FR. FERNANDO SUAREZ: THE HEALING PRIEST'S LIFESTYLE

San Miguel Corp. (SMC) could well have underwritten the construction of the proposed P1-billion shrine to Mother Mary, a project of Fr. Fernando Suarez in Cavite province.
But the business conglomerate discovered massive unnecessary spending by the healing priest, according to an SMC insider, and thus withdrew its support from the project.
“Before, Father Suarez would come to RSA’s office wearing only a T-shirt and sandals, but now he wears expensive clothes and watches, stays in five-star hotels and attends tennis matches like the Wimbledon Classic and the French Open,” said the SMC insider. Ramon S. Ang, president and CEO of San Miguel Corp. is “RSA” to his subordinates. RSA, who wears an ordinary collared shirt to work, has faith in the healing power of Father Suarez, but he was reportedly “shocked” at the priest’s change of lifestyle. Ang is a devout Catholic and his wife is a member of Opus Dei, an organization of ultraconservative Catholic laymen. When SMC, as a principal benefactor, ordered an audit of Father Suarez’s Mary Mother of the Poor Foundation, the business conglomerate discovered that the foundation had spent money left and right without supporting documents. Many rich people healed by Father Suarez have given him hundreds of thousands and even millions of pesos out of gratitude. But when asked why his foundation was short on finances, the priest was reportedly heard saying: “Sa akin binigay ang pera. Bakit ko ibibigay sa aking foundation (The money was given to me. Why should I give it to my foundation)?” Suarez’s high living led to the resignations of Archbishop Chito Tagle as chair of Mother Mary of the Poor Foundation on Sept. 27, 2012; Antonio Tambunting as vice chair on Oct. 2, 2012; and Jun Mangilit as treasurer on Oct. 3, 2012.

ALSO: Some bishops cool to Suarez ministry

Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle has distanced himself from the aborted land deal between San Miguel Corp. (SMC) and Mary Mother of the Poor Foundation (MMP) of so-called healing priest Fernando Suarez. Tagle served on the foundation’s board of directors, but he left when he was named archbishop of Manila in 2011. “I left the board of Mary Mother of the Poor Foundation when I came to Manila from Cavite so I am not aware and not involved in the latest developments,” Tagle said on Friday through Peachy Yamsuan, communications chief of the Archdiocese of Manila. Tagle was still in the Vatican when sought for comment on the failure of the deal between SMC and MMP. He flew to Rome last week to attend the consistory where Pope Francis elevated Cotabato Archbishop Orlando Quevedo and 18 other prelates to the College of Cardinals. SMC donated a 33-hectare property in Alfonso town, Cavite province, four years ago for Suarez to build a “mega-shrine” to the Virgin Mary that would have a statue of her taller than the 30-meter-high statue of Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro. When asked what Tagle thought of talk that he was “unfriendly” toward Suarez because he looked down on the priest’s activities, Yamsuan said it was something that the cardinal would rather not comment on. The Catholic Church is not quick to recognize healing powers. As an organization, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) is respectful about Suarez’s claims of having healing powers, but some of its members are wary about his pursuits. Moneymaking venture: A Church official who requested not to be identified said several bishops closed their doors on Suarez because his healing ministry had turned out to be a moneymaking venture.
“There was trouble in the Diocese of Mindoro [where Suarez is affiliated], the clergy was divided and apparently he was one of the causes of that division. Then little by little, bishops here and there no longer allowed him to conduct healing sessions in their dioceses because of suspicion that he was making money out of healing and already fooling people,” said the Church official. “He was healing here and there and asking for contributions, selling blessed rosaries and medals,” he added.

ALSO: Father Fernando Suarez: I forgive and pray for my detractors

“I know myself and God knows who I am.” This is what “healing priest” Fr. Fernando Suarez has to say about criticism of how his Mary Mother of the Poor (MMP) Foundation has been handling its finances and to allegations that he is living a lavish lifestyle.“I know that all the criticisms and lies that have been published will help me become a better person, a better priest,” Suarez said on Saturday through his spokesperson, Deedee Siytangco, who is a member of MMP’s board of directors and has been his devotee since 2006.
Siytangco said she had known Suarez for more than nine years.
“I’m among those people touched by his ministry. I had a brain tumor before but with the help of a good doctor and Father Suarez’s prayer, I was healed,” she said. Suarez returned to Manila Friday night after a nine-day pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Siytangco told the Inquirer by telephone that Suarez was unavailable for an interview, as the priest was on a “perpetual adoration” and had asked her to speak for him. No need to explain. On insinuations that Suarez mishandled the foundation’s finances, Siytangco said the priest was “above all these.” “He’s not the foundation. We have a treasurer, we have audited statements, funds are spent well,” she said.  “It’s just so sad that some people are trying to put down a priest who only wants to heal. There seems to be a concerted effort to have him defrocked, his ministry stopped,” she said. Siytangco also defended Suarez from allegations that he was living a lavish lifestyle. “He doesn’t even own a watch. Most of his T-shirts are given to him by friends but he gives them to other priests. He wears Crocs sandals but they’re fake, also given to him,” she said.
She acknowledged that Suarez watched the French Open last year but claimed that neither he nor the foundation spent for it. “He was invited by a friend, a Hindu, whom he helped convert into Catholicism,” she explained, adding that Suarez plays tennis “to keep his sanity.” “He plays tennis and he’s very good at it. He’s a champion. It’s also his exercise. Is that wrong? He doesn’t play poker,” she said. “You know, those that were published were half-truths but if you don’t tell the other truth, it becomes scandalous,” Siytangco said. “We stand by him, the foundation stands behind him. We will continue his ministry, healing, livelihood, all the things that he does,” she added.

