Catholic priest victim of "irresponsible journalism"

Manila (AsiaNews) – Father Ignacio Sawey, a priest with the Missionaries of Jesus in the archdiocese of Baguio-Benguet, accused ABS-CBN, one of the Philippines main television networks, of "irresponsible journalism" for airing allegations of sexual assault made against him without giving him the right to reply and defend himself.

Last week the ABS-CBN news bulletin broadcast in prime time allegations made by Ms Elvy Inyaka in which she accused Father Sawey of sexual harassment.

Father Sawey reacted to the claims in an open letter sent to friends and associates including the Press Office of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines. In the letter he wrote: "Inyaka is an old friend. We grew up together in the same village. We had not seen each for over 20 years, but we met twice in January and February of this year."

In July the woman accused the priest of sexual harassment. Father Sawey immediately wrote to the judges denying the allegations. On the day of the court hearing Ms Inyaka failed to appear. Father Sawey is still puzzled as to why she would accuse him.

Apparently ABS-CBN got a copy of the summons and broadcast the information as another Church scandal. However, the network never afforded Father Sawey the opportunity to defend himself and clear his name.

"It is impossible to explain the distress this has caused me and my family," Father Sawey said. "Appearing on TV making such charges against someone is something that is destroying our dignity," he added. "All this is testing my faith in God, my family, relatives, and friends. In this moment of trial I need your love, understanding, and sound judgement to find the truth."

The day in which Father Sawey is alleged to have harassed Ms Inyaka he was giving a three day residential course to novices. Afterwards he went to the student training centre of his congregation's seminary.

"How could I have done such a criminal thing? God knows the purity of my conscience and heart. In the end He will be the judge of all this. He will preside over the court in which I shall not have to bring witnesses and present evidence. And He will know why this woman accused me. Truth shall win in the end and I shall be free."

Father Sawey accused the media of too often abusing the power they have. "If we don't act now, how many more people shall fall victim to them. Let us spare the Catholic Church from the mishaps caused by irresponsible media." (SE)

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