Since investigative journalist Rappler.com published an article June 18, 2012 entitled, “Bishop accused of diverting millions,” heated controversy has surrounded the Diocese of Paranaque. The article alleges that Bishop Jesse E. Mercado has diverted multi-million donations for victims of typhoons and other calamities, in violation of Church law or Canon 1300 which states that “the intentions of the faithful who give or leave goods to pious causes…once lawfully accepted, are to be most carefully observed, even in the manner of the administration and the expending of the goods…”
The article further states that “even as donations for the intended beneficiaries do not reach them, the diocese is also not funding its social programs. Priests who persistently question how the finances are being handled are either put on a “floating” status, or arbitrarily replaced. Lay leaders who also sought transparency in the diocese’s finances are regarded as “dissenters,” and are slowly being eased out of the diocese’s affairs.”
The Bishop has responded to these allegations with a pastoral letter, DOP Circular No. 2012-034 dated June 20, 2012 that essentially denies all allegations.
However, the response is lacking as it does not provide clear documentation to prove that funds have indeed been given to those intended when intended. Because of this, concerned laity of Paranaque have written a letter to the Bishop requesting him to shed light on the questions raised in the Rappler report and to provide clear documentation in the form of official receipts and duly signed reports.
The letter was submitted to the Bishop’s office on June 26, requesting a response by July 3. No response has been received from the Bishop’s office. Does this mean he does not think the concerns of the laity are important?
If you care about our Diocese and would like to ensure that the church we serve and support is trustworthy and above reproach, we invite you to sign this petition to show our Bishop that we are serious in asking for transparency and accountability in this challenging time of purification.
We would like to believe that the church we serve and support is trustworthy, transparent and above reproach. We want assurance, as the people who have contributed our hard-earned money to the church, that the funds we have given voluntarily have been used in their entirety for the purposes they were intended.
We have read your official statement dated June 20 (attached) in response to the allegations but we feel that the answers are not satisfactory. As your flock, we demand specific answers. We request that you shed light on these questions and provide us with clear documentation in the form of official receipts and duly signed reports:
1. Donations Not Reaching Intended Beneficiaries
1.1. Typhoon Ondoy 2009. Collected P1,631,473.05. Unremitted P1,368,236.55.
1.2. Haiti Earthquake 2010. Collected P1,031,456.37 Unremitted P168,891.10.
1.3. Muntinlupa Fire Victims 2010. Collected P129,201.25. Unremitted 129,201.25.
1.4. Typhoon Sendong 2011. Collected P3,470,589.95. Unremitted P970,589,95.
1.5. National Youth Day 2011. Collected P316,123.40. Unremitted P306,123.40.
1.6. Caritas, Manila (Palm Sunday) 2011. Collected P799,942.45. Unremitted P399,942.45.
For each of the special collections mentioned above, please tell us:
• How much donation was received by the diocese from each parish?
• Who received the funds on the part of the beneficiary?
• How much was received by the beneficiary?
• When were the funds received by the beneficiary?
2. Second Collections
There are 18 second collections scheduled in 2012, and 17 in 2011, according to DOP Circular No. 2012-003 and DOP Circular 2010-113 (attached). The circulars further state that these collections are to be remitted after 15 days to the Bishop’s Office, and are to be remitted to specific beneficiaries, such as to the CBCP and Rome. Closer to home, some second collections are clearly earmarked for the Diocesan Biblical Apostolate, the Diocesan Catechetical Ministry, the Diocesan Prison Ministry, the Diocesan Youth Ministry, and the Diocesan Family Life Ministry.
• From each of the second collections in the past ten years, how much was remitted by each parish?
• Were the funds earmarked for Diocesan projects used in their entirety and with immediacy for the intended beneficiary?
• What kind of projects were they?
• Were the funds earmarked for Rome remitted in their entirety and with immediacy? How much was remitted? When was it remitted?
• Were the funds earmarked for CBCP remitted in their entirety and with immediacy? How much was remitted? When was it remitted?
3. Lack of Funding for Social Programs
• What are the specific social programs the diocese is funding?
• Who are running the programs?
• Who are the beneficiaries of these specific social programs?
• How much is the diocese spending on these social programs?
4. PCSO Funds
• When the Diocese was still receiving the PCSO funds, what is the regularity of the funding and how much was received?
• Where and when was it spent?
• How much of the funds was spent on projects?
5. Audited Financial Reports
May we request for a copy of the annual Audited Financial Reports of the Diocese given by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Manila since its creation and its audit ratings?
6. Diocesan Finance Council
Who are the members of your Diocesan Finance Council? What are their roles and functions in the management of resources of the Diocese?
Your Excellency, we would like to hear your response to these nagging questions that have been raised to us by parishioners. We would appreciate receiving your response the soonest possible so that we can respond to our parishioners who are asking us about this, and thus allay our collective worries.
Yours in the Lord, we remain,
The Concerned Laity of the Diocese of Parañaque and supporters
Cc: Most Rev. Guiseppe Pinto
Apostolic Nuncio to the Philippines
Archbishop Luis Antonio Tagle
Archbishop of Manila
Parish Priests of the Diocese of Parañaque
Commission Heads of the Diocese of Parañaque
Diocesan Finance Council
Official Statement of His Excellency Bishop Jesse E. Mercado
DOP Circular No. 2012-003
DOP Circular 2010-113