Mayor Wants 'Transparent' Probe
December 5, 2006
Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeņa yesterday asked the Cebu Archdiocese officials to be clear in their policy, whether they will go on keeping the identity of erring priests from the public.
Osmeņa said he cannot issue certifications or recommendations for some priests when he is asked now that he knows there is one priest whose character is questionable.
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"What is the policy of the church, to be transparent or to hide? The mayor is sometimes asked to sign certifications that the priest is a person of good character. But how can I when I know one of them is questionable?" the mayor said.
"Is the church going to conceal that from the government? It really puts a cloud on everyone else. I'm just asking a question here but these are things that people would like to know," Osmeņa continued.
The mayor was referring to the still unidentified priest who was suspended by Cebu Archbishop Ricardo Cardinal Vidal because of his alleged misconduct.
The priest was accused of touching 19 students in different parts of their body during a religious activity at the Abellana National High School last Nov. 14.
City Schools Superintendent Leonilo Oliva drew the mayor's ire because of the incident, which prompted the latter to request for the official's relief from his post.
In his news conference yesterday, Osmeņa said he already wrote Department of Education (DepEd) Secretary Jesli Lapuz a short letter asking him to replace Oliva.
"DepEd already sent signals that they're just looking for a replacement," he told reporters.
Osmeņa said he also received reports that Oliva is asking public school principals to sign a petition requesting the mayor to retain him at the DepEd Cebu City division office.
He warned Oliva not to proceed with it.
But Oliva denied having circulated the petition and said he has not seen a copy of the document.
He declined from commenting further on the issue, saying he does not know anything about the petition.
"I heard Oliva is now running around talking to principals to write me a petition and to me, that's worse. If I retain him because of that, it means he's no longer in the position to discipline the principals because he's already indebted to them," an irate mayor said.
Osmeņa also said that Oliva had asked the late lawyer Chito Teleron to talk to him so he would reconsider his decision, "but what is there to reconsider?"
For the mayor, Oliva willfully violated his policy when he insisted on numerous occasions to pull out students from their classes for extra-curricular activities.
He said he has had enough of Oliva's stubbornness in heeding his instructions even if he gave stern warning several times.
"My decision to have him replaced has nothing really to do with the priest...it's the way he responded to that issue. He admitted pulling out the students, he was aware that it is against our policy and still, he justified violating our policy," Osmeņa added. (LCR)
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