Published : Monday, August 22, 2011 00:00
Written by : Mamer Bañez
BALER, Aurora -- Sen. Edgardo Angara the other day accused the Prelature of Infanta of allegedly grabbing lands owned by the municipal government and for the local parish of desecrating Baler Church.
Angara, in his speech marking the 402nd anniversary of Baler last August 19 at the municipal plaza fronting the San Luis Obispo parish, blasted the prelature for claiming ownership of the lands which houses the municipal plaza and the Mt. Carmel College run by the Carmelites.
He showed the crowd photocopies of documents indicating that the plaza was owned by the Baler parish and the college grounds by the municipal government since 1929.
“How come that in 1980, the plaza and the college site were no longer titled in the name of the municipal government and the parish of Baler but the Prelature of Infanta? If they were accusing me of grabbing lands, it is they who are the actual land-grabbers,” he said.
Angara also deplored that the Church, a known historical and cultural treasure, was defaced by the present administration which put up a warehouse and built a compound, thus isolating the plaza from the Church.
The senator, who hails from this capital town, said he was forced to speak out against the Prelature of Infanta whose priests he accused of taking turns lambasting the Angaras during Mass.
Prior to his speech, the senator was visibly annoyed when a bell from the Church kept pealing, interrupting the speech of his younger sister, Gov. Bellaflor Angara-Castillo, as if in disrespect.
“Almost weekly spanning years, these priests do nothing but engage in mudslinging, even hurling invectives at the Angaras, accusing us of grabbing lands. But if you look at the records, we are the only family in Aurora which donated 200 hectares of rice and corn lands when agrarian reform was implemented. Yet we were not being paid fully for our donations up to now,” he said.
Regarding accusations that their clan owns vast tracts of lands in the province, Angara admitted that they have vast landholdings but only because they are engaged into land banking. “We do have landholdings in Borlongan, Dianed and Dinadiawan (barangays in Dipaculao town). If others can’t invest in Aurora, I will invest in Aurora,” he said.
Angara also deplored the mysterious disappearance of religious items, many of which were donated by various philanthropists during the time of former First Lady Dona Aurora Aragon-Quezon but went missing and remain unaccounted for among which are the chalice, pulpit and chandeliers.
“These are priceless treasures but they could no longer be found since the Prelature of Infanta assumed jurisdiction over the parish,” he said.
Angara decried the desecration of the historic 400-year-old Baler Church by the local parish. “If you look at the Church now, it looks like a nightclub,” he said, referring to the renovation being undertaken by Fr. Nilvon Villanueva.