Sexual assault case tied to Filipino churches in Toronto

TORONTO — The alleged Filipino sexual assault suspect, William Christopher Claveria, made his first appearance in court last Friday, and faced several charges related to child pornography and sexual assault.

He was known to attend Filipino places of worship where he had access to prepubescent children.

Mixed reactions that include shock and disbelief from the members of Word and Life Christian Assembly over alleged sexual assaults that took place in their church.

The suspect, Claveria, is an occasional guest they’ve welcomed to their worship space and social gatherings for the past 4 years.

“Hindi ko alam kung matatawag nating ‘assault’ yun. Sabi ko nga dun sa detective probably it has something to do with our culture, probably it has something to do with the way we show our affection, also yung familiarity. Kasi kung pagbabasihan yung mga pictures na alam namin, wala kaming makita na ano…and even in-interview nila yung mga bata, wala sling masabi na ginagawa si kuya wil na masama,” said Pastor Ludy Tiongco.

“There could be something that he did that we really don’t know. We’re just seeing him as an ordinary but weird kind of a person who’s collecting pictures, mainly girls…sabi nya mga alaga nya raw sa Pilipinas. All the events…if we have birthday, susulpot na lang sya with all of those gadget. He’s taking pictures with the kids, taking videos and cuddling them, but knowing us filipino, for us it’s ok right?” said Pastor Erwin Jardin.

Claveria had been arrested and charged with 22 offenses, including making child pornography, sexual assault, sexual interference, distribute child pornography and voyeurism.

Toronto Police said the children were lured at two churches in 2018, Word and Life Christian Assembly and Jesus Reigns Forever International Ministry.

Police are still in the early stages of the investigation, reviewing the evidence and identifying alleged victims.

Some Word and Life Christian Assembly members feel that this case has been sensationalized and has stained the reputation of Filipino churches and the community as a whole.

“If you have kids, you need to educate them. If somebody touches you unwantedly, you gotta tell it to your mom. I think our culture we’re so close…madali tayong magtiwala. This is a different country.”

“Huwag nyo naman pong husgahan…wala pa naman po tayong concrete proof.”

Since Claveria’s first court appearance, he has been remanded for two weeks and is scheduled to appear again in court on July 18.

No statement has been released by the other church, Jesus Reigns Forever International Ministry, regarding the alleged sexual assault case against some of their parishioners.

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