An American priest was arrested in the central Philippines on suspicion of sexually molesting dozens of children, many of them altar boys, the immigration bureau said Wednesday.
Father Kenneth Bernard Hendricks, a 78-year-old member of the Catholic clergy, was picked up at the Isidore the Worker Chapel in Naval, a town in Biliran province, officials said. Filipino immigration agents and officers from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security made the arrest, according to a Philippine official.
All of the alleged victims were Filipinos, Bureau of Immigration spokeswoman Dana Sandoval told BenarNews.
“He would allegedly insist they take baths together and molest his victims alone or with other boys,” Sandoval said.
Hendricks is suspected of molesting some 50 youths, according to a charge sheet filed against him. Several of the boys allegedly came forward and provided complaints and statements to the police.
“Kids were allegedly residing with him,” Sandoval said. “Additional criminal charges are expected to be filed against him apart from his deportation charge.”
Senior Supt. Julius Coyme, the provincial police director, said U.S. federal agents had approached local authorities last week before the arrest was made on Tuesday.
“He was inside the church when arrested by the personnel of the U.S. Homeland Security and local police,” Coyme said.
The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines did not immediately issue a comment, when contacted by BenarNews.
The priest’s arrest stunned friends and acquaintances in Naval, who had described Hendricks as a quiet American who had been helping the town’s many impoverished families.
A long-time friend of his, local historian Rolando Borrinaga who has known Hendricks for decades, said he was “shocked and saddened” by the arrest.
“He has been of good standing all these years that I have known him,” Borrinaga told BenarNews. “In fact, I only knew about the allegations of sexual molestation on the same day that this was flashed on television.”
He said Hendricks was a long-time Franciscan brother based in the central Philippines, before he became a priest. The last time that the friends spoke was two years ago, Borrinaga said.
“There was nothing amiss. I do not believe the allegations against him,” said Borrinaga, himself a former altar boy.
Jeoffrey Maitem in Cotabato, Philippines contributed to this report.