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His deeply religious homeland is no longer a safe haven for a Filipino ex-priest charged with sexual abuse in the United States. The Philippine Court of Appeals (CA) ordered the Philippine government to send Fernando Sayasaya — who was once a trusted parish priest in wintry Fargo, North Dakota — back to the United States to face sexual abuse charges filed by two brothers. It's just the latest incident in a global wave of prosecution of Catholic priests accused of sexual abuse, often by boys. In the Philippines, however, priests suspected of similar acts committed in the country have been nearly immune from similar treatment. In a sensational case last year, a priest took refuge in the bishop's residence in Butuan City after the priest was accused by his domestic helper of raping her.
Some sex scandals that rocked the Catholic Church In 2008, 15-year-old girl "Crystal" (not her real name) accused Father Gabriel Madangeng Jr. of raping her from August to December 2006. The girl filed five counts of rape and seven counts of acts of lasciviousness against the priest. Madangeng, a Leyte-based priest, also faced a similar accusation in 2010. A girl, 17 years old, claimed that he raped her a number of times starting in November 2009. The sexual abuse allegedly continued until February 2010. The priest denied the accusation and has since been re-assigned to another parish. Read moreCharges of sexual molestation over three years Sayasaya told his church superiors in the U.S. in 1998 that he would only vacation in the Philippines. But he has not returned to face the charges. In a decision penned by Associate Justice Amy C. Lazaro-Javier, the CA upheld a December 2010 order of the Manila Regional Trial Court to extradite Sayasaya. The Manila court earlier found probable cause to grant a request made by the Department of Justice (DOJ) on behalf of the US government to extradite Sayasaya for two counts of gross sexual imposition filed by brothers Hugo and Pablo Zamarron. The Zamarron brothers filed the case with the District Court in Cass County, North Dakota. The brothers alleged that Sayasaya molested them separately in their home and in church between 1995 and 1998. In December 1998, Sayasaya secured persmission from the Church to leave the United States to visit his relatives in the Philippines. He said he would return to the US in January 1999. However, he has since refused to leave the Philippines to face charges in the US. After the sexual abuse case was leveled against him, Sayasaya was placed by the Church under administrative leave in August 1998. He was later dismissed by the Vatican. The US government, through the DOJ, filed an extradition petition with the Manila court. Sayasaya opposed the petition, saying the evidence against him was not enough to establish probable cause. In its ruling, the CA denied Sayasaya's opposition, stressing the Philippine government's obligation not to allow criminals escaping to the Philippines to go unpunished. "Suppression of crimes is the concern not only of the state where it is committed but also of any other state to which the criminal may have escaped," the CA said. "On this score, we cannot allow our country to be a haven for fugitives, cowards, and weaklings who, instead of facing the consequences of their actions, choose to run and hide," it added. Sayasaya is not a unique case. Another US-based Filipino priest fled to the Philippines last October after child pornography was found in his laptop. He had also been accused of stealing from his Massachusetts parish. - VVP/HS, GMA News