Parañaque bishop denies diverting funds
Parañaque Bishop Jesse Mercado, however, refuses to give Rappler receipts of donations and disbursements

ISSUING DENIAL. Parañaque Bishop Jesse Mercado denies diverting millions of funds meant for calamities.

MANILA, Philippines — Complaints against Parañaque Bishop Jesse Mercado reach the Vatican. He is being accused of allegedly diverting funds meant for calamity victims. We brought you that exclusive story Monday, June 19.

Now the bishop speaks up in his defense. Rappler’s Paterno Esmaquel reports.

Parañaque Bishop Jesse Mercado denies accusations he diverted millions in Church donations meant for calamity victims to a high yield account.
Mercado claims the funds are properly accounted for, and admits some funds were added to what he calls a “calamity fund.”

BISHOP JESSE MERCADO: All donations are properly receipted and promptly turned over to their intended beneficiaries. In urgent cases, for example, Ondoy and Sendong, the diocese even advanced the amounts even before the second collections were mandated. 

In an exclusive report, Rappler shows records of millions of supposedly unremitted funds. These include an unremitted 1.3-million pesos from 1.6-million collected for victims of tropical storm Ondoy in 2009. For fire victims in 2010, records show 129,000 pesos in donations were entirely unremitted. 

Mercado, however, refuses to give Rappler receipts of donations and disbursements. He engages in a heated exchange with Rappler’s Aries Rufo.

RUFO: So when I will request for all the receipts of the donations and the disbursements, you will give it to me?
MERCADO: That depends. What for? Why are you asking for that? 
RUFO: You’re challenging the story that it’s not true. So if I will ask for all the donations received for all the calamity victims and all the disbursements, will you be able to give it to me?
MERCADO: I think we have the right to ask also. Why?
RUFO: For publication.
MERCADO: What for?
RUFO: For transparency.
MERCADO: What for? What for? What for?
RUFO: For transparency.
MERCADO: Are we required to present it to you? Why are we required to present it to you?
RUFO: Are you telling me that you won’t give it to me?
MERCADO: No, I’m not telling you that. But why are you asking for it?
RUFO: For transparency, bishop.
MERCADO: What do you mean by transparency? Do we need to be transparent to you?
RUFO: That’s the issue within your diocese – financial transparency
MERCADO: My answer is, we can be transparent. We have people and…
RUFO: Can you just make a categorical statement that you will give the doucments to me?
MERCADO: It depends. I have the right to ask, why do you want it?

The bishop also denies receiving an interview request on Rappler’s exclusive. He says the request he got was for an interview on the natural family planning program.

MERCADO: We referred you to the chairman of the Diocesan Commission on Family and Life. I don’t know if you contacted the chairman or not.
RUFO: That’s a lie, bishop. Who told you that?
MERCADO: Office, the office. You were saying that you wanted to interview. 
RUFO: Yes. I’ve been trying to call you and emailed you. You haven’t answered.
MERCADO: Because I felt that you were talking about natural family planning. 
(Mercado’s phone rings because Rufo calls)
RUFO: So you’re admitting that I was able to contact you, in the same way that I’m trying to call your cellphone right now, and you haven’t answered.

Mercado also blames disgruntled priests for accusations against him.

MERCADO: I have to admit it is sad because somehow, some of them are presented by our priests. We could have done this by talking together. I think there are some priests who are desperate.

Mercado says he’s willing to step down if proven guilty by the Vatican. —

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