Sanctifying work, this certainly ain’t
- Boo Chanco () - August 19, 2002 - 12:00am
I was talking to our Ambassador to Rome last Wednesday and he told me, he has reserved close to 500 hotel rooms to date for Pinoy members of the Opus Dei. They will attend this October, the canonization of the Blessed Josemaria Escriva, founder of the ultra conservative Catholic group. I was once upon a time a cooperator in Opus Dei, when I was taking up graduate level courses on Economics at the Center for Research and Communication.

Somehow, I never progressed beyond the entry level of a cooperator. I guess I wasn’t made to be an Opus Dei diehard. I am too liberal, too much of a questioning journalist and more of the Vatican II type of Catholic. But one thing that stuck to my mind from my encounters with the Opus Dei flock is the philosophy of its soon to be canonized founder on how ordinary daily work can be one’s route to sanctification.

It is such that I start my day with a prayer that the Lord would sanctify the work I would do that day, so that people I will encounter will be reminded of the goodness of Christ and how his work is continually done on earth. Well, I must confess that I fail exceedingly more often than succeed but that’s the story of man’s struggle as a pilgrim in Christ’s Church. What is important is the conscious effort to offer your ordinary work as a means towards sanctification and the determination to fight the odds and rise every time you fall.

Enough of the sermon before someone proposes to canonize me instead. I bring these all up because I have been troubled the past few days by a pile of documents sent to me by a friend. All that seems to indicate that neither the founder of Opus Dei, nor Christ Himself would be pleased with the behavior of some people who loudly claim to be followers. It is a scandal, as far as I am concerned. Sanctifying, it definitely ain’t.

Retirees, including some who are Opus Dei members themselves have lost life savings. Worse, Catholic Church institutions lost funds contributed by ordinary folks. Catholic schools, whose financial resources are already strained, have lost millions. La Consolacion College lost P3.5 million. The Sacred Heart Missionaries lost P2.4 million. Assumption College lost P12.982 million. Canossa College lost P5.2 million.

Worst hit among the Catholic Church institutions is the Archdiocese of Cebu, a five percent equity investor or P7.5 million based on total subscribed and paid up capital of P150 million. The San Miguel Corp. Retirement fund lost its 30 percent of the venture’s equity or P45 million. Coca Cola Bottlers Retirement Fund lost its 10 percent share or P15 million.

All these nice people of God lost their money in an investment firm organized and managed by a devout Opus Dei, a certain Vicente Atilano and advised by no less than my esteemed professor, Dr. Bernie Villegas, who sat in his board. I don’t know this Atilano fellow at all and the Opus Dei can’t be blamed if some of its members have not been sanctified enough. But I can’t explain to myself why Bernie allowed him to get away with it.

Bernie, of all people! I’m so terribly disappointed. Didn’t Jess Estanislao talk to him about corporate governance and the duty of board directors to make sure management behaves? Ironically, Jess Estanislao is now lecturing to everybody nominated to be a member of a bank board about the duties and responsibilities of sitting in a board of directors. Listening to the lecture of Jess is now a requirement of Paeng Buenaventura before the Bangko Sentral approves the appointment of any bank director.

Para mo nang awa
, Jess, can you make sure Bernie hears your lecture?

I am sure Bernie has nothing to do with the shenanigans that led to the loss of hundreds of millions of pesos worth of investors’ money in the firm called Corporate Investments Philippines Inc. (CIPI). But he did nothing to prevent it. He must have been too busy as Dean at the University of Asia and the Pacific. He must also be sitting on too many boards. And that’s the point. Corporate governance demands that if you agree to sit on a board, you must have the time and inclination to actively participate.

For example, I am now in possession of a sworn complaint affidavit filed with the Department of Justice by the new officers of CIPI that alleges the old management under the Opus Dei fellow sold non existent promissory notes of H.R. Lopez Co.

Quoting from the affidavit: "Further investigation also revealed that although at present the total amount of funds sources from the public for the sale of HR Lopez Co., Inc. loan agreements is P260,508,319.80, there were only four HR Lopez Co., Inc. loan agreements in the total amount of P155,445,850.23 that were executed. Notably, the difference between these figures, which is the amount of P105,062,469.57 was never, of course, delivered to HR Lopez Co., Inc. as this was not covered by any loan agreement at all." The affidavit complaint gives more gory details of similar transactions that are definitely not sanctifying work for an Opus Dei member.

There are more cases and more documents in my hands but I do not have the space. I am shocked. Suffice it to say that all these sanctimonious, self righteous members of Opus Dei must exert peer pressure on this Atilano fellow to make just restitution on all the affected parties. If his business went bankrupt because of an unfortunate market turn or even a bad business decision made in good faith, that’s understandable. But in the face of obvious wrongdoing, excising the cancer is the only recourse.

As for poor naïve Dr. Bernie Villegas, maybe he should think more than twice before he lends his good name again. I am sure those poor nuns, missionaries and retirees thought their money was safe because good ol’ Bernie was in the board of directors. Clueless Bernie bears some responsibility for their current distress and must move to help them.

Unfortunately, they can’t sue Bernie because he has taken a vow of poverty and supposedly does not own anything but the shirt on his back. This Atilano fellow has also reportedly made himself litigation judgment proof.

He even managed to sell a house in Milpitas, California owned by the company to his relation for $290,000 on Jan. 27, 2000. His relative turned around and sold the same property to a Rohit Gulati for $470,000 on Nov. 16, 2000 or less than a year later. I don’t think the proceeds were given to the company to help pay claims of investors and creditors. Never mind the legalities. This just doesn’t seem right. If you were brought up right by your mother, you should know that... even if you didn’t go to Harvard.

If this Atilano fellow is now sleeping under the Quezon bridge in Quiapo, I think we will understand that he really hit hard times. Minalas! But I was made to understand that he is still living at #7 Narra Road, Valle Verde 3, Pasig, still a member of the Opus Dei, socializing with the best of them. I just don’t think that Saint-to-be Fr. Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer would approve. To those of us who have heard his teaching and publicly expressed admiration for this great man, much much more is expected.
Universal Church
The beauty of the Catholic Church is that it welcomes all sorts into its fold. Catholics can be as different as the Opus Deis, the Jesuits and yes, Brother Mike. Here’s today’s joke.

A man walked up to a Franciscan and Jesuit and asked, "How many novenas must you say to get a Mercedes Benz?"

The Franciscan asked, "What’s a Mercedes Benz?"

So the man repeated the question to the Jesuit.

The Jesuit replied, "What’s a novena?"

(Boo Chanco’s e-mail address is

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