ALSO: ‘There was money, why was shrine not built?’

Even before San Miguel Corp. (SMC) donated a 33-hectare property in Cavite province to Mary Mother of the Poor (MMP) Foundation, an external audit on the religious and charitable institution founded by healing priest Fr. Fernando Suarez had already disagreed with its bookkeeping practices. In 2010, an audit report prepared by SGV and Co. carried a cover letter that pointed to possible trouble in the future. It said: “The foundation’s policy is to prepare the accompanying financial statements in accordance with the modified cash basis of accounting… which is a comprehensive basis of accounting other than the accounting principles generally accepted in the Philippines.” A former ranking SGV official consulted by the Inquirer explained that the statement meant “we disagree with some of your practices.” In an interview last week, however, MMP board member Lourdes “Deedee” Siytangco said the foundation’s dealings were aboveboard. Proof of this, she said, is MMP Foundation’s commissioning an SGV audit last year, subsequently receiving accreditation from the watchdog group Philippine Council for NGO Certification (PCNC). Fr. Suarez has not returned from a pilgrimage to the Holy Land.
Enter SMC, the country’s largest conglomerate. Upon hearing about Suarez’s troubles with a previous land donor in Batangas City, SMC president Ramon Ang—a regular contributor to Catholic Church charities—stepped in and offered a portion of the company’s sprawling property in Alfonso town, Cavite province, for the healing priest to build his ambitious project: a “mega-shrine” to the Virgin Mary with a statue of her that would be taller than the 30-meter-high Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro. The deed of donation was executed on Jan. 11, 2011, between San Miguel Properties Inc. and “The Philippine Foundation of Blessed Mary, Mother of the Poor Inc.”

EARLY REPORT (3 YEARS AGO) Congregation for healing priest

Phenomenal healing priest Fernando Suarez was amazed. It usually took six
years for a new congregation to be set up, but in his case the vital elements of the process took only six days. “I am in awe!” exclaimed Father Suarez, 44, his voice bringing out his childlike qualities—and his being Filipino. Suarez has formed a new community named the Missionaries of Mary Mother of the Poor (MMP) under the Diocese of Occidental Mindoro after resigning from the Ottawa-based Companions of the Cross, which ordained him in 2002. “I never thought that the process of my excardination and incardination would take place only within six days,” he said, noting the speed to be unprecedented. Excardination refers to a priest’s separation and release from a religious group, while incardination refers to his acceptance into another. Big crowds, donations: Questions have been heard from various quarters on the status of the Batangas-born priest, who now attracts 100,000 to 150,000 people monthly to his healing Masses, apart from drawing substantial donations in cash and in kind from elite families, big corporations and sociocivic groups, not to mention big foreign donors for the projects of the Foundation of Mary Mother of the Poor. Was he expelled by his Canada group? Had things gone into his head and he could no longer be controlled by his superiors? From Canada, he based himself in Batangas while his group was in Cavite, so why was there word that he would move to Mindoro? Breaking his silence on these issues, Suarez said: “Overwhelmed by the grace of peace after a pilgrimage to the tomb of Mother Teresa in Calcutta last February, I resigned from the Companions of the Cross on March 25, 2011. Then, on March 31, 2011, I was accepted by the Apostolic Vicariate of San Jose, Occidental Mindoro, under Bishop Antonio Palang.” On July 16, 2011, Palang decreed the establishment of the MMP as a “Public Association of Christ’s faithful.” The decree stated: “Aimed at living the demands of evangelical counsels, healing, renewal and ministry to the poor with the intent of becoming a society of apostolic life, the MMP is hereby formally accepted for the service of our pastoral jurisprudence.”


