Catholic school hit over ‘collateral’

It's 'unchristian' for St Andrew's School, which is located in the controversial Diocese of Parañaque, to forcibly demand tuition collaterals like TV sets, alumni say

'UNCHRISTIAN' SCHOOL? A school in the controversial Diocese of Parañaque faces accusations involving tuition and funds.

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Can’t pay tuition?

St Andrew’s School (SAS), which is under the controversial Diocese of Parañaque, allegedly offers a solution that has sparked outrage from concerned alumni. This is for the school to “forcibly” demand collateral from parents that include game consoles and television sets, said SAS alumni in a public manifesto.

Through representative Eduardo Carabeo Jr, the alumni sent the statement in the wake of a Rappler exposé on Parañaque Bishop Jesse Mercado who is accused of fund misuse. (Read: Bishop accused of diverting millions.)

“We denounce the present SAS management’s decision in implementing a non-standing policy of forcing parents whose children have back accounts with the school, to produce ‘anything of considerable value’ such as certificate titles of land title (sic), jewelries, wristwatches, vehicle registration papers, even PlayStations, laptops, payroll-linked ATM cards, television sets, video cameras, etc, even those not owned by the parents themselves but even those of friends and relatives, to be posted as guarantee, as if SAS were already engaged in the business of pawnshops,” the alumni said.

The school has not replied to Rappler’s request for comment through their official e-mail, as well as their fax, as of posting time. (SAS eventually replied Sunday, June 24, after the story came out. Read their reply: We’re not a pawnshop, says Catholic school.)

The SAS alumni also denounced the “intention” of school director Fr Rolando Agustin and finance officer Rey Narag “to withdraw by themselves or by their representatives, money from ATM cards of parents, if and when semi-monthly salaries had been credited thereto, by use of the card’s PIN numbers known to them already.”

“We hold the present SAS management and the board of trustees of the school, responsible for the erosion the school’s moral values resulting to rampant irregular accounting practices, conflict of interest, unchristian-like and oppressive school policies, proliferation of lies, and trampling upon the dignity of parents,” the alumni said.

The Department of Education’s (DepEd) reaction is not readily available over the weekend, the agency’s communication department said. 

Carabeo told Rappler his group has consulted DepEd officials who said requesting collaterals is not allowed. “The only thing they could do is to hold the credentials of students,” he quoted DepEd officials as saying. 

Cover-up?

In their statement, the alumni also criticized a supposed attempt to cover up a P14-million loss in school funds, which the group blamed on former SAS director Fr Bayani Valenzuela. Rappler’s exclusive reported the same anomaly.

In the earlier story, a disgruntled priest said Valenzuela merely got a “slap on the wrist” from Bishop Mercado. The sanctions included Valenzuela’s termination as school director as well as a prohibition from handling other assignments within the diocese.

“We are displeased with the lack of transparency not only in the manner with which these funds were withdrawn and ‘invested,’ but also the deliberate disregard to recover same funds,” the SAS alumni said.

Mercado, for his part, denied protecting Valenzuela.

“Does Msgr Valenzuela’s termination, floating status and exile not constitute punishment? He is no longer entitled to pension and hospitalization. Is this not punishment?” Mercado said. (Read: Bishop breaks silence on diverted funds.) 

Mercado also denied diverting his diocese’s funds intended for calamity victims. (Watch more in the video below.)

Stop ‘personal affront’

The SAS alumni then demanded an end to “the very unprofessional manner of running SAS.”

In particular, the school should “stop the personal affront inflicted to and humiliation suffered by parents when Fr Rolly Agustin and Mr Rey Narag forcibly demanded collaterals as a condition to enrollment,” according to group.

They also said the school should conduct a “full, transparent, and impartial investigation,” as well as full disclosure, on the lost P14-M in school funds.

“Today, SAS’s very existence as a tenable school for the people of Parañaque and the surrounding communities is threatened by an administration whose credentials are grossly inept and found wanting,” the alumni said. – Rappler.com

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