FBI fugitive Ilonggo priest surrenders to NBI

By Florence F. Hibionada/PNS

Ilonggo Catholic priest, Reverend Father Lowe Dongor who is subject of manhunt by United States (US) authorities have surrendered.

Officially tagged as US “Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) fugitive,” Father Dongor voluntarily gave up to the National Bureau of Investigation Western Visayas Regional Office 6 (NBI WEVRO 6).

This, following months of negotiations as the bureau got official FBI request for assistance middle of this year to locate Dongor.

A native of Barotac Nuevo, Iloilo, Father Dongor fled the US in October 2011after entering a “not guilty” plea on charges of possession of child pornography. He has since visited his hometown and likewise fled thereafter when the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) issued a warning on his “not in good standing” status with the Church. Local media then got wind of his presence and tried to reach him however the beleaguered priest managed to flee anew.

“The National Bureau of Investigation – Western Visayas Regional Office (NBI-WEVRO) confirms the voluntary surrender and repatriation to the United States (US) of the person of Reverend Fr. Lowe B. Dongor,” the NBI WEVRO 6 in an official press statement said. “The 36 year-old native of Barotac Nuevo, Iloilo, Philippines stands accused in the US District Court of the District of Massachusetts of Unlawful Flight to Avoid Prosecution (UFAP). Fr. Dongor was the subject of an Arrest Warrant requested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for 1 count of UFAP, a felony act. His UFAP charge came after he fled the US in October 2011 amidst charges of possession of child pornography. He was the Associate Pastor of St. Joseph Parish of the Diocese of Worcester in Massachusetts and asked to go on administrative leave when charged and arraigned of the said charge.”

“We are officially confirming the surrender of Fr. Dongor and turn-over to US authorities through our counterparts in the US Embassy in Manila. In close coordination with Embassy officials, we have effected Fr. Dongor’s return to the US. It was one successful operation, which was made possible through the support of concerned and civic minded individuals, who worked with the NBI WEVRO team headed by Agent Arnold Diaz, the agent on case who was entrusted to lead the negotiation process. Fr. Dongor is now in custody of American authorities where he will have his due day in a US Court. We thank Fr. Dongor and his family for cooperating, trusting the bureau and the justice system,” NBI WEVRO Regional Director Elfren Meneses Jr. said.

Agent Diaz as lead agent personally escorted Father Dongor and left last night for the US. The duo is expected to be met by joint US Homeland Security Investigation (HSI), the FBI and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) team upon arrival.

It was not immediately clear when Father Dongor will be made to appear in Court.

Philippine News Service (PNS) in an independent investigation learned that Dongor stands accused before Judge Robert Collings, US Magistrate Judge of the John Joseph Moakley US Courthouse in the District of Massachusetts.

Docketed as 12-mj-1065-RBC, the FBI filed the UFAP felony charge in February 23, 2012 with the offense a “Category II.”

The FBI was called in by the Office of the Worcester District Attorney following Father Dongor’s failure to appear in an October 2011 Court hearing. Dongor has since fled the US and went into hiding here in the Philippines.

The UFAP charge carries a $5,000 bail and/or 5 year imprisonment.

In a PNS interview, Father Dongor expressed readiness on whatever outcome awaits him in the US. Such, as he admitted having “no resources at all….poor as a rat,” thus not able to secure for himself a private counsel.

“I have to, and ready to pay for the terrible mistakes I committed to my God, my Church, my community, my family and myself,” he said. “I wish I can change things and go back to my priesthood for that is what I have been dreaming of since I was 6 years old. But all of that is gone now. I have nothing to offer, no money even to hire a lawyer for my defense but I still have my faith in God and that is more than enough for me now.”