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The healing priest’s rich lifestyle

MANILA, MARCH 10, 2014 (INQUIRER) By Ramon Tulfo - San Miguel Corp. (SMC) could well have underwritten the construction of the proposed P1-billion shrine to Mother Mary, a project of Fr. Fernando Suarez in Cavite province.

But the business conglomerate discovered massive unnecessary spending by the healing priest, according to an SMC insider, and thus withdrew its support from the project.

“Before, Father Suarez would come to RSA’s office wearing only a T-shirt and sandals, but now he wears expensive clothes and watches, stays in five-star hotels and attends tennis matches like the Wimbledon Classic and the French Open,” said the SMC insider.

Ramon S. Ang, president and CEO of San Miguel Corp. is “RSA” to his subordinates.

RSA, who wears an ordinary collared shirt to work, has faith in the healing power of Father Suarez, but he was reportedly “shocked” at the priest’s change of lifestyle.

Ang is a devout Catholic and his wife is a member of Opus Dei, an organization of ultraconservative Catholic laymen.

When SMC, as a principal benefactor, ordered an audit of Father Suarez’s Mary Mother of the Poor Foundation, the business conglomerate discovered that the foundation had spent money left and right without supporting documents.

Examples:
The foundation acquired the Little Bridge Resort in Butong, Taal town in Batangas province, saying it paid P55 million out of the total purchase price of P74 million.

There were no documents to support the transaction.

The foundation reimbursed spouses Bong and Elvie Garcia $850,727.20 using its dollar account, supposedly for the donation of the Sto. Niño chapel in Pagkilatan, Batangas City.

What was the reimbursement for if the chapel was donated?

Construction work for the Tabernacle 3 of St. Peter’s Chapel in Butong, Taal, Batangas at P17,827,412.04 in 2008 and 2009.

There were no documents proving the amount was donated.

Donation of P7,249,950 by Teresa Chan for the acquisition of a 102,795-sq m property, but only P3,101,850 was booked.

Many rich people healed by Father Suarez have given him hundreds of thousands and even millions of pesos out of gratitude.

But when asked why his foundation was short on finances, the priest was reportedly heard saying: “Sa akin binigay ang pera. Bakit ko ibibigay sa aking foundation (The money was given to me. Why should I give it to my foundation)?”

Suarez’s high living led to the resignations of Archbishop Chito Tagle as chair of Mother Mary of the Poor Foundation on Sept. 27, 2012; Antonio Tambunting as vice chair on Oct. 2, 2012; and Jun Mangilit as treasurer on Oct. 3, 2012.

* * *

SMC under Ang donates to worthy causes.

The firm’s more than P1-billion donation for the rehabilitation of Eastern Visayas after the devastation wrought by Supertyphoon “Yolanda” makes it one of the biggest benefactors of calamity victims.

The construction alone of 5,000 houses, each costing P200,000, will amount to P1 billion.

That does not include the construction of hundreds of schoolhouses and the deployment of hundreds of heavy equipment and personnel to help in the reconstruction of Eastern Visayas.

It is therefore not surprising that Ang pledged a billion-peso donation to build Suarez’s shrine, thinking it would be a pilgrimage site.

To SMC, the amount is peanuts given the money it sets aside for corporate social responsibility projects.
But it would have been very unwise of Ang to continue supporting a religious project whose initiator is living the life of the rich and famous when his life should be monastic.

Some bishops cool to Suarez ministry By Jocelyn R. Uy Philippine Daily Inquirer


Healing priest Fr. Fernando Suarez

MANILA -Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle (photo below) has distanced himself from the aborted land deal between San Miguel Corp. (SMC) and Mary Mother of the Poor Foundation (MMP) of so-called healing priest Fernando Suarez.

Tagle served on the foundation’s board of directors, but he left when he was named archbishop of Manila in 2011.

“I left the board of Mary Mother of the Poor Foundation when I came to Manila from Cavite so I am not aware and not involved in the latest developments,” Tagle said on Friday through Peachy Yamsuan, communications chief of the Archdiocese of Manila.

Tagle was still in the Vatican when sought for comment on the failure of the deal between SMC and MMP. He flew to Rome last week to attend the consistory where Pope Francis elevated Cotabato Archbishop Orlando Quevedo and 18 other prelates to the College of Cardinals.

SMC donated a 33-hectare property in Alfonso town, Cavite province, four years ago for Suarez to build a “mega-shrine” to the Virgin Mary that would have a statue of her taller than the 30-meter-high statue of Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro.

Conditions unmet

Tagle said the donation had conditions. “It is clear that if the foundation fails to meet them, the land would go back to SMC. Maybe that was what happened,” Tagle said.

The Inquirer learned that the donation required MMP to build the shrine within five years of the signing of the agreement.

This is the fifth year, but despite receiving millions of pesos from local supporters and millions of dollars from foreign believers, MMP has not shown SMC the plans for the shrine.

