BACOLOD City – Bacolod Bishop Patricio Buzon has ruled on the controversy surrounding the ownership of the property on which the Queen of Peace or Hua Ming Church stands.
In a decision sent to local media here, Buzon said “litigation is not the most viable option to resolve ownership because deciding with finality on the matter is not within the competence and prerogative of the Office of the Bishop.”
“Instead, the Diocese will uphold its obligation towards the conduct and growth of the Chinese Apostolate in Bacolod as envisioned by the donors of the property,” Buzon said.
He said that the “faithful to the intent of the donor, the Diocese of Bacolod will initiate the process of establishing a personal Parish for the Chinese apostolate.”
The Diocese Presbyteral Council will be tasked to deliberate on the manner of reconfiguring the present juridical areas of the parish after due consultation with all stakeholders.
The bishop said he prays all parties will abide by his decision “so we can all begin the process of healing the deep wounds inflicted on us.”
“The controversy concerns the ownership of the property, which the Diocese of Bacolod and the St. John’s Institute Inc. respectively claim,” Buzon said in an executive summary containing his decision.
Aware of the sensitivity and complexity of the problem, the bishop said he decided to form an independent body to objectively study the case and present their findings and recommendations in order to assist him in his decision making.
The “Ad Hoc Committee on the Hua Ming case” was composed of Bishop Leopoldo Jaucian, Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines national coordinator for the Chinese apostolate; civil lawyer Ma. Liza Lopez-Rosario; Msgr. Higinio Velarde, a canon lawyer; and Dr. Ma. Helena Desiree Terre, an educator.
The decision was made after going over the committee’s findings and recommendations, and meeting separately with the Diocesan Presbyteral Council, SJI Board of Trustees, Queen of Peace Parish Pastoral Council, and some representatives of the SJI Alumni Association.
“My ruling is not only concerned with the need for a speedy resolution if this case, but more on having a decision that is cognizant of the common good of all the parties involved,” he said.
Arriving at a fair and just resolution of the matter at hand requires two things: setting the record straight on the historical facts regarding the erection of the parish and the property claims involved as demanded by the value of truth, and seeking the common good of the whole diocese, and devising a more pastoral approach to the administration of the Chinese apostolate, he said.
The Diocesan Board of Consultors maintains that the Diocese still owns the three parcels of land covered by the first deed of donation in 1956 and 1964 executed by Capitol Subdivision Inc. in favor of the Roman Catholic Bishop of Bacolod.
The bishop’s decision stemmed from a controversy that he faced as soon as he was installed as the new bishop of Bacolod on Aug. 9, 2016.
The controversy pertains to the property on which St. John’s Institute and Queen of Peace Church stands.
The reason given is that the third deed of donation in 1969, which intends to supersede and cancel the donation to the Roman Catholic Bishop of Bacolod covered by two prior donations, is invalid, Buzon added.
But the bishop said he believes the truth about the ownership of the Hua Ming property is far larger than the legal aspect.
In all three donations, the donor was consistent that the donated lands should be entrusted to the Chinese community as beneficiary, Buzon said.
“Going back to the initial inspiration of the founding fathers of the Chinese apostolate in Bacolod ultimately provides the ‘hermeneutic key’ to the better understanding the present controversy, and a resolution to the ownership issue and administrative woes that Hua Ming community is currently experiencing,” Buzon said.
Both the Catholic Church and SJI are therefore tasked by the donor with the same mission of promoting the Catholic apostolate and education for the same beneficiary, the Chinese community of Bacolod, he said.
Buzon said “it is important that both institutions work together as equal partners in fulfilling the intent of the donation, each respecting the autonomy of the other in their respective area of responsibility and coordinating with each other in the other areas where they converge.”
He said that the Diocese of Bacolod will review its relationship with SJI through a Memorandum of Agreement and will ensure and safeguard the autonomy of the Church in the exercise of her pastoral life and ministry among the faithful.
The Diocese also moves that representation of the Church in the SJI Board of Trustees be restored to be able to participate in policy-making decisions, particularly on matters that pertain to and guarantee the Catholic identity of SJI.
The pastoral administration of the parish and pastoral ministry of SJI will be entrusted to a clerical religious institute or a clerical society of apostolic life with the consent of the competent superior, Buzon said.