Angara: Replace 'absentee' bishop
- Manny Galvez () - August 21, 2011 - 12:00am

BALER, Aurora ,Philippines  – Hours after criticizing the Prelature of Infanta, Sen. Edgardo Angara launched another offensive against the clergy the other day, calling on the Catholic Church leadership to replace the bishop overseeing the affairs of the local parish.

In a media briefing Friday afternoon, Angara called on Church officials to replace the “absentee” bishop of the Prelature of Infanta who he said has failed to provide guidance to the San Luis Obispo de Tolosa Parish here. He was apparently referring to Bishop Rolando Tirona.

“I say let’s assign a new bishop and put up a new diocese to run the affairs of the local parish,” he said.

He said a homegrown leader is needed to run the affairs of the Baler Church. “We from Baler should protect the interests of our Church, not people from other places who have no genuine concern for the local parish,” he added.

Hours earlier in a speech during the 402nd anniversary of this town at the municipal plaza just across the Baler Church, Angara unleashed a broadside against the Prelature of Infanta, accusing it of claiming possession of the municipal plaza and the lot where the Mt. Carmel College (MCC) stands.

The senator waved to the crowd photocopies of documents showing that the plaza has been owned by the Baler parish and the college grounds by the municipal government since 1929.

Yet he said the Prelature of Infanta was able to transfer in its name possession of the plaza and the college site in 1980.

Angara said the MCC now being run by parish should be vacated and transferred to another site to pave the way for the restoration of the Baler Church.

He said the college building is an eyesore as it was built higher than the church, obstructing the religious structure from public view.

On a more conciliatory tone, Angara said he is offering P30 million as assistance to the local parish to transfer to a better location where it can put up a brand-new campus complete with playground and academic facilities. He said that in 2007, he already made the offer but was refused.

The senator also clarified that the national government, through his representation, has been providing assistance to MCC students, contrary to the prelature’s claim that it was the one helping them.

For the last five years, Angara said MCC students have received a total of P26 million in subsidy from the national government through the Government Assistance to Private Education program, which he authored in the Senate. 

The senator, who hails from this capital town, said he was forced to speak out against the Prelature of Infanta whose priests are known critics of the Angaras.

Prior to his speech, the senator was visibly irritated when a bell from the church belfry kept pealing, interrupting the speech of his younger sister, Gov. Bellaflor Angara-Castillo.

Angara made his criticisms barely a week after the Baler Historical Committee, led by its chairperson, historian Ilovita Mesina, in a letter to the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) said the Baler Church, which was built in 1611, is now being stripped of its anay finish and replaced with bright paint and varnish, with the entire altar area being redecorated with garishly gilded ornaments and fixtures.

Mesina asked the NHCP to prevent the damage to an important historical and religious monument.

The church was the site of the “Siege of Baler,” the historic saga of 50 Spanish soldiers who holed up inside it for almost year after the war had ended in 1898. Only 33 Spanish soldiers survived and they were given a safe-conduct pass by then President Emilio Aguinaldo as a gesture of goodwill.  

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