Church traces Napoles links

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Sunday, September 15, 2013


CEBU -- Janet Lim-Napoles did not donate any amount for preparations last year to celebrate the canonization of San Pedro Calungsod, said a church official Saturday.

Questions about whether or not Napoles made such donations surfaced after the release of photos of President Benigno Aquino III with Napoles, which a Palace spokesman confirmed were taken in Cebu last year.

Msgr. Roberto “Boy” Alesna, the finance committee chair in the preparations for the Calungsod thanksgiving, was asked if Napoles was a big donor and whether the finance committee paid for a dinner between her party and the President after the thanksgiving mass last November.

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“My sincere and most honest answer to your two questions on behalf of our committee on finance whom I chaired is NO,” said Monsignor Alesna in a text message to Sun.Star Cebu.

A member of the committee, who asked not to be identified, said in another interview that their list of donors does not include Lim-Napoles.

Former Cebu congressman Eduardo Gullas, in a press statement, said the public shouldn’t be distracted by “innocuous” photos of him with Napoles and with her daughter Jeane.

Janet Napoles, a retired soldier’s wife, is at the center of a controversy started by allegations that billions of pork barrel funds went to false non-government organizations she had organized.

“Malacañang has already explained that Mrs. Napoles was only one of the many who requested to pose with the President during his visit to Cebu for the thanksgiving ceremonies for San Pedro Calungsod,” read Gullas’ statement, which he faxed to Sun.Star Cebu.

Gullas added the real issue is fund misuse, not who had his picture taken with whom.

“Let us not depart from it. As far as the ongoing investigation goes, there is not an iota of evidence that would link President Aquino to the so-called PDAF (Priority Development Assistance Fund) scam, dating back from the time when he was a congressman and later as senator of the Republic,” Gullas’ statement added.

Donations

Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma said he is saddened by the news that the Church received cash donations from questionable sources.

Palma, who is also the incumbent Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) president, said the bishops issued a statement in the past that churches should not receive donations from gambling institutions.

““We receive from sweepstakes but not from the casinos,” he told Sun.Star Cebu.

“On a personal note, upon hearing that she has given to the Church, I feel sad that such money taken from the coffers of the government (or) amassed in an immoral way found its way in our churches,” he added.

Another church official told Sun.Star Cebu that Napoles donated chandeliers to the Odlot parish in the City of Bogo, about four or five years ago.

Sun.Star Cebu also got the same statement issued by another church official. Both had asked not to be named.

In a phone interview, Odlot parish priest Fr. Romeo “Dodong” Desuyo said the church may have been a recipient of a donation from Napoles.

No chandeliers

He could not be sure, Desuyo said, because there are so many donations sent to the parish church or deposited directly in the church’s bank account by donors who do not want to be identified.

Desuyo also denied that it was Napoles who donated the church’s chandeliers. The priest gave the name of the donors but asked that they not be mentioned.

“I have not received any donation directly from her (Napoles),” said Desuyo in Cebuano.

“She has never been to Odlot,” he added.

Fr. Desuyo said he has never met Napoles or any of the members of her family.

President Aquino, for his part, was photographed with Napoles not during the official thanksgiving activities, but during a private function, said the source from the finance committee, who declined to be named.

The source said that when they reviewed the thanksgiving activities, they found out that Napoles and her family did not attend the thanksgiving mass at the South Road Properties nor the dinner in the Cebu International Convention Center and another dinner in the Radisson Blu Hotel hosted by the Catholic Church.

The dinner where the pictures were taken was hosted by Napoles herself in Mactan, the source added. (Sun.Star Cebu)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on September 15, 2013.

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