Items filtered by date: Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Vatican Sex Abuse Scandal Reveals Blind Spot for Francis

By JASON HOROWITZ and LAURIE GOODSTEIN/NY TIMES


Photo: Cardinal George Pell, at the Vatican on Thursday, said he would return to Australia to defend himself. Credit Gregorio Borgia/Associated Press

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis came to power promising not only to create a more inclusive church and to clean up an ossified Vatican bureaucracy, but also to remove the stain of child sex abuse.

A global pedophilia scandal plagued his two immediate processors. With Francis’s election in 2013, many expected progress. Francis talked about powerful committees to safeguard children, tribunals to try bishops and a “zero tolerance” policy for offending priests.

It hasn’t exactly worked out that way.

On Thursday, the Vatican announced that Francis had granted a leave of absence to Cardinal George Pell, now the highest-ranking Roman Catholic prelate to be formally charged with sexual offenses, and one the pope had brought into his inner circle even as a cloud of allegations swirled over the cardinal in Australia.

“We talked about my need to take leave to clear my name,” Cardinal Pell, 76, stone-faced in simple black cleric’s clothes, said as he sat next to the Vatican’s spokesman and reiterated his innocence. “So I’m very grateful to the Holy Father for giving me this leave to return to Australia.”

 

It was unusual and jarring, bad news for a pontificate that has mostly bathed in global adoration and done wonders to improve the public image of the church.

But for all of Francis’s good works, good will and popularity, disappointed critics saw Cardinal Pell’s removal as only the latest evidence that a pope who has focused the world’s attention on issues from climate change to peace on earth has his own blind spot when it comes to sex abuse in his ranks.

“What happened today clearly demonstrates that the revolution of Francis in the church, when it comes to the issue of sex abuse, is in name only, and not in deeds,” said Emiliano Fittipaldi, an Italian journalist and the author of “Lust,” a book published this year about sex abuse in the Vatican that begins with a chapter about Cardinal Pell.

He said that despite the pope’s talk, “the fight against pedophilia is not a priority for Francis.”

Some have long questioned why Francis brought Cardinal Pell to Rome in 2014 in the first place, charging that he had offered the prelate an escape hatch just as the Australian Royal Commission examining institutional responses to child sexual abuse had begun its work in earnest.

At the very least, the choice seemed to demonstrate that the pope’s determination to dismantle the power hierarchies of the Roman Curia, which he had hoped Cardinal Pell could help him with, was a greater priority and had led him to overlook warning signs.

Despite serious ideological differences, Francis handpicked the arch-conservative Cardinal Pell to lead his Secretariat for the Economy, bringing him to Rome to use his well regarded financial acumen to clean up the church’s muddied finances. Right away, Cardinal Pell acknowledged that “hundreds of millions of euros” had been “tucked away” off the Vatican’s books.

Pope Francis then brought Cardinal Pell onto his powerful Council of Cardinals, a nine-person group that wields enormous power in the Curia. The Australian’s brashness made him enemies among entrenched Vatican officials who took his calls for financial transparency as a threat to their power.

Even as Cardinal Pell struggled to improve one aspect of the church’s image, he came with a separate cloud of scandal. The Australian Royal Commission found more than four thousand people who alleged they had been sexually abused in the church as children.

Cardinal Pell testified that he had made “enormous mistakes” in failing to remove priests accused of abuse when he served as archbishop of Melbourne, and then Sydney.

But if the Pope was displeased with Cardinal Pell, it was not publicly evident.

When allegations that Cardinal Pell had been an abuser himself began leaking into the Australian press, and when he testified for hours to the Royal Commission in February 2016 via video link from a Rome hotel, the cardinal insisted that he had “the full backing of the pope.”

Victims rights groups generally see the pontificate of John Paul II as a disaster with respect to sex abuse in the church, as he presided over vast cover-ups and a period of little accountability.

His successor, Pope Benedict, who read many of the ghastly reports during his time as the Vatican’s doctrinal watchdog, made key policy changes to protect children and hold priests accountable for abuse. But he largely left bishops untouched.

Francis initially raised expectations that he would be more serious than his predecessors about rooting out abusers and demanding accountability.

Nine months after he became pope, he created a commission of outside experts to advise the church on how to protect children and prevent abuse.

Skeptics pointed out that the commission was announced in the midst of hearings by a United Nations panel in Geneva that subjected the Vatican to blistering criticism over the handling of sexual abuse cases.

