Philippine devotees of the Roman Catholic Church attend the first of nine dawn masses signalling the official start of the Christmas season in suburban Manila on Dec 16, 2015. (JAY DIRECTO / AFP)
MANILA - Philipine law enforcement agents have arrested a 77-year-old American Catholic priest on a warrant for sex crimes issued by a court in the United States, a spokeswoman for immigration authorities said on Thursday.
Kenneth Bernard Hendricks is to be deported after Wednesday's arrest at his home in Naval on the remote central island of Biliran, where he has been a priest for 37 years, following complaints from dozens of children, she added.
The victims were in his house and the abuses were committed while he was taking a bath with each of them
Dana Krizia Sandoval, Philippine immigration authority spokeswoman
"We will not allow sexual predators to prey on our children," the spokeswoman, Dana Krizia Sandoval, said in a statement.
Hendricks, who has been indicted in Ohio for illicit sexual conduct in the Philippines, was arrested in a church in Naval town.
There was no immediate reaction from the US Embassy, Philippine Catholic Church officials or Hendricks, who was flown to Manila and detained in an immigration detention center.
"I am sad leaving this town," a handcuffed Hendricks told television after the arrest, but he made no mention of the case.
The move followed a request by the US Department of Homeland Security after Hendricks was indicted for engaging in illicit sexual conduct in foreign places, said Bobby Raquepo, who heads the immigration bureau's fugitive search unit.
A 12-year-old was among the roughly 50 children from Biliran who provided statements to a court in Ohio, he added.
The suspect allegedly abused seven victims, who served mostly as altar boys in Naval, in 50 counts of molestation in his residence in a case that's "both shocking and appalling," Sandoval said.
"The victims were in his house and the abuses were committed while he was taking a bath with each of them," Sandoval said by telephone. US authorities provided information about the alleged sexual assaults to the Philippine government, she said.
The victims were reportedly warned they would be locked up in jail if they told anyone about the abuses, she said.
"Several of his victims have come forward with their statements," Sandoval said.
Hendricks is "a fugitive from justice that poses a risk to public safety and security," Sandoval said. "We will not allow sexual predators to prey on our children. People like him must be kicked out and banned from the Philippines."
HONG KONG NEWS