Filipinos are apparently so religious that pretending to be a priest is actually a profitable gig for con artists. That is if they don’t get caught like this guy in Tondo, Manila yesterday.
The suspect, Marlon Ponterez was allegedly offering to bless images of saints and houses in Barangay (village) 105 while the area was celebrating a religious feast, ABS- CBN News reported. Of course, he did so in exchange for money.
He was even wearing priests’ vestments and had “holy water” and a bible on hand.
At one point, Ponterez allegedly went to a newly built house, blessed it, and then charged PHP1,000 (US$19.23), Manila Police District Station 1 commander Police Superintendent Reynaldo Magdaluyo, told GMA News’ Balitambayan.
He also celebrated a mass in the area, Radyo Inquirer reported.
Giving priests donations in exchange for such services is common practice but it is not compulsory.
Things started to get fishy when residents noticed that Ponterez was hiding money inside his bible. He also allegedly had white envelopes he used to ask for donations.
When asked if he was a priest, the suspect said that he was still a “missionary” for a new congregation, GMA News reported. He said he uses the money for feeding programs and to support his five children.
But it turns out that he wasn’t a holy man at all and is, in fact, believed to have been a member of the notorious Sputnik Gang, GMA News reported.
According to ABS-CBN News, Ponterez also admitted that he has been doing the same stunt in the Laguna province for a year. He was also involved in a carnapping incident last year, reports state.
Ponterez will face charges for usurpation of authority, estafa, and grave coercion.