The commission initially included two survivors of sexual abuse who had been openly critical of the church. Since then, one was forced out and the other left, with both saying the Vatican had failed to follow through on its promises.

Pope Francis acted on the commission’s proposal to create a tribunal to discipline bishops who covered up abuse — but then dispensed with the tribunal when it hit resistance within the Vatican.

The pope later issued an edict, titled “As a Loving Mother,” saying that the Vatican already had all the offices necessary to investigate and discipline negligent bishops, and would do so. But no discipline or sanctions have ever been announced.

“Pope Francis has a lot of explaining to do,” said the Rev. James E. Connell, a priest in Milwaukee, a canon lawyer, and a founding member of Catholic Whistleblowers, a group of priests, nuns and others who advocate for victims. “He sets up these things and then kills them and doesn’t follow through. And these are all matters of justice.”

Father Connell said the group had sent files of documents to Pope Francis and the Vatican on three American bishops the group accused of particularly egregious cover-ups of child abuse, and heard nothing back.

Pope Francis’ focus on mercy as a central teaching may also be a blind spot, Father Connell said. “We hear a lot from the pope about mercy, and fine, we hope the Lord is merciful. But at the same time, justice must be rendered,” he said.

Marie Collins, one of the two survivors who served on the commission that Francis created, said in a blog post on Thursday that it was already clear that Cardinal Pell was guilty of the “appalling mishandling” of priests who abused children while he served as a bishop.

She said Cardinal Pell should have stepped down from his Vatican position long ago, even before he faced charges of sexual offenses.

“He should never have been allowed to hide out in the Vatican to avoid having to face those in his home country who needed answers,” she wrote, adding that Cardinal Pell’s case has shown “how little reliance we can put on assurances from the Catholic Church that bishops and religious superiors will face sanctions if they mishandle abuse cases.”

Francis also provoked outrage when he appointed as bishop Juan Barros, an acolyte of Chile’s most infamous serial abuser connected to the church — the Rev. Fernando Karadima. Bishop Barros stood by Father Karadima, who was tried and found guilty by the Vatican and was forced to retire.

Then Francis stood firmly by Bishop Barros when priests and parishioners disrupted his installation ceremony and wrote letters pleading with the pope to rescind the appointment. Francis was later caught on videotape in Rome calling the Chileans who objected to the bishop “stupid” and “leftists.”

Advocates of sex abuse victims were affronted once again in February when, in keeping with his vision for a more merciful church, he reduced sanctions against some priests convicted of pedophilia. The Vatican has also been criticized as retreating into a bunker mentality when accusations were made against its own.

“It is important to recall that Cardinal Pell has openly and repeatedly condemned as immoral and intolerable acts of abuse committed against minors,” the Vatican spokesman, Greg Burke, said on Thursday after Cardinal Pell read his statement.

He added, “the Holy Father, who has appreciated Cardinal Pell’s honesty during his three years at work in the Roman Curia, is grateful for his collaboration.”

Jason Horowitz reported from the Vatican, and Laurie Goodstein from New York.

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Bradley: Pacquiao still can fight vs young guys

By: Roy Luarca - Editor / @RLuarcaINQPhilippine Daily Inquirer / 03:40 AM June 30, 2017

Photo: Manny Pacquiao speaks to the media in Brisbane, Tuesday, June 27, 2017. Pacquiao, is putting his WBO belt on the line Sunday, July 2, against the 29-year-old Australian fighter Jeff Horn. (AP Photo/John Pye)

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA—Tim Bradley Jr. has fought Manny Pacquiao three times over 36 rounds in a four-year span.

And until now, Bradley still marvels at the way Pacquiao has shown no definite signs of decline as a boxer.

“It’s a little strange, but this guy (Pacquiao) can still fight,” Bradley told Filipino media at the lobby of Sofitel Hotel.

“He does well against younger fighters and I think that he will do very well in the fight,” Bradley said, referring to Pacquiao’s defense of the World Boxing Organization welterweight crown on Sunday.

“Maybe he wants to show everyone that he still competes at the highest level,” added Bradley, who beat Pacquiao by a controversial split decision in 2012 before losing their rematch in 2014 and trilogy in 2016, is in this Queensland capital to commentate on Pacquiao’s battle with Horn at Suncorp Stadium.

After watching Pacquiao’s domination of Jessie Vargas last Nov. 4 in Las Vegas, Bradley is convinced the eight-division world champion has more mileage left in his tank.

“This guy, he still has the speed, the power, the reflexes to be at the top of boxing,” Bradley noted.

