St Peter's Basilica in the Vatican City
St Peter's Basilica in the Vatican City

A priest in the Philippines has been stripped of his post after he was caught driving with a 13-year-old girl to a hotel.

Arnel Fuentes Lagarejos, a parish priest at St John the Baptist Parish in Marikina, to the east of Manila, and president of Cainta Catholic College, is now facing allegations of child abuse.

He paid the girl 500 Philippine Pesos (£7.49) to meet her at a shopping centre and take her away.

The former priest was caught as part of an entrapment sting which had been called for by the girl's mother.

Concerns were raised when the girl informed social workers about the abuse and the mother called the authorities.

He now faces charges for violating the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act.

Officials used the girl's social media to find out that the person selling her to the priest was a 16-year-old.

The girl had been due to meet the priest for a third time and accused him of threatening her with a gun to warn her off other men.

The Diocese of Antipolo said in a statement: "The Diocese of Antipolo makes it clear that it will not in any way condone or abet the trafficking in persons, particularly of minors, nor protect the offenders from prosecution, and subsequent trial and punishment when evidence so warrants."

The fate of his religious future will rest with the Vatican.

The church in the Philippines will now collect evidence and testimonies before submitting it to officials in Rome.

Archbishop Emeritus Oscar Cruz, of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines, said: "But it does not mean he is guilty before proven innocent. He is innocent until proven guilty."

The church reiterated that there would be no cover-up throughout the investigation amid a series of sex scandals to rock the Catholic church in recent years.

"We shall, as a Diocese, continuously pray for renewal and conversion, for fidelity and for healing, just as we pray earnestly for the child and her family," it added.