Manila: An American priest was arrested by immigration agents for sexually molesting dozens of altar boys over the nearly four decades that he has been in the Philippines.

Father Kenneth Bernard Hendricks, 77, was picked up by immigration agents at the Saint Isidore Chapel in the town of Naval in Biliran island on Wednesday, upon the request of the US Department of Homeland Security.

Immigration Spokesperson Dana Krizia Sandoval said that Hendricks was arrested after they received information from US authorities regarding the alleged sexual exploitation of multiple minor Filipino boys by Hendricks.

“Several of his victims have come forward with their statements,” she added.

Hendricks allegedly sexually assaulted at least 50 minor-aged altar boys who were living in his residence.

Sandoval, quoting statements from the victims, said Kendricks would allegedly join the altar boys whenever they took a bath.

To prevent his victims from telling on him, the priest allegedly warned them that they would go to prison if they told anyone about the molestation.

Sandoval described the news over the involvement of the American priest in the sexual molestation cases was both “shocking and appalling.” She urged authorities to promptly act on the case.

The immigration official revealed that the American priest was the subject of an arrest warrant issued by a court in Ohio, and stated that he will be expelled from the country because he is “a fugitive from justice that poses a risk to public safety and security.” She added that “his presence is a threat to the safety of our children.”

It was learnt that before his arrest Hendricks had stayed and had been in the Philippines as a priest for 37 years.

Sexual predator

According to Bureau of Immigrations Fugitive Search Unit Chief Bobby Raquepo, Hendricks was indicted before the Ohio court on charges of “engaging in illicit sexual conduct in foreign places.” He said the US court case all stemmed from complaints that were filed against the priest from victims the Philippines.

“There were reports that he conducted at least 50 counts of molestation of young boys,” Raquepo said.

Sandoval condemned Hendricks’ actions. “We will not allow sexual predators to prey on our children,” she said, adding: “People like him must be kicked out and banned from the Philippines.”

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines has yet to issue a statement concerning the matter.

Reports reaching Manila said the priest was highly regarded by people in the diocese where he worked, as he was active in helping the town’s impoverished residents.

The US embassy is reportedly processing the revocation of Hendrick’s passport to help facilitate his immediate deportation.

News over the child molestation case involving a Catholic priest came amid tirades mounted by President Rodrigo Duterte against Philippine clerics.