School Denies Closing of Church

The president of the Board of Trustees of St. John Institute (Huaming) denied that they have closed the Queen of Peace Church to its parishioners, Saturday.

Cesar Villanueva, president of the SJI-BOT in a press conference Sunday said that what they closed was the main gate to the school compound.

“We had to close the gates to the school compound after an unfortunate incident between our administrative and security staff and those who are running the church,” the BOT in statement posted at the school gate said.

Villanueva was referring to the verbal spat between him and Queen of Peace Parish Rector, Fr. Ernie Larida whom Villanueva said was supposedly on leave.

The incident was triggered by the reported hanging of the tarp for the schedule of Lenten masses at the Church, Saturday morning.

Villanueva said that school administrative personnel has requested Larida to wait until they can confirm with Bacolod Bishop Patricio Buzon the matter which Larida reportedly resented.

He said he went to the school to personally talk to Larida, however the latter was allegely raising his voice against him.

He added that he was just trying to clarify if Larida has authority to hang the tarp in the school premises because (Larida) is on leave and the acting parish priest is Buzon.

Villanueva alleged that Larida pushed him in the stomach while saying “taposon ta ni”.

He pointed out that Larida is referring to the long standing feud between the school and the church.

“In order to avoid more violence perpetuated by no less than a priest and a leader of their church organization, we deemed it best to close the main gates,” the statement further said.

Villanueva said that the pedestrians’ gate remain open for the parishioners.

It is not the first time that Larida engaged in a verbal spat with school officials, he said.

In their statement they also said that “we have informed the Bishop about this decision that while front gates are closed, churchgoers can still enter the premises via the small gate.”

It added that “again, we reiterate that the Church will remain open to the faithful, but we are also mindful about the security of our staff and the students who continue to use the facilities.”

Villanueva said Buzon has called up and apologized for the “unfortunate incident.”.

Villanueva said that while Buzon has stated that the church will be reverted back to chapel, it is not clear yet how it will be done.

When reached for comment, Larida said that he has no intention to harm Villanueva.

He said that while he and Villanueva were talking in raised voices, he extended his hands as an act of self defense when Villanueva prompted to approach.*


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