitis kay Fr. Cabonce sa ilalim ng Church Tribunal (Butuan Bishop Juan de Dios Puebles should do two things: Surrender Fr. Cabonce to the authorities so he can face the criminal charges and investigate Fr. Cabonce under the Church Tribunal)," said Gabriela Secretary-General Lana Linaban. Pueblos, who has yet to reveal the suspect’s whereabouts, has formed a committee to study the case. Meanwhile, a separate GMA News report stated that the victim is undergoing daily psychological therapy.

For more on this story, log on to ABS-CBN News and GMA News.

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