A source familiar with SMC’s side of the deal told the Inquirer that MMP had asked for an extension, but without any sign of progress in the concept for the shrine the company was unwilling to extend the agreement.

The two sides were expected to announce the termination of the donation agreement this week.

Suarez was not available for comment. He was on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land.

When asked what Tagle thought of talk that he was “unfriendly” toward Suarez because he looked down on the priest’s activities, Yamsuan said it was something that the cardinal would rather not comment on.

The Catholic Church is not quick to recognize healing powers. As an organization, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) is respectful about Suarez’s claims of having healing powers, but some of its members are wary about his pursuits.

Moneymaking venture

A Church official who requested not to be identified said several bishops closed their doors on Suarez because his healing ministry had turned out to be a moneymaking venture.

“There was trouble in the Diocese of Mindoro [where Suarez is affiliated], the clergy was divided and apparently he was one of the causes of that division. Then little by little, bishops here and there no longer allowed him to conduct healing sessions in their dioceses because of suspicion that he was making money out of healing and already fooling people,” said the Church official.

“He was healing here and there and asking for contributions, selling blessed rosaries and medals,” he added.

The official named at least two bishops who had disallowed Suarez from holding healing sessions in their dioceses: former CBCP president and retired Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Oscar Cruz and Malolos Bishop Jose Oliveros.

Cruz said last Friday that he publicly reprimanded Suarez in 2008 for celebrating Masses and holding healing sessions in his archdiocese without his permission.

Cruz sounded disapproving of the healing sessions, saying such activities were “open to abuses, like superstition, hysteria, fanaticism and money.”

‘Bad news’ about Suarez

Cruz said he had heard “bad news” about Suarez.

“Among the bad news I remember was that he was a fake and that he was money-oriented and that his ‘healing ability’ was not true,” Cruz said, adding that he did not believe Suarez had healing powers.

Cruz said he had heard accounts of Suarez raising the dead, which he described as “incredible.”

“Raising the dead to life is not within human reach. It is not within human competence,” Cruz said.

He said he found it strange that Suarez went around looking for sick people when “honest-to-goodness” healers recognized by the Church like Padre Pio and Mother Teresa did not travel in search of sick people to heal.

“[The sick] people are the ones who go to them. It’s the sick who seek them. [Healers] don’t seek the sick, like Father Suarez,” Cruz said.

Oliveros was not available for an interview when the Inquirer sought him out for comment last Friday.
Banned from Malolos

Fr. Dars Cabral, chief of Malolos Commission on Family and Life, said the ban was imposed three years ago after Suarez held a healing session in the diocese without permission from Oliveros.

The ban stays, Cabral said, adding that he would know how Oliveros would react if Suarez came to apologize and ask for permission to celebrate healing Masses in the province.

A local priest, who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press, said a healing session was held at Sta. Rita Parish Church in Guiguinto town in 2011 without permission from the bishop.

The priest compared Suarez’s activity to a plumber fixing a leak in a house without being called in by the homeowner.

But Suarez must have been carrying out his ministry in Malolos even earlier. At a news conference in 2008, Oliveros announced that he was writing a formal complaint to the religious superiors of Suarez to inform them that the priest had been coming to the Malolos diocese in violation of the rules of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

The congregation’s rules require Church-related ministries, like public healing or prayer session, to have explicit permission of bishops.—With a report from Carmela Reyes-Estrope, Inquirer Central Luzon

Father Fernando Suarez: I forgive and pray for my detractors By Tina G. Santos Philippine Daily Inquirer 1:13 am | Sunday, March 9th, 2014


FR. FERNANDO SUAREZ: “I know myself and God knows who I am.”

This is what “healing priest” Fr. Fernando Suarez has to say about criticism of how his Mary Mother of the Poor (MMP) Foundation has been handling its finances and to allegations that he is living a lavish lifestyle.

“I know that all the criticisms and lies that have been published will help me become a better person, a better priest,” Suarez said on Saturday through his spokesperson, Deedee Siytangco, who is a member of MMP’s board of directors and has been his devotee since 2006.

Siytangco said she had known Suarez for more than nine years.

“I’m among those people touched by his ministry. I had a brain tumor before but with the help of a good doctor and Father Suarez’s prayer, I was healed,” she said.

Suarez returned to Manila Friday night after a nine-day pilgrimage to the Holy Land.

Siytangco told the Inquirer by telephone that Suarez was unavailable for an interview, as the priest was on a “perpetual adoration” and had asked her to speak for him.

No need to explain

“Father Suarez feels he doesn’t need to explain anything. He said he had forgiven all of his detractors and he would pray for them. For all these trials, he said he was privileged to have suffered with Jesus at this time when we are commemorating Lent,” she said.

