Parañaque bishop denies using P3.2M Church fundsBy Jocelyn R. Uy
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Parañaque Bishop Jesse Mercado on Wednesday denied accusations he had misused some P3.2 million in donations from his parishioners, saying the funds were audited annually by the Archdiocese of Manila.
Facing reporters, Mercado answered point by point the accusations by some of his priests and lay members of the diocese.
In a complaint filed in the papal nuncio, Archbishop Giuseppe Pinto, Mercado was alleged to have diverted over P3.2 million in donations for victims of Tropical Storm “Ondoy,” Haiti earthquake, Typhoon “Sendong,” and a fire in Muntinlupa City.
Low morale, frustration
The bishop was also accused of allotting a measly amount for the health insurance and retirement of priests from the diocese’s yearly collections, causing low morale and frustration among the clergy.
Mercado said all donations were properly acknowledged through receipts and were promptly turned over to their intended beneficiaries.
In some urgent cases, particularly when Ondoy and Sendong hit the country in 2009 and 2011, respectively, the diocese advanced the amounts needed, he said.
“Some parishes remit too late, so these funds are added to the calamity fund,” he said, adding that a detailed report on this was being prepared.
As for the fire victims in Muntinlupa—one of the six vicariates of the Parañaque diocese—the funds for them were handled in the vicariate level, Mercado said.
He added that 10 percent of the annual collections of his 51 parishes were being remitted to the diocesan fund, of which the majority was allotted to the catechetical fund under the care of the Manila archdiocese, investments for the retirement of priests, curia operations, clergy retreats, clergy ongoing formation and outings.
A sixth of the 12 percent being remitted to Mercado’s office were allocated to the hospitalization and health services of priests.
Mercado also stressed that all expenses were being studied, reviewed and properly documented for “transparency and accountability” and that his diocese was scrutinized annually by two auditors from the Archdiocese of Manila, apart from an internal auditor.
The bishop was also accused of being tightfisted and of failing to fund the diocese’s social programs, including a livelihood project for workers at Tunasan, Muntinlupa.
Mercado said the project at Tunasan was scrutinized by the local parish priest, who did not recommend it to him after finding irregularities in the project.
“There is money for programs [but] funds are allocated only to projects that are worthwhile and only if they are positively recommended by their parish priests so that they are integrated into the parish program,” he said.
He also noted that social programs were being funded according to budget policies in order to avoid “wastage of funds.”
When asked if he was ready to present documents to the papal nuncio, the bishop replied, “If needed, why not? I have nothing to hide [and] he is my superior and the representative of the Holy Father.”