What else should I say, all apologies

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Wednesday, July 9, 2014

IT'S been four days since the video clip of a priest berating a 17-year-old unwed mother had gone viral on Facebook. As I write this, it has close to 43,000 shares and 12,500 likes.

Fr. Romeo Obach (pronounced Obak) has issued two letters of apology. The first one was addressed to the public and written in English and issued last Tuesday (July 8), or two days after the Facebook post and a public outcry.

It was released to journalists who sought out the priest at the Redemptorist Church in Jagobiao, Mandaue City. The congregation's media liaison, Fr. Alfonso Suico, addressed the questions from reporters. Fr. Obach was not present.


The second one came yesterday. It was addressed to the teener, handwritten in Cebuano and handcarried to her by a friend of her mother. It was dated July 8.

The girl's family lives not far from the church. Her mother is a barangay tanod of Jagobiao and her father, an ambulance driver of Eversley Childs Sanitarium, located in Jagobiao. They hear mass at the Sacred Heart Chapel run by the Redemptorist priests.

Fr. Obach issued the letter of public apology not upon the prodding of the girl and her family. Whether it was public pressure or remorse that compelled him to write the letter is anyone's guess. Copies of this letter were given along with a public statement of the Redemptorist Community on the incident.

He wrote the girl a separate letter, by hand. He signed it "Fr. Oming Obach," not "Fr. Romeo Obach," like they were friends. He wrote words of contrition and expressed openness to meet with the girl and apologize to her in person.

Like I said, the girl and her family live not far from the Redemptorist church. Fr. Obach, who has been suspended from saying mass pending investigation, could have gone to their house and apologize. This would be an act of sincerity and a show of contrition.

The girl's mother had gone to see him last Tuesday, just before noon. They talked, cried and hugged as the priest sought forgiveness for his words and actions at the baptismal rites. News reporters learned of the meeting from the mother.

The mother said the family has no plans of bringing the matter to court. They are true
Christians, the mother said in interviews, and have forgiven Fr. Obach. Besides, they do not have the resources for a legal course.

As for her daughter, the girl said Fr. Obach cannot solicit her forgiveness at this time.

"Grabe kaayo ang torture sa akong hunahuna," she said. He said many more hurtful things to her that were not captured on video by her younger sister. Her mother posted the video clip on Facebook.

The girl had tried to end her life when she found out was pregnant and that her then boyfriend, 21 years old, had abandoned her. Fr. Obach was not aware of this when she offered her baby to the Christian world through him. He saw a young girl who had committed a promiscuous act, triggering his tirade against premarital sex.

The girl has been telling reporters that she'd like to know why Fr. Obach acted that way towards her and only by understanding can she forgive him. The girl is still overwhelmed by the current events in her life and needs to be assured that the world is not all that bad and hopeless.

In an interview yesterday with Sun.Star Cebu's Kevin Lagunda, the mother said only a personal apology to her daughter can make her delete the video clip she posted on Facebook. She said she didn't know it would go viral.

By posting it, she showed the world the humiliation her daughter suffered in the hands of a priest. And by posting it, Fr. Obach suffered the humiliation of public castigation.

As I end this piece, the post had 43,290 shares and 12,699 likes.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on July 10, 2014.


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