Two Catholic priests face estafa charges
SAN JOSE, Occidental Mindoro—Two Catholic priests belonging to the Apostolic Vicariate of San Jose were ordered arrested after failing to account allegedly for P670 million in church funds.
Detained since Friday are Father Ruben Villanueva, former director of Social Services Commission, and Fr. Rodrigo Salazar Jr., past director of the Vicarial Indigenous People’s Affairs Office (Vipaco).
Fr. Carlito Dimaano, the vicar-general of the San Jose diocese, filed the estafa case against them for the missing P674,800 cash.
Villanueva and Salazar yielded to authorities after Branch 46 Judge Jose Jacinto Jr. of the Regional Trial court issued an arrest warrant for estafa. Jacky LG Gaytano, vicariate finance staff, joined them in the charge sheet.
They expected to post their bail of P80,000 each Monday.
According to Norman Novio, a church worker, “this issue should have been settled if correctly handled by the Bishop by way of brotherly dialogue.”
Parishioners said discord in the vicariate started in 2010 and was worsened when the Church-run dzVT radio station where Villanueva was an anchor burned down in October, 2011.
Novio said the “issues of division among priests have already been brought to the Papal Nuncio for years now but to no avail.”
In 2012, seminarians from the Saint Joseph College Seminary called the attention of Bishop Vicente Palang, Apostolic Vicar of San Jose, on the “conflict among priest.”
Their plea unanswered, the seminarians walked out “en masse,” together with their rector, confessor and some personnel resulting in the seminary’s closure.
“My heart bleeds not only for the seminarians, but especially for the future of priestly vocation in our province and the fate of our homegrown clergy,” Novio said.
“Being a father of a seminarian, I can feel the suffering brought about by inaction to settle the long-lingering feud of priests that never been attempted to resolve by the higher-up.”
In a radio interview last Friday, Villanueva said they voluntarily surrendered because “we believe in the legal process.”
But Salazar noted that “we are willing to accept the process even this case should have been raised in the context of the Canon Law instead of the civil law.”
He is coordinator of Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Commission of Philippine SVD central province.