02 June 2014

Msgr. Ramirez Should Return PDAF Money

Msgr. Ramirez
I may not agree on his stand with regards to the Reproductive Health Law, but I will be the first to concede that Archbishop Emeritus Oscar Cruz has a valid point when he asked members of the clergy to return the donations when the source of fund is doubtful.

The senior bishop raised this point in an interview with reporters last 25 May 2014 after alleged pork barrel scam operator Janet Lim-Napoles was accused of giving generous donations using money allegedly stolen from the congressional Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).

"When they received the money, it is certain they did not know it was tainted money. Now that they know, they should return the money if they can still do it," Archbishop Cruz said.

The bishop gave the advice following a Philippine Daily Inquirer (PDI) report based on whistle-blower Benhur Luy’s files that Napoles gave big amounts to former Quiapo Church rector, Msgr. Josefino Ramirez, who was issued a Metrobank check for PhP 2.5 million in 2007, among other donations.

In a statement last week, Ramirez clarified that the check was for PhP 2 million and that he accepted the donations from Napoles in "utmost good faith and without any knowledge as to the source of the funds."

Ramirez also explained that the amount was spent for various expenses incurred by 14 batches of Chinese priests and nuns taking Church renewal courses in the Philippines from December 2011 to August 2013.

He said the money was spent for food, amounting to PhP 57,143 a month for each batch consisting of 20 priests and nuns; honoraria for lecturers, and electricity and water bills.

In short, Ramirez categorically acknowledged that he received the PDAF money, but did not bother asking Napoles asking where it really came from. As long as the money is flowing, nobody wants to question anything. However, now that that the source of the money had already been revealed, is Ramirez and other priests who accepted donations from Napoles ready to give the money back?

There is a saying that goes like this, "Ang Tumatanggap ng Grasya, Lumalabo Ang Mata" (those who accepts mana usually have blurred vision). Just because the amount is substantial, it doesn't justify blind acceptance.

"Thou shall not steal means you neither steal nor receive stolen money," said Cruz, a former president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP).

He reminded his colleagues in the Church and members of the clergy to be prudent in accepting financial aid from people. "You have to be careful because sometimes they ask for a return favor, which you cannot give, that’s why you have to be prudent," he said.

Luy’s records also showed that Napoles distributed "stipends" totaling PhP 344,000 on several occasions for "priests/nuns, deacons" from 2004 to 2010.

"Since I met Ms. Napoles only in 2007, I can only attest to the fact that from 2007 to 2010, stipends were given to priests and nuns invited during special occasions, such as office anniversaries, the funeral Mass of Mrs. Magdalena Luy Lim, her death anniversary and other memorable occasions," Ramirez said.

"The priests, who were friends of the Napoles family, and nuns were invited from various provinces and congregations. They were given stipends for their charities and transportation," he added.

How about if somebody from depressed barangays asked these same priests and nuns to attend to their event, will they still go there even if there are no stipends to be given? I can't wait to find out if they treat everyone equally of favor only those with money.