Bradley, however, refused to specify the manner (knockout or decision) with which he sees Pacquiao winning.

“I don’t know, it’s up to Manny how long he wants it to last,” Bradley said before boarding a waiting cab.

 

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Venus Williams involved in fatal car crash in Florida 29 June 2017 From the section US & Canada

BBC

US tennis star Venus Williams has been involved in a car crash that led to the death of a 78-year-old man.
A spokesman for Palm Beach Gardens police in Florida confirmed to the BBC they were investigating a fatal crash involving the Grand Slam champion.
A man was taken to hospital after the accident on 9 June and died two weeks later from his injuries, he said.
According to TMZ, which broke the story, police believe she was at fault but her lawyer says it was an accident.
The man who died, Jerome Barson, was travelling with his wife who was driving their vehicle through an intersection when the collision happened.
Ms Williams' car suddenly darted into their path and was unable to clear the junction in time due to traffic jams, according to witness statements in a police report obtained by US media.
Mrs Barson was also taken to hospital but survived.
"[Ms Williams] is at fault for violating the right of way of [the other driver]," the report said, adding that there were no other factors like drugs, alcohol or mobile phone distractions.
The 37-year-old, seven-time Grand Slam champion reportedly told police she did not see the couple's car and she was driving slowly.
Ms Williams' lawyer Malcolm Cunningham told CNN in a statement: "Ms Williams entered the intersection on a green light. The police report estimates that Ms Williams was travelling at 5mph when Mrs Barson crashed into her.
"Authorities did not issue Ms Williams with any citations or traffic violations. This is an unfortunate accident and Venus expresses her deepest condolences to the family who lost a loved one."
Next week, Ms Williams is due to play at Wimbledon in London, where she is seeded 10th.

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Blame it on Napolcom

By: Ramon Tulfo - @inquirerdotnetPhilippine Daily Inquirer

 

For beating up two people inside a bar in Valenzuela City more than two weeks ago, National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) agent Gretch Tuazon is in hot water.

NBI Director Dante Gierran wants Tuazon, an intelligence agent of the bureau’s regional operations service, kicked out of the service should an internal investigation find him guilty.

Tuazon reportedly beat up Marlon Mauricio and Ivy Franco at the Papa Foi Bar in Barangay Karuhatan.

Tuazon was a guest at Franco’s birthday celebration when he allegedly had an altercation with Mauricio.

“Abusive agents destroy our name and they should be weeded out,” said Gierran who wants a speedy investigation of the administrative case against Tuazon.

There will be fewer abusive lawmen — police, NBI and other law enforcement agencies — if complaints against them are dealt with promptly.

Yes, there should be due process as their side must be heard but this should not mean lengthy investigations.

Administrative cases against members of the Philippine National Police (PNP), for example, take years to resolve, making complainants lose interest in pursuing the case.

My public service program, “Isumbong Mo Kay Tulfo,” is witness to the exceedingly long delay in the resolution of administrative and criminal cases against erring policemen.

A Pasig City cop who shot and killed a teenager during a videoke bar brawl, which started when he tried to grab the microphone from the victim, was ordered dismissed from the service only after 20 years.

However, the dismissal order could no longer be served as the policeman had died of cancer months earlier.

And irony of ironies, the criminal case against him is still pending in court!

I should know; my program initiated the filing of both criminal and administrative complaints against the cop.

The National Police Commission (Napolcom) which directly oversees the PNP is notorious for reinstating dismissed policemen.

Many policemen who have been kicked out for various offenses by PNP administrative bodies were able to return to active duty because of Napolcom.

In many of those cases, the policemen were “guilty beyond reasonable doubt,” to borrow court lingo, yet they were reinstated by the Napolcom for reasons only the police body knows.

If there are many corrupt and abusive policemen still with the force, blame it on Napolcom.

The police body is as corrupt as or even more corrupt than the agency it oversees: the PNP.

Let’s hope and pray we don’t reach that point when aggrieved citizens take the law into their own hands or seek redress from nongovernment organizations like the New People’s Army.

The government should act now before it’s too late.

 

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Youths from Marawi resume studies in Makati

Philippine Daily Inquirer

PHOTO: University of Makati —ARNOLD ALMACEN

Seven students displaced by the clashes in Marawi City have taken the offer made by the University of Makati (UMak) to continue their studies in the city-run institution.

While classes already started on June 19, UMak’s admission office remains open for transferees from Marawi and children of slain soldiers.

“We welcome students from Marawi who would like to pursue their college education as scholars of the city government,” Mayor Abby Binay said on Wednesday.