Siytangco said she looked forward to the joint statement that MMP and San Miguel Corp. (SMC) reportedly would release to announce the termination of a deal for the donation of a 33-hectare SMC property in Alfonso town, Cavite province, to Suarez’s foundation.

“But for you to say it’s a ‘collapsed deal’ is going ahead of us,” she said.

As for the funds for building a Marian shrine on the SMC property, Siytangco said the money was intact and “funds are still coming as we speak.”

“We can start the project already. We don’t have all the funds but once we start it, more funds will come in for sure,” she said.

On insinuations that Suarez mishandled the foundation’s finances, Siytangco said the priest was “above all these.”
“He’s not the foundation. We have a treasurer, we have audited statements, funds are spent well,” she said.

“It’s just so sad that some people are trying to put down a priest who only wants to heal. There seems to be a concerted effort to have him defrocked, his ministry stopped,” she said.

Siytangco also defended Suarez from allegations that he was living a lavish lifestyle.

“He doesn’t even own a watch. Most of his T-shirts are given to him by friends but he gives them to other priests. He wears Crocs sandals but they’re fake, also given to him,” she said.

She acknowledged that Suarez watched the French Open last year but claimed that neither he nor the foundation spent for it.

“He was invited by a friend, a Hindu, whom he helped convert into Catholicism,” she explained, adding that Suarez plays tennis “to keep his sanity.”


FR. FERNANDO Suarez has a strong forehand.

“He plays tennis and he’s very good at it. He’s a champion. It’s also his exercise. Is that wrong? He doesn’t play poker,” she said.

“You know, those that were published were half-truths but if you don’t tell the other truth, it becomes scandalous,” Siytangco said.

“We stand by him, the foundation stands behind him. We will continue his ministry, healing, livelihood, all the things that he does,” she added.

Suarez will go to Occidental Mindoro today, particularly to Ilin, a remote town in the province where a small chapel was built by his followers, Siytangco said.

Ilin is among the beneficiary communities of Suarez’s charitable foundation.

“He will spend time there. He has his ministry there, livelihood, among others, which we hope to replicate in other parts of the country,” Siytangco added.

Ministry continues

Suarez will continue to devote his time to his ministry, Siytangco said.

“His ministry will continue whether some bishops like him or not. It’s just unfortunate that some old issues have been dug up because of the egos of some prelates,” Siytangco said.

Several bishops reportedly closed their doors on Suarez because his healing ministry had turned out to be a moneymaking venture and that he was celebrating healing Masses in their dioceses without their permission.

Former Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines president and retired Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Oscar Cruz and Malolos Bishop Jose Oliveros have confirmed the ban and expressed disapproval of Suarez’s activities.

But Siytangco stressed that Suarez celebrates healing Masses only when invited and assured that it had permission from the bishop.

“And the collection during Mass goes to the parish, not to him,” Siytangco said.

“He doesn’t impose himself on anybody, including the two bishops who banned him from their dioceses,” she said, adding that Suarez is welcome again in Pangasinan province because Cruz has already retired.

“In Bulacan province, Bishop Oliveros still wants him banned but you know, it’s his parishioners who are disadvantaged, not Father Suarez. These are poor people, many of whom can’t afford to go to doctors. Father Suarez says, ‘If they ban me, I have no job to do, I won’t get tired,’” Siytangco said, adding that Suarez stays for hours during healing sessions and touches everybody.

“If there are 6,000 people in the crowd, he will touch and pray for each and every one of them. But he always tells people that he’s just a conduit of God. Now, if they want to take that away from him, fine. He’s welcome abroad,” Siytangco said.

Siytangco took offense at allegations that Suarez’s healing ministry is a moneymaking venture.

“That’s not true. The rosaries and bracelets that we sell are made by poor people, it’s their livelihood. I’ve talked to Archbishop Cruz about it a few years ago and told him, ‘Doesn’t the Vatican sell?’ People donate to the foundation, how can that be moneymaking?” she said.

Siytangco also clarified that MMP still planned to build a Marian shrine on the Cavite property that SMC donated to Suarez’s healing ministry in 2010.

A scale model of the Marian shrine shows a statue of the Virgin Mary towering over a cathedral, a livelihood center and a youth development center, among other features.

SMC donated the property to Suarez’s ministry on the condition that he build the shrine within five years.

But after almost four years, only a makeshift chapel, an administrative office and Stations of the Cross have been built on the property. A source familiar with SMC’s role in the project said the company, seeing no progress, had canceled the donation and was taking back the land.

Siytangco denied that MMP failed to present a viable plan for the development of the shrine.

“We intend to finish it. We already spent P100 million to develop the area, including the roads, among others. We cannot put up the structure there without these developments. It’s not true that we don’t have a development plan; we showed it to them (SMC),” she said.

