MANILA — An aged American priest has been arrested by United States Homeland Safety brokers on expenses that he sexually assaulted no less than seven Filipino altar boys within the rural central Philippines, the place he has ministered for many years.

The suspect, Rev. Kenneth Bernard Hendricks, 77, was arrested Wednesday within the city of Naval, an impoverished neighborhood in Biliran Province, mentioned Dana Krizia Sandoval, a spokeswoman for the immigration bureau of the Philippines.

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Rev. Kenneth Bernard Hendricks, 77, has been dwelling within the Philippines for 37 years, principally in the identical rural space.Credit scoreBureau of Immigration Public Info Workplace, through Related Press

“We obtained data from U.S. authorities relating to the alleged sexual exploitation of a number of minor Filipino boys by Hendricks,” Ms. Sandoval mentioned. “A number of of his victims have come ahead with their statements.”

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Ms. Sandoval mentioned “no less than seven kids have come ahead, however our sources estimate no less than 50 circumstances have been unreported.”

Operatives from the immigration bureau’s Fugitive Search Unit joined with the nationwide police and Homeland Safety brokers in making the arrest, which shocked residents locally of 50,000.

“Hendricks allegedly sexually assaulted quite a lot of boys dwelling in his residence,” Ms. Sandoval mentioned, including that the priest allegedly informed the boys that he can be imprisoned if the authorities realized of his conduct.

“It’s stunning and appalling,” she added. “I’m horrified studying the costs towards him. We is not going to permit sexual predators to prey on our youngsters.”

The priest allegedly ordered the boys to take baths with him and molested them both one on one or with different boys, she mentioned.

The priest was the topic of an arrest warrant issued by a court docket in Ohio, Ms. Sandoval added.

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Mr. Hendricks has been dwelling within the Philippines for 37 years, principally in the identical space, working first as a Franciscan brother earlier than he was ordained into the priesthood, in line with individuals who knew him.

“The allegations got here as a shock,” mentioned Rolando Borrinaga, a neighborhood historian, who as soon as labored as an altar boy and knew the priest. “I used to be saddened as a result of on a regular basis that I’ve recognized him he has been good friend and priest.”

The Catholic Bishops’ Convention of the Philippines mentioned it was conscious of the arrest, nevertheless it has not issued an announcement. However the arrest of Mr. Hendricks might be utilized by President Rodrigo Duterte as ammunition towards the church.

Mr. Duterte, who says he was molested by a priest when he was a baby, seized on the arrest Wednesday to renew his frequent assaults on the church. He asserted that such abuses had been widespread within the faith.

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“Probably the most hypocritical establishment in the complete Philippines is the Catholic Church and the pope is aware of that,” he informed labor officers throughout a speech on the presidential palace within the capital, Manila, wherein he assailed native bishops.

The Philippines is predominantly Catholic and the church retains sturdy affect within the nation. It has led anti-Duterte protests calling for a halt to his struggle on medicine, which has left hundreds lifeless.

Mr. Duterte’s assaults on the church come as clergymen within the nation have come underneath at occasions violent assaults. Not less than three Catholic clergymen have been killed by unknown gunmen since early this 12 months after having spoken out towards extrajudicial killings carried out within the identify of the drug struggle.

The nation’s Fee on Human Rights warned on Thursday that the president’s statements “might embolden the violence towards clergymen and different non secular individuals.”

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