Archbishop Emeritus Oscar Cruz warned fellow bishops, priests and nuns against providing refuge to businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles, alleged mastermind of a P10-billion pork barrel scam, saying the Church’s “law of sanctuary” did not apply to her.
Napoles reportedly maintains a house for priests, mostly retired, led by Msgr. Josefino Ramirez.
Interviewed by reporters on Friday, the former head of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines said the Church could provide sanctuary “only to people who churchmen and churchwomen perceive to be innocent and unjustly prosecuted by the powers that be.”
“(This) does not apply to (Napoles) … She is not poor, she is not weak and, in fact, it’s hard to say that she is presumed innocent,” he said.
Cruz pointed out there had been many occasions when the Church had taken in personalities involved in controversies but these were helpless whistle-blowers being pursued by the government.
He cited Rodolfo “Jun” Lozada Jr., who exposed the allegedly overpriced $329-million National Broadband Network deal during the Arroyo administration, and illegal gambling whistle-blowers Sandra Cam and Wilfredo “Boy” Mayor, who was murdered in 2010.
Napoles’ case, however, was different, said Cruz. “The pork barrel system is a corrupt and a corrupting practice,” he stressed. “I personally would not extend the law of asylum to the Napoles character because she is not weak and it’s hard to presume her innocence.”
Cruz said his fellow bishops and priests must heed his advice not to offer protection to Napoles in case she knocked on their doors, and convince her to surrender.
“I think a number of priests, bishops and nuns know that the pork barrel system is the source of graft and corruption (so) if they give her sanctuary, they could be considered as partners in the crime. That’s not acceptable,” said Cruz.
He said that if Napoles claimed she was innocent, she should face the law. “I would advise her that if you did not commit any offense, face the law and surrender, and let the justice system take its due course.”
First posted 6:00 pm | Friday, August 16th, 2013