Two of the seven transferees have enrolled as junior and sophomore students taking up management accounting. The rest are completing their enrollment as a Grade 11 senior high school student, a freshman taking up information technology service management, a civil engineering junior, and two management accounting juniors.

Considering their predicament, interested transferees from Marawi are not required to submit their school credentials right away.

An endorsement from their local government or any documents proving they studied or came from Marawi will be accepted in the meantime. —Erika Sauler

 

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Baguio woman shot while waiting for friend


By: Kimberlie Quitasol - Correspondent / @kquitasolINQInquirer Northern Luzon

 

BAGUIO CITY, Benguet—A woman from La Trinidad was waiting for a friend on her way to work on Wednesday morning when she was shot in the forehead.

Jenalyn Rosimo, 21, from the capital of La Trinidad town in Benguet province, was brought to the Baguio General Hospital and Medical Center where she is being treated for the head wound.

The attack took place on Otek Street near the waiting area for public utility jeepneys bound for La Trinidad.

 

Jessica Changa-as, Rosimo’s friend, informed the police that she was walking toward their meeting place when she heard a gunshot ring out at 9 a.m. She saw Rosimo lying on the street.

The police are investigating the incident. No witnesses have come forward to identify Rosimo’s attacker.

 

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Duterte: Robredo is only legitimate successor to presidency

By: Nestor Corrales - Reporter / @NCorralesINQINQUIRER.net 

 

Only Leni can succeed me--DuterteNews

President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday said Vice President Ma. Leonor “Leni” Robredo was the only legitimate successor to the presidency as provided for in the Constitution.

Duterte made the remark as he laughed off the self-proclamation of lawyer Ely Pamatong as the President of the Philippines.

He said Pamatong was “pretender to the throne.”

“Kaya sasabihin ko sa inyo na may problema rin tayong isa because there is a pretender to the throne, assuming that I die within maybe tomorrow, next year, or next month,” Duterte said in a speech on Wednesday during the celebration of the 120th founding anniversary of the Presidential Security Group (PSG).

Earlier, he also led the groundbreaking ceremony of the new PSG Station Hospital Compound at Malacañang Park. He was assisted by Health Secretary Paulyn Jean Ubial and Col. Lope Dagoy, PSG chief.

“There are two claimants to the presidency. Ang isa, nag-organize na at he has claimed that he has deposed me, presidential candidate Amato – si Pamatong,” he added.

Duterte dismissed the self-proclamation of Pamatong, saying it was only Robredo who could replace him should the presidency become vacant.

“Sabi niya (Pamatong), nag-takeover na siya,” Duterte said. “Eh ngayon, nandiyan si Leni. Baka magkamali kayo ng kampo ha. Dito tayo sa Constitution. There is a successor there.”

Robredo is facing an electoral protest before the Presidential Electoral Tribunal after losing vice presidential candidate Ferdinand Marcos Jr. questioned the results of the elections. /atm/rga

 

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Court stops new Pampanga mayor from taking post

Philippine Daily Inquirer 

 

PHOTO: SEND-OFF Chief Supt. Aaron Aquino, Central Luzon police director, addresses policemen from the region who are augmenting troops in Mindanao, where the military is fighting terror groups in Marawi City. —CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

CITY OF SAN FERNANDO — Crisostomo Garbo was proclaimed Mabalacat City mayor on Tuesday by the city’s board of canvassers (BOC), but he was unable to assume the post due to a 72-hour temporary restraining order (TRO) that was issued on the same day.

On the order and writ of execution issued by Commission on Elections (Comelec), the BOC, led by lawyer Abigael Ilagan, convened on Tuesday and proclaimed Garbo as mayor to replace Marino Morales. Morales was disqualified for having exceeded the three-term limit prescribed for mayors by the Constitution.

But at the request of Vice Mayor Christian Halili, who was acting mayor, Executive Judge Omar Viola of the Regional Trial Court in Angeles City issued the TRO and directed the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) and Garbo “to cease and desist from any action that will result in the removal from the mayoral post of the petitioner [Halili].”

 

Halili, who was installed by DILG as acting mayor on June 10, had asked the court to clarify the rule of succession after Morales was disqualified.

Garbo was the second candidate to have garnered the most votes in the May 2016 elections.

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Pyra Lucas, who filed the disqualification case against Morales, said, “Only the Supreme Court can stop Garbo [from taking his post].” She said Morales also petitioned the high court for a TRO, but the court had not issued the order as of Tuesday.

