Nothing wrong with bishops’ request

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Sunday, July 17, 2011


THE incoming Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) president, Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma, said the bishops’ dealings with a government-run charity organization are “legal and constitutional.”

He raised the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office’s (PCSO) donation of vehicles to bishops in his 21-minute homily at the Carmelite Monastery in Barangay Mabolo, Cebu City yesterday morning.

“The truth is that there was nothing illegal, there was nothing unconstitutional, there was nothing anomalous sa mga obispo (with the bishops) when they worked with PCSO,” said Palma.

He said the bishops followed provisions of the memorandum of agreement (MOA) they signed with PCSO.

Comment

“(These projects) are to be used for health care, poverty alleviation and developmental projects, and they were given through the MOA,” the archbishop said. “They (bishops) followed the MOA.”

The Pontifical Mass held on the feast day of Our Lady of Mount Carmel was the first mass Palma celebrated in Cebu after receiving his pallium last June 29 from Pope Benedict XVI and his election as CBCP president.

He said he has chosen to speak about the PCSO issue “to put closure on the controversy.”

He began by relating that he and Military Ordinary Bishop Leopoldo Tumulak and Tagbilaran Bishop Leonardo Medroso met with PCSO Chair Margarita Juico before the bishops appeared at the Senate hearing.

“I asked, ‘Madam, this thing cropped up while I was still in Rome. Why did you say there was a Pajero for the bishops?’” said Palma.

“She said, ‘Bishop I did not mean it’,” he added.

The confusion stemmed from mentioning a brand of sports utility vehicle (SUV)—a Pajero—when this was only used as a point of reference.

No Pajero

“It was like saying you want to buy Colgate but what you really meant was just toothpaste. Basta SUV, Pajero (which is) luxurious ra kaayo, very expensive,” said Palma.

“But the truth is, there is no Pajero. Out of seven bishops wala bisan usa (not a single one got a Pajero),” he added.

The prelate said that after the second bi-annual CBCP plenary assembly he was presiding, Archbishop Emeritus Ricardo Cardinal Vidal suggested that they stay in Manila to show their support for the bishops.

The bishops named as the alleged recipients of “Pajeros” were Bishop Rodolfo Beltran, Apostolic Vicariate Bontoc-Lagawe; Bishop Leopoldo Jaucian, Diocese of Bangued, Abra; Rev. Martin Jumoad, Roman Catholic Prelate of Isabela,Basilan; Bishop Juan de Dios Pueblos, Diocese of Butuan; Archbishop Orlando Quevedo, Archdiocese of Cotabato; Rev. Ernesto Salgado, Archbishop of Nueva Segovia, Caritas Nueva Segovia; Archbishop Romulo Valles, Zamboanga Archdiocesan Social Action Apostolate.

Palma continued his homily by saying it is the PCSO’s responsibility under the MOA to source funds, whether from charity or grants.

“There was a lapse in the PCSO, but (it was) the bishops who were assigned to explain,” he said.

The bishops have since decided to return the vehicles. Some were parked within the Senate compound while there are two in Mindanao that are ready to be turned over to authorized PCSO personnel.

Truth

“The truth was not told. The truth was not told. There was no Pajero and everything was overboard,” said Palma.

Despite expressing this sentiment, he said the bishops are not joining the calls for the resignation of PCSO officials as a result of the controversy.

He underscored that the bishops apologized not because they did anything wrong, but because the controversy caused the people pain and scandalized them.

He pointed out that the situation in Cebu is different.

“In Cebu, yes we need money for clothing, shelter, education. (But) all these are subservient to things spiritual like the Word of God, the Eucharist,” he said.

In a separate interview, Cardinal Vidal told reporters that the vehicles he is using are not from PCSO funds, adding that he purchased the vehicles himself.

He earlier said one effect of the PCSO scandal would hurt beneficiaries of the feeding programs in various parishes. Vidal said the archdiocese would have to make do with its limited resources while the Senate reviews the charter of the PCSO.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on July 17, 2011.

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