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Opus Dei in the News Media

Opus Dei Cookbook
Inquirer News Service, July 21, 2002

Self-dealing

THE NEXT time Prof. Bernardo Villegas lectures on corporate governance, all he has to do is hold a mirror and look at himself and his Opus Dei colleagues at the now bankrupt investment house, Corporate Investments Philippines, Inc.

Documents filed in the ongoing CIPI insolvency case at the Pasig Regional Trial Court show that even Opus Dei stalwarts can cook corporate books and engage in self-dealing a la Enron and Worldcom.

Ex-CIPI president/CEO Vicente Atilano, for instance, was discovered to have sold to his son Carlos a house in Milpitas, California, owned by CIPI subsidiary ATP Technologies.

Unknown to the CIPI board, the elder Atilano transferred ownership of the company house to his son for 290,000 dollars in January 2000, a check with Santa Clara County records show.

Ten months later, in November 2000, the son turned around and sold the same house to a third party for 470,000 dollars, for a quick profit of 180,000 pesos.

The elder Atilano, a member of Opus Dei like Villegas, left CIPI under a cloud of doubt after the investment house acknowledged that it had inadequate assets to cover about 1.3 billion pesos in commercial papers and other liabilities.

Villegas, a director who represented the 5-percent shareholdings of CIPI employees, is also no longer connected with CIPI, after having briefly served as chair right after Atilano's departure. In addition to the CIPI employees, the SMC and Coca-Cola Bottlers retirement plans and the Archdiocese of Cebu are the major shareholders of the investment house.

Atiliano himself owned 20 percent of CIPI.

An in-house investigation after Atiliano's departure showed that CIPI officers directly under Atiliano had sold about 380 million pesos in "non-existent debt instruments/commercial papers" to the unsuspecting public and corporate investors as late as 1999, when CIPI was already floundering.

At that time, Villegas was busy finishing a book praising Estrada's first-year economic policies. That book, incidentally, was funded by a grant from an Erap supporter, plastics king William Gatchalian.

Antonio Jacinto, who assumed the presidency after Atiliano, and Edgar Tordesillas, CIPI first vice president, executed a complaint-affidavit accusing Atiliano, and CIPI officers Wilfredo Gamboa, Jocelyn dela Dingco, Stella Agra-Sales, Rafael del Rosario, Nazzar Luis, Erwin Arellano, Ma. Christine Pagkalinawan, Ignacio Aquino and Juan Claudio Laya of estafa (fraud) and fraudulent acts for the simulated transactions.

Among the corporate holders of CIPI papers include Assumption College (12.9 million pesos), Canossa College (5.2 million pesos), La Consolacion College (3.5 million pesos), Sacred Heart Missionaries (2.4 million pesos), Morning Dew Montessori School (5.7 million pesos), DCCD Engineering (2.7 million pesos), and Star Airfreight (3.2 million pesos).

Hundreds of individual investors, mainly Catholic parishioners, who entrusted their life-savings on the strength of the Opus Dei/Catholic Church provenance of the investment house, now face the prospects of getting back, if ever, only 30 percent of their original placements.