'Pajero bishops' committed moral sin: lawmaker

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Tuesday, July 5, 2011


THE principal author of the Reproductive Health (RH) bill said Tuesday that Catholic bishops' illegally receiving motor vehicles and cash gifts from the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) may not be "a crime per se, but is morally offensive."

"The Catholic Church is way too rich to be a charity case and has more than sufficient resources to finance its charitable work without competing with countless indigent patients and legitimate charity beneficiaries," House Minority Leader and Albay Representative Edcel Lagman said.

Lagman noted that while there is no offense defined under the Revised Penal Code or any act punishable by any special penal law that would criminalize the acceptance of motor vehicles from PCSO, the bishops may still be criminally liable under the PCSO charter.

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Citing Section 8 of the PCSO charter, Lagman said any officer or employee of a charitable institution who uses funds obtained from PCSO for purposes other than those authorized under the law shall be punished by imprisonment of not less than one month and not more than three years.

"Accordingly, any bishop who uses a motor vehicle or cash obtained from PCSO for non-charitable purposes is criminally liable under the PCSO Charter," he stressed.

Earlier this week, Lagman called on President Benigno Aquino III to investigate the controversy involving the PCSO's questionable distribution of donations.

Davao Archbishop Fernando Capalla has accused the government of singling out the Catholic Church in the issue, and challenged the PCSO to also identify other religious organizations who have received the same from its agency.

Capalla also labeled as "unfair" the accusations against the so-called "Pajero 7", implying that they are being targeted by the government because of the bishops' critical position on the controversial RH measure.

Meanwhile, Lagman had been accused of benefiting from the PCSO being the recipient of one ambulance without having to shoulder the required 40-percent share.

Lagman, an ally of former President and now Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, already denied the accusation, calling the PCSO report "completely wrong and baseless." (Kathrina Alvarez/Sunnex)

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