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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Friday, February 21, 2003

Dismissed priest fails to report in Philippines

By Timothy Hurley
Advertiser Maui County Bureau


When the Rev. Roberto Batoon was kicked out of the Diocese of Honolulu last month for admitting to sexual misconduct with a minor, he was instructed by Bishop Francis X. DiLorenzo to return to his diocese in the Philippines to face possible further action.

Three weeks later, he has yet to show up, according to an official with the Diocese of Laoag.

Laoag Chancellor Ian Rabigo said yesterday that Batoon has not reported for duty and he has no idea where he may be.

Diocese of Honolulu officials said they don't exactly know where he is, either, except to confirm he caught a flight home to the Philippines the day after his removal was announced to his three Moloka'i congregations Jan. 26.

Patrick Downes, Diocese of Honolulu spokesman, said a fax was sent to Laoag asking for an update on the matter, and word was received Tuesday that the bishop there was still waiting to meet with Batoon.

Honolulu Roman Catholic officials said Batoon, who served in Hawai'i parishes since 1997, had admitted to the substance of the accusations. The alleged misconduct occurred while he was serving the Diocese of Laoag in northern Luzon Island.

Before taking over as administrator of the three churches on Moloka'i in August 2001, Batoon was associate pastor at Our Lady of Good Counsel in Pearl City from 1997 to 1999, and at Our Lady of Perpetual Help in 'Ewa Beach from 1999 to 2001.

Reasons for Batoon's removal were announced at each of his former Hawai'i parishes as well, to encourage people to come forward if they know of any other allegations against Batoon.

But Downes said yesterday that no allegations have been made against Batoon in Hawai'i.

At the time of his dismissal, Honolulu Director of Clergy Gary Secor, who is chairman of the diocese's standing committee for sexual misconduct, said DiLorenzo instructed Batoon to return to his diocese in the Philippines to meet with his bishop.

Downes said DiLorenzo personally stressed to Laoag Bishop Ernesto Salgado the seriousness of the allegations, the fact that Batoon would no longer be allowed to be a priest in Hawai'i and urged him to follow up on the matter.

If Batoon had admitted to such conduct here, he would not only be stripped of his capacity to be a priest, Downes said, but the case would be referred to police for criminal investigation. He said he did not know how the case would be handled in the Philippines.

Rabigo said that if and when Batoon reports for duty, he would be removed from duties while the matter is investigated.

On a personal note, Rabigo said he was surprised and shocked by what has happened to his colleague. He said he visited Batoon in Hawai'i three years ago, and Batoon seemed to be well liked by his parishioners.

"It's so sad, really,'' Rabigo said.

Meanwhile, another priest from the Philippines, Antonio Manligues, has been assigned interim administrator of the Moloka'i Catholic Community through February. Manligues will then be assigned to the diocese's Ethnic Ministry office, Downes said.