Catholic Bishops’ national body explains why it cannot protect accused scam mastermind

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) explained in a statement today why it cannot grant the request of accused pork barrel scam mastermind Janet-Lim Napoles to be placed in their protective custody saying the CBCP is not qualified for the role under civil law.

“The CBCP appreciates the trust that Ms. Napoles has in the CBCP,” Lingayen Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas, president of the CBCP said in a statement on the matter.

“We are not sure that under civil law we are qualified for such a role as Ms. Napoles would wish us to assume,” he added.

According to Villegas existing Church laws also do not allow an Episcopal conference to stand as guarantor before civil courts that the accused will not abscond and will be available at every trial date.

In early June, the office of the Ombudsman filed  charges of plunder against businesswoman Napoles, the alleged mastermind in the racket that involved the diversion of billions of pesos worth of livelihood projects and farm inputs intended for poor farmers into ghost NGOs and kickbacks. 

Thirty-seven others, including 3 senators and their staff, have been similarly charged before the anti-graft court.

Napoles had reportedly written a letter to the CBCP asking them to take her into its custody saying she believes she would be safer with clergy.

Following is Villegas’ full statement sent to Catholic in Asia titled, CBCP Reply to the REQUEST of Ms. Napoles for Custody Under CBCP:

The CBCP appreciates the trust that Ms. Napoles has in the CBCP.
 
With regard to her request that the CBCP take her under protective custody, we face obstacles from both Church and State laws.
 
Existing Church laws do not allow an episcopal conference to stand as guarantor before civil courts that the accused will not abscond and will be available at every trial date. Furthermore, we are not sure that under civil law we are qualified for such a role as Ms. Napoles would wish us to assume.
 
Then too there is the important issue of establishing a precedent. Once we allow CBCP’s offices to take recognizance of Ms. Napoles, we must, to be fair, accept similar requests from all other accused. Not only would this strain CBCP’s resources. It would render impossible the discharge of its principal functions.
 
We shall however continue to be vigilant that the rights of Ms. Napoles, as of all accused, are respected and safeguarded; in the same measure that we urge government prosecutors to be resolute and non-selective in the indictment of offenders and in holding them accountable for all their actions.
 
From the CBCP, Manila, July 8, 2014
 
+SOCRATES B. VILLEGAS
   Archbishop of Lingayen Dagupan

Napoles was reported to be close to clergy and supportive of Church projects and programs.

In May retired Manila priest Father Josefino Ramirez also issued the following statement sent to Catholic in Asia about a newspaper report whose headline claimed “priests got pork manna”:

May 22, 2014 

STATEMENT OF MSGR. JOSEFINO S. RAMIREZ ON ARTICLE,  “Priests Got Pork Manna”, in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, May 22, 2014

            This refers to the article written by Nancy C. Carvajal entitled “Priests got pork manna” published on 22 May 2014 by the Philippine Daily Inquirer. The article alleges that Ms. Janet Lim-Napoles “handed out generous donations to priests and nuns using allocations from the congressional Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) [as shown by the] digital records of her former finance officer, [Mr. Benhur Luy].”

            The article further states that I received the following from Ms. Napoles:

  1. P2.5M through a Metrobank check (per entry in the records of Benhur Luy for May 10, 2007);
  2. P434,451 for travel to Europe (per entry for October 16, 2008);
  3. P800,000.00 for donations on several occasions;
  4. P310,550 for my birthday party;
  5. P9,000.00 for “guard of Monsi for Jollibee”; and
  6. Stipends totaling P344,000 on several occasions for “priests/nuns, deacons” from 2004 to 2010.

            For clarity, please allow me to state the following:

            a.         The Magdalena Luy Lim Foundation in the service of the Divine Mercy was established by the children of Magdalena Luy Lim in memory of their deceased mother.  During her lifetime, Magdalena Luy Lim, a Chinese, was an ardent devotee of the Divine Mercy. She used to help my charities since 2004, most especially the apostolate for China because this is the only way that she can thank the Lord for the gift of her Catholic faith as a Chinese.

             b.         Before she died, Magalena Luy Lim requested her children to continue helping the apostolate projects of the Divine Mercy in the Philippines and in China, through the Magdalena Luy Lim Foundation.

             c.         Hence, donations were made by the Magdalena Luy Lim Foundation for the various projects of the Divine Mercy in the Philippines and in China.

            d.         As Coordinator for Divine Mercy, Asia, appointed by the Church, I received the donations of the Foundation as well as from other donors with the sole intention of using the same for the projects of the Divine Mercy.The donations were received in utmost good faith and without any knowledge as to the source of the funds.

            Herein below are my comments on the allegations made in the article published by the Inquirer today:

Amounts Received PerInquirer Article Comment
1. P2.5M through a Metrobank check (per entry in the records of Benhur Luy for May 10, 2007); The amount of P2M, not P2.5M, was donated by Mrs. Napoles to the CARITAS SALVE Savings and Livelihood with Values Education Credit, a micro-finance program under Caritas Manila.
2. P434,451 for travel to Europe (per entry for October 16, 2008) The amount was donated for my airplane ticket as the Coordinator of the Divine Mercy for Asia, and the plane tickets of 4 Chinese priests representing China to theWorld Apostolate Congress of Mercy (WACOM) in Rome.
3. P800,000.00 for donations on several occasions The amount was spent for the following expenses incurred by 14 batches of Chinese priests and nuns taking Church renewal courses in the Philippines from Dec 2011 – Aug 2013.a. Food Expenses in  the amount of P57,143.00/month for each batch consisting of 20 priests and nuns;b. Honorarium for Lecturers; andc. Electricity and Water Expenses.
4. P310,550 for my birthday party The Napoles Family hosted a surprised birthday party for me and invited approximately 300 friends and former parishioners as guests. I have no knowledge of the exact amount spent for the said party.
5. P9,000.00 for “guard of Monsi for Jollibee” Food/meals from Jollibee were purchased by the host for the drivers of the guests who attended the party. I have no knowledge of the exact amount spent for the said foods/meals for the drivers.
6. Stipends totaling P344,000 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 2007-2010, 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 The priests, who were friends of Napoles family, and nuns were invited from various provinces and congregations. They were given stipends for their Charities and transportation.

 

            I hope that I have clarified the matters stated in the article published by the Inquirer.

            Thank you.

                                                Very truly yours,           

                                                 (SIGNED)      MONSIGNOR JOSEFINO S. RAMIREZ

In May, Villegas, visited  Napoles when she was confined in Ospital ng Makati. “The family of Mrs. Janet Napoles requested for prayers and blessings for fast recovery. As a priest I went there,” Villegas said.

He said he reminded the accused woman that “the blessing [would] only give healing if she [told] the whole truth without being selective.” 

END

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