Smaller scale

Siytangco, however, said MMP had planned to “downsize” the project but SMC rejected it.

“SMC wants the original plan. But the plan that we have is from the Batangas project and we found out that Batangas’ topography is different from Cavite’s, so we told them that we have to downsize,” she explained.

Before the SMC donation, MMP was supposed to build the Marian shrine in Batangas City on a 5-ha property owned by Hermilando Mandanas, a former governor of the province and member of the House of Representatives.

A Marian center is under development on Mandanas’ property but Suarez’s ministry has nothing to do with it. Mandanas told the Inquirer on Friday that Suarez moved his Marian shrine project to Cavite in 2010 because the SMC property was larger.

Siytangco said there were no plans to build the shrine somewhere else, referring to reports that MMP was moving the project to another location.

“As we speak, it’s still in Cavite, unless SMC tells us they want it back. If that happens, we’ll give it back and thank them. Then maybe look for another place where we are welcome, if it’s God’s will,” she said.

“But you see, Father Suarez has touched so many lives there [in Cavite]. It has been put to good use, many people were healed and converted,” she said.

She, however, added that MMP had yet to sit down with SMC for a discussion of the Alfonso property.

Suarez, Siytangco said, will celebrate Mass in the covered court that serves as a makeshift chapel in his ministry center on the SMC property on March 16.

The ministry center is called Montemaria (Mary’s Mountain) and Suarez celebrates Mass there every third Sunday of the month.

‘There was money, why was shrine not built?’ By Daxim L. Lucas
Philippine Daily Inquirer 1:59 am | Thursday, March 6th, 2014


http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/files/2014/03/shine-mmp.jpg
Scale model of the proposed Mary Mother of the Poor shrine for devotees of healing priest Fr. Fernando Suarez LEO SABANGAN II

MANILA, Philippines—Even before San Miguel Corp. (SMC) donated a 33-hectare property in Cavite province to Mary Mother of the Poor (MMP) Foundation, an external audit on the religious and charitable institution founded by healing priest Fr. Fernando Suarez had already disagreed with its bookkeeping practices.

In 2010, an audit report prepared by SGV and Co. carried a cover letter that pointed to possible trouble in the future. It said: “The foundation’s policy is to prepare the accompanying financial statements in accordance with the modified cash basis of accounting… which is a comprehensive basis of accounting other than the accounting principles generally accepted in the Philippines.”

A former ranking SGV official consulted by the Inquirer explained that the statement meant “we disagree with some of your practices.”

In an interview last week, however, MMP board member Lourdes “Deedee” Siytangco said the foundation’s dealings were aboveboard. Proof of this, she said, is MMP Foundation’s commissioning an SGV audit last year, subsequently receiving accreditation from the watchdog group Philippine Council for NGO Certification (PCNC).

Fr. Suarez has not returned from a pilgrimage to the Holy Land.

“We also got the PCNC clearance that [says] we are a legitimate NGO (nongovernment organization),” Siytangco said. “It is true that in the beginning, it was a tayo-tayo family-type thing. But with the new board now, we have legitimized everything. We had gone through the audit. Because we were also concerned that people were talking [about it].”

MMP’s corporate secretary, lawyer Lorna Kapunan, also pointed out that the PCNC accreditation indicated that the foundation’s finances were in order. “Because of pseudofoundations and cults being set up, now you’re required to get accreditation from a group called PCNC. PCNC has very stringent rules, like [requiring] track record and good governance.

In fact, it took us quite a while [to be accredited].”

Counting pledges

The 2010 audit report’s cover letter said: “It is not practicable for the foundation to establish control over their donations prior to their initial entry in the accounting records nor is it practicable for us to circularize possible donors or perform other auditing procedures to satisfy ourselves that all donations have been received and recorded. Accordingly, our audits relating to donations were limited to the amount recorded in the accounts.”

In other words, the former SGV official explained, in trying to include in its financial statements donations that had yet to be given, MMP Foundation was, in effect, counting its chickens before they hatched.

“What the SGV auditor was trying to say here is, ‘We can only tell you everything that you record. We can only say what’s in front of us. We don’t know what [funds] really came in.’ [The auditor] doesn’t know what’s not in front of him,” he said.

“To put it differently, the auditor is saying, ‘I can’t state anything that I can’t see. I don’t know whether funds came in or [went] out based on the records available,” he said.

MMP Foundation directors earlier volunteered to provide the Inquirer a copy of their 2013 audit report prepared by SGV and Co. The Inquirer has yet to receive a copy of that audit report.

Not destitute

But even after “pledged” donations were stripped out, the foundation that handled the affairs of Suarez’s healing ministry appeared by no means destitute.

