Blessing in disguise

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Having a newly-built house blessed by a priest is a Filipino tradition. Taking this cue, a man in priest’s clothing and holding a Bible and containers of holy water roams around Tondo looking for such houses. He enters them and offers the ritual to its occupants.

But Marlon Ponterez is not your ordinary priest. In the first place, it’s not a priestly practice to offer blessing rituals. It is the house owner who goes to a priest and asks for the blessing.

Another odd thing about Ponterez is that he asks for a P1,000 fee for the blessing and distributes solicitation envelopes to people in the houses he visits. That blew the cover of the fake priest when a homeowner reported him to the police this week.

After interrogation, Police Supt. Reynaldo Magdaluyo, Manila Police District Station 1 commander, learned that Ponterez was a former convict and Sputnik Gang member. He was released from prison last year after serving time for carnapping. The Sputnik tattoos in his body were testaments to his dark past.

When Magdaluyo asked him if he is a priest, Ponterez replied that he is not yet ordained by a Catholic congregation. As for the money he collects from the house-blessing rite, he claimed that he uses it for a feeding program that apparently includes his five children as among the beneficiaries.

Ponterez denied accusations that he demands money in exchange for a house blessing. He said he also blesses the houses of moneyless homeowners.

Ponterez will likely continue with his prayers, but not anymore to bless a house. He will need it to avoid going back to jail with the extortion, estafa and usurpation of authority charges he is now facing.

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