Para├▒aque bishop accused of misusing Church funds

Posted at 06/20/2012 11:11 AM | Updated as of 06/20/2012 1:18 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Parañaque Bishop Jesse Mercado is being accused by priests and parishioners of allegedly misusing funds donated by churchgoers, but removing him from his diocese is a lengthy process, a canon law expert said yesterday.

Former Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Oscar Cruz said several letters of complaint sent to the Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Giuseppi Pinto, will have to be evaluated. “It is easy to accuse, but whether there is merit or not is another matter,” he said.

Mercado’s accusers said they want Mercado to explain what happened to the funds concerning donations he solicited for victims of typhoon “Ondoy” (P1,368,236); the Haiti earthquake (P168,891); Muntinlupa fire victims (P129,201); typhoon “Sendong” (P970,589); 2011 National Youth Day (P306,123); and Alay Kapwa (P399,942). His diocese covers the cities of Parañaque, Las Piñas and Muntinlupa.

A priest said the funds were reportedly put in an account in a private bank. According to a complaint, while the funds are earning interest, they were not remitted to the churchgoers’ intended beneficiaries.

Cruz said the Papal Nuncio would forward the complaint letters to the Congregation for Bishops based in Rome, since it is mandated to see if there is preliminary merit in the case. The congregation would then try to secure more preliminary evidence to see if it merits an investigation.

If the case has merit, the congregation would either send a bishop from the Vatican or designate a local bishop to form a three-man team who would conduct an investigation, Cruz added.

The investigators would require documents and other pieces of evidence and witnesses. Once they have completed the investigation, they would forward their findings to the congregation, which will then make a decision.