BISHOP Patricio Buzon should be the one to look for a middle ground in the conflict between the St. John’s Institute (SJI) and the Diocese of Bacolod involving the property where the Queen of Peace Parish stands, a business leader said on Thursday, May 18.
“I think the bishop should be the first one to look for the middle ground and not play hard ball,” business leader Roberto Montelibano said, adding that Buzon was “vindictive” to declare SJI, also known as Hua Ming, as no longer a Catholic school.
His statement came as the Montelibano family finally addressed the controversy over the ownership of the church property donated by their family.
On May 10, Buzon declared SJI is no longer a Catholic school, adding that the diocese has decided to pull out its ministry from the school following the failed negotiations between the church and the institution over the ownership of the property on which the Queen of Peace Parish stands.
With the departure of the ministry, Buzon said the parish will become a private structure where the school can no longer hold masses and other sacraments.
The Queen of Peace Parish is situated inside the SJI campus.
After a series of negotiations to resolve the feud, the diocese and Hua Ming agreed to pursue a peaceful disengagement of relationship that will end on May 31.
Montelibano, who is the family spokesperson, along with his sister Liceria Montelibano-Zimmerman, clarified the role of their family in the conflict, during a press conference at Capriccioso restaurant in Bacolod City on Thursday.
The family’s statement stated that the relationship of the Montelibanos to the Chinese community of Bacolod goes way back to the two founding priests, Monsignors John Liu and John Su, who along with the Chinese community leaders, many of whom are their family friends, came to ask their family to donate some property so they can transfer their small school to a bigger location.
From there, the school grew and then a chapel was built alongside it, as Liu and Su intended, to serve the Filipino-Chinese students, the statement said.
“Our family and Capitol Subdivision have been dragged into this story by both the SJI and the Diocese in their claims over the property,” Montelibano said.
The statement added that two deeds of donation covering two lots were temporarily turned over to the diocese under then Bishop Manuel Yap and Monsignor Antonio Fortich because SJI, at that time, was not yet incorporated and the Chinese community leaders, including the two founding priests, were not recognized and naturalized Filipinos and could not own properties.
When SJI was finally incorporated, a third deed of donation, superseding the first two deeds of donation to the diocese, was issued to SJI and was signed by diocesan leaders and that became the basis of the land titles covering the school, it said.
The statement added: “Our family has issued an affidavit to this effect some years back and we hope to put the ownership issue to rest.”
Montelibano said their family has “no intention” of taking the property back although he expressed disappointment at Buzon’s move to strip the Catholic status of SJI following the impending departure of the church from the Diocese.
He said he prefers the separation between the two parties to push through.
Although he added, “I prefer a cooling off period” until they can find a mediator.