March 3, 2024

■  Rimaliza A. Opiña 

The court handling the rape case against a Catholic priest allied with the Diocese of Baguio has sustained the warrant of arrest it has issued on June 14, 2023 despite the Office of the City Prosecutor’s (OCP) reversal of its earlier findings of the presence of probable cause.

In an order dated Jan. 24, the Family Court Branch 2 has denied the OCP’s motion to dismiss the complaint and withdraw the information against Fr. Mark Batolne saying the allegations that he committed three counts of rape against a former helper of the Diocese are best tried in court.

The court said the warrant of arrest issued against Batolne stands. It also lifted the suspension of proceedings it issued in August last year, pending the reinvestigation of the complaint.

This means Batolne may be arrested and arraigned thereafter, without prejudice to him seeking remedies in higher courts, said lawyer Victoria Dines, counsel for the complainant.

Dines reiterated her appeal for Batolne to surface so the trial can proceed and he can clear his name if indeed he did not commit the allegations.

Batolne is currently at large and is barred from leaving the country due to the court’s issuance of a hold departure order since September last year.

In a resolution dated Oct. 4, 2023, the OCP reversed the earlier findings of the investigating prosecutor, saying the testimonies of people within the Diocese who signed affidavits that said it is unlikely for Batolne to commit the crime he is being accused of, bear more weight as opposed to the complainant’s allegations.

The Family Court however said that it is best that the accounts of parties be presented and examined in trial for better appreciation of the court.