Rally mars Catholic school's anniversary

MANILA, Philippines – Even before the school's 95th anniversary rites could begin, former teachers and alumni of St Andrew's School (SAS) in Parañaque staged a rare protest to highlight controversies surrounding the school and their diocese.

Carrying placards but without loudspeakers, over a dozen gathered outside the school's perimeter fence at 6 a.m. Wednesday, June 27, to protest the school's handling of finances, as well as issues surrounding the Parañaque Diocese. (Watch more in the video below.)

Their rally took place days after alumni released a statement that, among other things, criticized SAS for demanding collateral from parents who can't afford their children's tuition. The Parañaque Diocese also came under fire after Rappler broke the story on the diversion of millions of funds meant for calamity victims.

On his way to SAS, school director Fr Rolando Agustin saw the protest and smiled as he briefly passed by. Three hours later, Agustin presided over an anniversary Mass and, in his homily, criticized teachers and “prophets” who sow division within their communities.

One of the organizers, alumnus Dr Erwin Carabeo, said their group simply wanted to raise awareness on issues surrounding SAS. “We care for the school. We want the students to continue enjoying the quality of education that we received from the school,” Carabeo said.

Public attention is needed, said retired teacher Zenaida Acero, because resolving issues within the diocese will help the poor eventually.

She cited the Parañaque Diocese's diversion of funds for calamity victims. “Kung hindi 'yan mada-divert, mas maraming matutulungan,” she said. (If that will not get diverted, more people will be aided.)

'Bad' prophets

In his homily at the 9 a.m. Mass for grade school students, Agustin took potshots at “bad” prophets or teachers who sow division in their communities, jumping off from the Gospel passage for the liturgy.

“If the teacher is angry and the teacher talks about the bad things of other people, and the result is division among the class, is he or she a good teacher or prophet?” said Agustin, addressing a crowd of grade school students.

“If the teacher talks about good things, and that results in unity and love among the members of the class, is the teacher good or bad? Jesus is the good teacher of all, because he teaches us to love everybody, and the result would be unity,” he said.

Speaking to Rappler after the Mass, Agustin said protesters should have chosen to conduct a dialogue instead of a rally. The priest said he hopes for “mutual respect and trust (toward) one another.”

Ito naman ang gusto ng ating Panginoon, na magkakaisa tayo, tayo'y nagmamahalan. Sana sundin natin ang turo ng ating Panginoon, at i-settle natin ito sa isang mas magandang paraan para sa kabutihan ng mananampalataya,” Agustin said.

(This is what the Lord wants, that we be united, that we love each other. I hope we would follow our Lord's commands and settle this problem in a proper manner for the sake of the faithful.) — Rappler.com

Click on the links below for related stories: 

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.