According to the SGV-prepared balanced sheet, the foundation had total assets of P179.8 million at the end of 2009, representing an almost 19-percent increase over the previous year’s asset base of P151.1 million.

Of this amount, P61.2 million was in the form of cash or cash equivalent, while P49.5 million was booked as receivables.
The foundation also had property and equipment worth P59.4 million, “investment in subsidiaries” valued at P2 million and other assets worth P7.6 million.

Against these assets were accounts payable and other liabilities amounting to P11.5 million, leaving the total fund balance of unencumbered equity at P168.3 million—an increase of almost 14 percent from its 2008 level.

SMC donation

Enter SMC, the country’s largest conglomerate. Upon hearing about Suarez’s troubles with a previous land donor in Batangas City, SMC president Ramon Ang (photo at left) —a regular contributor to Catholic Church charities—stepped in and offered a portion of the company’s sprawling property in Alfonso town, Cavite province, for the healing priest to build his ambitious project: a “mega-shrine” to the Virgin Mary with a statue of her that would be taller than the 30-meter-high Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro.

The deed of donation was executed on Jan. 11, 2011, between San Miguel Properties Inc. and “The Philippine Foundation of Blessed Mary, Mother of the Poor Inc.”

At the same time, a source familiar with MMP’s financial situation told the Inquirer that it had been trying to gain PCNC accreditation “for the last three years” but had failed to get it because of unresolved questions involving the foundation’s financial statements.

A visit to PCNC’s website yielded information that MMP Foundation (officially named The Philippine Foundation of Blessed Mary, Mother of the Poor Inc.) received its accreditation on Oct. 14, 2013, valid until Aug. 23, 2014.

The website said “total donations received for the last two years amounted to P71.84 million.” The foundation’s “approved budget for 2013 is P364.36 million, which will be funded by expected donations and pledges of P371.93 million, mostly for the construction of the shrine,” it said.

‘Loose change’

But a former member of the board of MMP Foundation told the Inquirer that the funds held by the group in the Philippines were “loose change” compared to its money stashed in US banks.

The former MMP Foundation board member, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the funds held by MMP Foundation consisted only of local donations.

“Maybe P50 million,” he said, when asked about the size of the local donations. “That’s small. The bulk of the donations comes from US and Canada, and is kept in US bank accounts.”

The foreign funds are raised from the sale of rosaries made by Suarez’s local devotees and are sold to people who attend his healing Masses overseas. Produced at a very low cost, the rosaries are sold at a markup.

“If they’re sold for $5 each, people in the US and Canada will give us $100 for one piece,” the former board member said, adding that affluent devotees in North America don’t mind paying more for a single rosary blessed by Suarez.

“That’s where the bulk of the funds come from,” he said. The funds are kept separate from MMP Foundation’s books, he said, and are under the direct control of Suarez.

Asked how much funds were stashed in US banks, the former board member replied: “Over $3 million.”

He said that with the financial resources available to Suarez’s group, the P1-billion shrine to the Virgin Mary that was planned for the donated SMC property in Alfonso could have easily been built.

“The money was available. So why was it not built?” he said. “Sadly, [Father Suarez] also made some bad financial decisions.”

The Inquirer contacted Greg Monteclaro, president of MMP Foundation at the time of the SMC donation.

Monteclaro said that at one point, Suarez had a falling out with his Canada-based order, Companions of Christ, and eventually left the group to start a new congregation.

‘He changed’

He declined to say what led to the parting of ways between Suarez and the Companions of Christ, but shared his personal recollections and views on Suarez.

Monteclaro said it was his wife who introduced him to Suarez whom she met on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Suarez was then an itinerant priest.

Monteclaro said he invited Suarez to live in his house and even drove him around on his healing missions.

He said Suarez lived in his house for three and a half years, during which the priest exhibited simplicity and piety.

“Father Suarez is an anointed person and he has the gift of healing,” Monteclaro said. “Together with Deedee [Siytangco], Manolo Lopez—the original group [of devotees]—we really believe in his gifts. That’s why we are sorry. What a pity.”

Monteclaro said: “I’ve been with him almost 24 hours a day, and our last stop—even if it’s 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning—is always [to pray before] the Blessed Sacrament. That’s how he is. But he changed. I don’t know why.”

EARLIER REPORT (3 YEARS AGO)

Congregation for healing priest By Ruby Villavicencio-Paurom Philippine Daily Inquirer 3:21 am | Monday, August 8th, 2011


http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/files/2011/08/church.jpg
CHURCH SPRAWL A miniature scale of Montemaria where “healing priest” Fernando Suarez plans to build his own church and congregation in Alfonso, Cavite. PHOTOS BY MARIANNE BERMUDEZ

Phenomenal healing priest Fernando Suarez was amazed. It usually took six years for a new congregation to be set up, but in his case the vital elements of the process took only six days.

