Latest Stories

Philippines probes alleged church link to ivory

ELEPHANT tusks from Tanzania were found inside two container in this photo taken in Manila on May 20, 2009. INQUIRER FILEPHOTO

MANILA—Philippine authorities said Wednesday they had launched an investigation into the possible involvement of Catholic priests in the illegal trade of African ivory.

The inquiry came after a National Geographic report said church ownership of religious icons made from ivory was widespread in the mainly Catholic country of about 100 million people, officials said.

Investigators said the probe would initially focus on two priests quoted in the article, one of whom allegedly gave the magazine a list of known ivory carvers in Manila and advice on how to smuggle statues abroad.

“We already knew… that the Philippines is a trans-shipment point of illegal tusks, and that they are smuggled out as religious icons,” Mundita Lim, head of the Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau, told AFP.

“But this is the first time that a link with some prominent members of the church is being established for being involved in the illegal trade.”

National Bureau of Investigation agents were this week sent to question church leaders in Cebu, the Philippines’ second biggest city, where one of the priests owns a vast collection of icons, investigation head Sixto Comia said.

“We are looking at possible criminal liability here. We will be investigating their artefacts and how they were acquired,” he told AFP.

“This is very saddening that some of these priests may be involved in the illegal trade of ivory.”

Comia said investigators would look into whether the two priests had any links to smugglers of 13.1 tonnes of Tanzanian elephant tusks seized in 2005 and 2009, as well as a shipment of six rhinoceros horns this month.

The maximum penalty for possessing illegal ivory in the Philippines is four years in jail.

Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma, who also heads the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, released a statement Wednesday emphasising that the church did not approve of any trade in illegal ivory.

He also questioned the veracity of the National Geographic article, saying it “smacks of bias against religious practices”, but did not comment on whether the two priests named had indeed possessed illegally obtained ivory.

Archbishop Oscar Cruz, a senior member of the CBCP, said the church owns a collection of ivory statues across the country, but said these were pieces obtained well before an international ban on new ivory was put in place.

Follow Us

Follow us on Facebook Follow on Twitter Follow on Twitter

Recent Stories:

Complete stories on our Digital Edition newsstand for tablets, netbooks and mobile phones; 14-issue free trial. About to step out? Get breaking alerts on your mobile.phone. Text ON INQ BREAKING to 4467, for Globe, Smart and Sun subscribers in the Philippines.

Tags: African ivory , illegal ivory trade , Ivory trade , National Geographic report , Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau , religious icons

Copyright © 2014, .
To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.
Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:
c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94


  • US ‘closely watching’ for signs of N.Korea nuclear test
  • Anti-Obama protesters clash with police in Manila
  • Lacson: Number of pork-tainted senators could form quorum
  • Anti-Obama protesters clash with police in Manila
  • Napoles’ surgery successful—doctor
  • Sports

  • Wizards beat Bulls in OT to take 2-0 series lead
  • Pacers rally past Hawks 101-85 to even series
  • David Moyes out as Manchester United manager
  • Nadal to face fellow Spaniard at Barcelona Open
  • Defensive Chelsea holds Atletico in scoreless draw
  • Lifestyle

  • Wanted: Beauty queen with a heart that beats for the environment
  • Kim Atienza: At home with art and design
  • Life lessons I want to teach my son
  • Sweet party for Andi Manzano
  • Safety in online buying and selling
  • Entertainment

  • Ex-Fox exec denies allegations in sex abuse suit
  • Kris Aquino backtracks, says Herbert Bautista and her are ‘best friends’
  • Summer preview: Chris Pratt enters a new ‘Galaxy’
  • Bon Jovi helps open low-income housing in US
  • Summer movie preview: Bay reboots ‘Transformers’
  • Business

  • McDonald’s 1Q profit slips as US sales decline
  • SEC approves SM’s P15B retail bond offer
  • $103M Vista Land bonds tendered for redemption
  • Oil slips to $102 as US crude supplies seen rising
  • SC stops Meralco power rate hike anew
  • Technology

  • Engineers create a world of difference
  • Bam Aquino becomes Master Splinter’s son after Wiki hack
  • Mark Caguioa lambasts Ginebra teammates on Twitter
  • Brazil passes trailblazing Internet privacy law
  • New York police Twitter campaign backfires badly
  • Opinion

  • One-dimensional diplomacy: A cost-benefit analysis of Manila’s security deal with Washington
  • No ordinary illness
  • Reforest mountains with fire trees and their kind
  • Day of the Earth
  • When will Chinese firm deliver new coaches?
  • Global Nation

  • Filipina, 51, shot dead by 24-year-old American boyfriend
  • China, rivals sign pact to ease maritime tensions
  • Visa-free US trip? Do not believe it, says consulate
  • Obama visit to Asia seen as counterweight to China
  • Violence mars militant protest at US Embassy
  • Marketplace