THE operation to force the diocese out of the Queen of Peace church became apparent after the Lorenzo Ruiz Mission Society was eased out of St. John’s Institute and consequently from the parish. From the unfolding of events we now know that the LRMS departure quickened the pace for the takeover of the entire SJI properties by the Invited or Irregular Board of Trustees (IMBOT) that we thought before as the legitimate authority in the school. That mistaken recognition by the diocese of their legitimacy emboldened the move against the parish as the IMBOT claimed ownership of it as well. The IMBOT began to assert proprietary rights over the church. The conflict exploded to an irreversible stage.
In fact present information show that the exclusion of the LRMS was a necessary precedent for the ejection of the diocese. We shall deal with this in detail later on.
To fill in the void left by the LRMS, Bacolod Bishop Vicente M. Navarra, assumed the post of parish priest, in effect the QoP became his personal parish, indicating a special and direct concern for it. We understood then that this was to be an interim arrangement until a regular parish priest could be appointed. The leaders of SJI did not want any diocesan priest. They wanted to have priests of their own choice as if they can dictate on the bishop who to assign in QoP. We shall also discuss this matter later. Thus instead of shortening the personal parish status as scheduled, it lengthened the arrangement. The appointment of a new bishop also intervened.
We learned that this personal parish structuring did not sit well with the IMBOT but they probably just bid their time by silent acceptance but not their objective for total takeover.
To start off make the ministry of Fr. Ernie Larida who served in behalf of the bishop, difficult, the IMBOT detached the electrical connection of the church, the priests’ quarters and the parish facilities from that of the school and placed it under a separate parish account. According to the informant since the beginning the entire area had only one electricity account.
This act is already antagonistic, hostile and an unmistakable indication that the IMBOT did not want the diocese to stay or have any control of the church. We must note that by this time nobody from the diocese was in the SJI Board of Trustees. The IMBOT had already taken over so that there was nobody to protect the diocesan or QoP parish interest. The IMBOT had a free hand.
Although the expenses of the parish ballooned considering that the church is air-conditioned during Masses, the parish retained this facility. Now we have an explanation to the complaints that there were times when the air-conditioning units were turned off. The parish was trying to save although this can be challenged with a retort that the parish bought a van to be used in its pastoral work especially to transport kids from the poor section of the parish. The van was probably necessary because the parish could no longer use the school facilities.
Failing in this effort to make life unbearable for the priest, the IMBOT prevented entry by vehicles of people who wanted to hear Mass in the parish church. The restriction was so rigorous that even the vehicles of the physically impaired and the elderly who had to be brought to the door of the church were denied entry. Instead, in one of the most unchristian, inhuman and inconsiderate treatment of church goers I have ever known, they were told to walk.
The intent is clear – strangle the parish of its income to force the priests out. Still people came for Mass even under this uncompromising restriction. As expected, the number of church goers declined but still of sufficient number to keep the parish working.
The strategy appears to be to make life inconvenient for the priest to make them leave and turn over the church to IMBOT on the guise as a chapel but open to the public – the major contributor to the church income.
Despite the pressure the parish continued to serve. Churchgoers accepted and learned to live with the restrictions, accepting the shallow excuse about security. Then the propaganda machine against the priest began albeit on the rumor level. Nevertheless, the dubious and wishful assumptions failed.
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