Philippines to deport Catholic priest wanted for child sex abuse in US

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In this Dec. 5, 2018 photo released by the Bureau of Immigration Public Information Office, American Roman Catholic priest Rev. Kenneth Bernard Hendricks poses for his mugshot at the Bureau of Immigration in Manila. (Bureau of Immigration PIO via AP)
In this Dec. 5, 2018 photo released by the Bureau of Immigration Public Information Office, American Roman Catholic priest Rev. Kenneth Bernard Hendricks poses for his mugshot at the Bureau of Immigration in Manila. (Bureau of Immigration PIO via AP)

Philippine 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.

"We will not allow sexual predators to prey on our children," the spokeswoman, Dana Krizia Sandoval, said in a statement.

Hendricks was flown back to Manila, the capital, where the U.S. embassy is taking steps to enable his deportation to face charges in the U.S. state of Ohio, she added.

"I am sad leaving this town," a handcuffed Hendricks told television after the arrest, but he made no mention of the case.

The church suspended Hendricks from his priestly duties after opening a formal inquiry more than a month ago, said Father John Estina of the Catholic diocese in Biliran, adding that it had cooperated with civil authorities.

"We will not tolerate those kind of activities," Estina told Reuters by telephone, saying the investigation began after religious authorities were told of the accusations.

The priest, a native of Cincinnati, faces criminal complaints in the Philippines, he added.

The move followed a request by the U.S. 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 an Ohio court, he added.

Meanwhile, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday again attacked Roman Catholic bishops in the country, saying they should all be killed because they are useless.

Duterte, who has repeatedly criticized the Catholic church and its leaders in the Philippines, said that while he believes in God, bishops are fools.

"I couldn't have made it in life ... without God," he said. "But your bishops, kill them. They have no use, they are fools. All they do is criticize."

The 73-year-old president added that his God "has a lot of common sense" compared to the "stupid" god of the Catholic bishops.

"I never said I was an atheist," he told an award ceremony for child-friendly municipalities and cities. "The presidency is a god-given gift. I am sure god would not have given me the position if I was bullshit."

The Philippines is Asia's largest predominantly Catholic country, with more than 80 per cent of the population practising the religion.

Duterte has repeatedly lashed out at priests and bishops for allegations of corruption and sexual abuse, which he has alleged he was a victim of when he was a school pupil in Davao City.

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