TACLOBAN CITY- Alleged victims of sexual abuse by an American priests previously assigned in Naval town, Biliran province, may just get their justice through the help of an American lawyer.
On Tuesday (March 19), McDonald Worley, an American lawyer based in Houston, Texas, came to Naval to personally interview nine of the victims of Fr. Kenneth Bernard Pius Hendricks who stand accused of sexual molestation of ‘several’ young boys who mostly served as his altar boys.
Hendricks served as a missionary priest in Barangay Talustosan, Naval since 1988 and was arrested by members of the Homeland Security of the United States, together with the personnel of the Bureau of Immigration and Deportation, and local police on December 5, 2018 inside the St. Isidore the Worker Chapel in said village.
The 77-year old priest is currently detained at the Regional Special Operation Unit of the National Capital Region Police Office in Quezon City and stand accused for acts of lasciviousness and child abuse under Republic Act 7610, or the ‘Special Protection of Children against Abuse, Exploitation, and Discrimination Act.
Worley, in a press conference Wednesday (March 20), said that he is not after the criminal liability of Hendricks but on civil aspect, particularly on seeking compensation to his young victims who are now on their early to late 20’s.
“I have nothing to do with the criminal aspect of the case. I just handle the civil side. So, it’s basically (collecting) money that has to be paid to the victims,” Worley said.
According to him, he is not getting any money as legal service fees from the victims though he expect to receive a percentage of what possible financial rewards that the jury would award to the case that he expects to last at least for three years.
The civil case will be filed by Worley in Cincinnati, Ohio where Hendricks came from.
Hendricks is also facing a federal crime as an American citizen for engaging in illicit sexual acts in a foreign country.
Worley said that he was able to get to know the ‘horrible’ stories of the victims through an American friend who lives in Manila who has a friend from Naval.
“I am sad that this happened which should never happened. This is embarrassing to me as someone from America came here in the Philippines and did something like this,” he said, alluding to Hendricks.
According to him, he got a sick feeling when he was interviewing nine of the sexual abuse victims of Hendricks, calling them ‘brave’ for speaking out.
“You have to understand that it’s very embarrassing to come forward and say that this thing happened to them and you don’t like the world to know that and you just want to forget about it,” Worley said.
“So it’s really brave for them and say ‘hey, this happened to me and I will say something and do something about it so they will not happen again to somebody else,” he added.
The American lawyer said that the narrations of the victims, who were seven and 12 years old at that time they were reportedly sexually abused by Hendricks, would serve as testimonies that he would use to pin down the disgraced priest.
“It’s basically testimonies as evidence ‘here’s what happened to me, here’s what happened to him’. It’s all testimony,” he said.
He also urged other alleged victims of Hendricks to come out and speak to ensure that their case will be strengthened further.
“I hope that they will come forward. The more witnesses, the more it will help the case and maybe help stop from happening to someone else,” Worley said.
Hendricks reportedly sexually abused around 50 children luring them with food, money and promised of sending them to school.
Worley said that after gathering the needed evidences, he would then file the case against Hendricks, to include the church which sent him to the Philippines.
Hendricks was a Franciscan missionary from Cincinnati, Ohio, USA.
But earlier, the Archdiocese of Cincinnati has denied that Hendricks belong to the archdiocese.
It said that the disgraced priest was ordained in the diocese of Naval and describing him as one of the 75 Franciscan missionaries who only received financial support from the Mission of Office of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati.