Outcry in Philippines over plan to turn college into retail zone.
Catholics in the city of Maasin in Southern Leyte province have called for the removal of their bishop whom they accuse of “arrogance,” extortion and attempting to turn a Catholic school into a shopping center.
Bishop Precioso Cantillas of Maasin has become the target of a ‘hate campaign’ after announcing plans to convert part of Saint Joseph’s College, the province’s biggest private school, into a commercial complex housing banks, restaurants and shops.
He said the move is necessary because of a declining number of students at the school.
Cantillas, who was named bishop of Maasin in 1998, is school president.
The protesters, who posted their complaints on the internet, also slammed the bishop for “unlawful increases of tuition [and] miscellaneous fees … without proper consultation” with parents and teachers.
They have called on Cantillas to step down, saying people “have had enough” of what the prelate is doing.
Messages posted on social networking sites also threatened to hack the school’s website.
Fr Oscar Cadayona, the school’s vice president and pastor of the city’s Catholic cathedral, defended the bishop who has refused repeated requests for interviews.
Cadayona said the bishop is “sensitive to the needs of the students,” adding that what the school administration does “is for the students and teachers.” He said the Cantillas only approves the result of consultations with stakeholders of the school.
The priest said the complaints posted on social media sites are baseless.
He said it is “unfair to judge” the bishop based on what he called “hearsay.” The priest said Cantillas has the support of the clergy.
The protesters, however, have accused Cadayonas of demonstrating an “evident display of power” by giving police printouts of comments against the school and Cantillas.
This was an attempt to scare people, they said.
Those behind the protests declined to be named for fear of repercussions on their children who are enrolled in the school.
“We are afraid because it is normal that school authorities will hold a grudge against us,” one parent said.
“I don’t like the way [Cantillas] manages the school but I don’t want my kid to suffer,” another one said.