“I am in awe!” exclaimed Father Suarez, 44, his voice bringing out his childlike qualities—and his being Filipino.

Suarez has formed a new community named the Missionaries of Mary Mother of the Poor (MMP) under the Diocese of Occidental Mindoro after resigning from the Ottawa-based Companions of the Cross, which ordained him in 2002.

“I never thought that the process of my excardination and incardination would take place only within six days,” he said, noting the speed to be unprecedented. Excardination refers to a priest’s separation and release from a religious group, while incardination refers to his acceptance into another.

Big crowds, donations

Questions have been heard from various quarters on the status of the Batangas-born priest, who now attracts 100,000 to 150,000 people monthly to his healing Masses, apart from drawing substantial donations in cash and in kind from elite families, big corporations and sociocivic groups, not to mention big foreign donors for the projects of the Foundation of Mary Mother of the Poor.

Was he expelled by his Canada group? Had things gone into his head and he could no longer be controlled by his superiors? From Canada, he based himself in Batangas while his group was in Cavite, so why was there word that he would move to Mindoro?

Breaking his silence on these issues, Suarez said: “Overwhelmed by the grace of peace after a pilgrimage to the tomb of Mother Teresa in Calcutta last February, I resigned from the Companions of the Cross on March 25, 2011. Then, on March 31, 2011, I was accepted by the Apostolic Vicariate of San Jose, Occidental Mindoro, under Bishop Antonio Palang.”

On July 16, 2011, Palang decreed the establishment of the MMP as a “Public Association of Christ’s faithful.”

The decree stated: “Aimed at living the demands of evangelical counsels, healing, renewal and ministry to the poor with the intent of becoming a society of apostolic life, the MMP is hereby formally accepted for the service of our pastoral jurisprudence.”

The poor of Elin

To grow the mission, Suarez has been assigned to Elin (pronounced Eling) on the tip of Mindoro, an island three times the size of Boracay and which remains without roads and electricity.

“The place is so poor,” he said. “But that is an answered prayer as I have requested Bishop Palang to locate the mission with the poor.”

“Some have criticized me, saying that I do whatever I want, I go wherever I want to go all over the world. Perhaps if they come with me to Elin, they may say things differently,” the priest said.

“Things are happening fast. MMP now has 10 seminarians. Three will be ordained priests this August,” he added.
The MMP now has five core members, including three incoming priests and cofounder Father Jeff Shannon, also formerly of Companions. Bishop Palang was regarded as canonical founder, Suarez stressed.

Mission foretold

Suarez remembered that on the day he was ordained, a priest came to him and foretold that he was going to receive such tremendous gifts from God that his group would not be able to contain him.

“In Canada, the Companions, to which I am so attached, tried their best to accommodate me and the demands on my healing ministry. But my calling has become so evident,” he recalled.

The young Fernando Suarez was a chemical engineering degree holder from Adamson University who worked for two years with the company CocoChem. He was engaged to be married at 25, but the engagement was called off the same day it was made when his girlfriend of 12 years said, “I think you are meant to be a priest.”

He entered the seminary run by the Society of the Divine Word (SVD).

Suarez recounted that in 1995 the Blessed Mother and St. Joseph appeared to him in a dream where he was told he would go to a “cold and windy place” and would tell the world of God’s love. Three days later, a man came to him and presented him documents for travel to Winnipeg, Canada.

“There really is no barrier to all that God has planned,” the priest said, making a reference to a key message he delivered in his sermon on Saturday, Feast of the Transfiguration.

Obviously in his element at the new site of the Oratory of Our Lady of Montemaria, an MMP Foundation project situated on a breezy hillside expanse in San Alfonso, Cavite, Suarez repeatedly exhorted those present to emerge from the Mass “fully in awe of the power of God.”

“Our Lord heals you all now. He wants you to be in awe, in great amazement of His powers, because He wants you to surrender to Him all your aches, pains and troubles,” he said, drumming up his message in between folksy anecdotes of his healing experiences.

The crowd broke into laughter when he narrated that just the other day, at the Philippine Army headquarters, “napatumba ko ang mga heneral! (I knocked the generals down).”

Prayed over and brought to a state known as being “slain by the Holy Spirit,” the military officers were literally reduced to fallen generals before the power of the Lord, he said.

Suarez’s healing Masses will continue to be held on weekends at Montemaria, with permission from Bishop Palang and Bishop Chito Tagle of Cavite.

The priest glowed with anticipation over the spiritual yield of his new community, one which he said would seek a “new springtime of the Church” through the renewal of priests.

Seeing the healing ministry as a unifier of the Church, Suarez said: “There is healing when there is unity. Hatred breaks. Healing is forgiving and forgiving unites. Unity is healing.”


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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