Lucas had accompanied Garbo during his proclamation at the Comelec national office in Manila. Garbo did not take calls when asked to comment.

In his order, Viola said: “From the allegations in the petition but without delving into the full merits of the case, it would appear that the issues relate to the interpretation of two laws, specifically Section 44 of the Local Government Code [Republic Act (RA) No. 7160] and [the] Omnibus Election Code which appear to be in conflict with each other.”

The section refers to the rule of succession of elected local officials.

RA 7160 says: “If a permanent vacancy occurs in the office of the governor or mayor, the vice governor or vice mayor concerned shall become the governor or mayor… A permanent vacancy arises when an elective local official fills a higher vacant office, refuses to assume office, fails to qualify, dies, is removed from office, voluntarily resigns, or is otherwise permanently incapacitated to discharge the functions of his office.” —TONETTE OREJAS

 

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Lawmen question 4 on Bulacan massacre

Philippine Daily Inquirer 

PHOTO: ANGUISH Dexter Carlos Jr., a bank security guard, punches a concrete wall in anguish after discovering that his wife, three children and mother-in-law were killed in their own house in the City of San Jose del Monte in Bulacan province. —EDWIN BACASMAS

CITY OF MALOLOS — Police investigators have been interviewing people who have access to a house in the City of San Jose del Monte where three children and their mother and grandmother were murdered on Tuesday.

Bank security guard Dexter Carlos Jr. found five members of his family dead from stabbing inside their house at North Ridge Royal Subdivision.

Four people, described as neighbors and tricycle drivers, had been classified as “persons of interest” because they frequented the Carlos house to buy tap water, said Supt. Fitz Macariola, city police chief.

 

Carlos’ wife, Estrella, 35, sold to their neighbors tap water taken from a faucet at the front yard of their house in Barangay Sto. Cristo, Macariola said.

According to him, the persons of interest were being investigated because they were known to the victims and had been invited into the Carlos home.

Carlos said his wife never talked about people in the community who may have been paying her extra attention. But on several occasions, he said, he took note of a neighbor who seemed to be attracted to his wife. This neighbor was among those now undergoing interrogation, police said.

Carlos had returned from work at a bank in Makati City early on Tuesday when he found his mother-in-law, Aurora, dead and partly naked inside the house.

He found Estrella naked outside the house. His three children – Donny, 11, Ella, 7 and Dexter Jr., 1 — were found dead in a room.

Macariola said he had yet to receive the results of forensic examination of the crime scene and the autopsy reports.

San Jose del Monte Mayor Arthur Robes and his wife, Bulacan Rep. Florida Robes, shouldered the expenses of the wake for the victims at a neighborhood basketball court, Carlos said.

The mayor and Bulacan Gov. Wilhelmino Sy-Alvarado also put up a P100,000-reward for information that would help shed light on the murders.

Speaking earlier to Radyo Inquirer, Macariola said the persons of interest had not been detained but had been asked to cooperate in the investigation.

“In a case where rape may have been committed and children were murdered, only a drug addict or an insane person could have done that,” he said. —Carmela Reyes-Estrope

 

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What Went Before: Pork barrel scam

Philippine Daily Inquirer 
In July 2013, the Inquirer exposed the alleged diversion of billions of pesos in Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) allocations of senators and members of the House of Representatives to bogus nongovernment organizations (NGOs) set up by businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles.

Several government-owned and -controlled agencies were allegedly used as conduits in channeling PDAF funds to ghost livelihood projects of the fake NGOs.

In August of the same year, the Commission on Audit (COA) released a report that named government agencies that facilitated the release of P6.156 billion in PDAF funds to ghost NGOs from 2007 to 2009.

The agencies identified in the COA report included Technology Resource Center (TRC), which handled P2.613 billion in PDAF funds, National Livelihood Development Corp. (NLDC), which facilitated the release of P1.299 billion and National Agribusiness Corp. (Nabcor), which handled P1.265 billion.

This led to proposals in Congress to abolish the agencies linked to the pork barrel scam.

The Aquino administration scrapped the government-owned and -controlled corporations as part of a crackdown on “nonperforming” and “unnecessary” state companies. Among those abolished were TRC, NLDC and Nabcor.

Further, investigations on the misuse of the PDAF resulted in the filing of charges of plunder, malversation, bribery and graft and corrupt practices in the Sandiganbayan against Napoles and several legislators and government officials, including former Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Ramon Revilla Jr. and Jinggoy Estrada, for their alleged involvement in the controversy. —Inquirer Research

 

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