CBCP: A time of pain, a time of grace

The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has formally issued their public apology last Monday on the supposed involvement of some of it’s’ members on the controversial misused of funds of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO).

In a pastoral letter signed and delivered to the public by outgoing CBCP president Bishop Nereo Odchimar, CBCP said they are “deeply wounded” and “sorrowful” by the controversy, quote

“Our Mother Church has been deeply wounded by the controversies in the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office that have erupted in the past two weeks.”

“…There is no doubt that everywhere in the Church there is great sorrow. We your pastors are one with you. As shepherds struggling to love you like Jesus the Good Shepherd, we are sorry for the pain and sadness that these events have brought upon you.”

Earlier reports have stated the accusations on 7 bishops of accepting luxury cars and large donations from PCSO during Former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s administration. PCSO is only allowed to donate ambulances based on its charter.

The bishops dragged on the controversy include Butuan Bishop Juan de Dios Pueblos, Cotabato Bishop Orlando Quevedo, Zamboanga Bishop Romulo Valles, Abra Bishop Rodolfo Jaucian, Isabela Bishop Martin Jumoad, Ilocos Sur Bishop Ernesto Salgado, and Bontoc Bishop Rodolfo Beltran–all are set to face the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee on Wednesday to clear the air on the assertions.

CBCP contrariwise affirms that the bishops’ actions are without malice stating “Out of their sincere desire to help their people, they failed to consider the pitfalls to which these grants could possibly lead them.” The group however assures that the bishops involved are ready to accept responsibility for their actions and faced consequences if proven unlawful, anomalous, and unconstitutional.

Amidst all the issues, CBCP appealed to the public to be slow in judgment as stated in the letter, “As we express our sadness, we also ask you to be slow in judgment and to conscientiously seek the whole truth behind the controversy. Let us seek the truth always in charity.”

The catholic group has already announced that it will conduct its own investigations regarding the anomalies and pointed it will review the way it collaborates with the government on their community outreach programs. They further insist that the bishops chose more humble vehicles over luxury cars, as reported on interaksyon.net.

On an earlier senate hearing last Wednesday, PCSO board member Ma. Aleta Tolentino revealed that Bishop Pueblos wrote Ex-President GMA twice–the first time in 2009 saying it would be a gift for his birthday, and second saying it would be used in delivering “spiritual and social services” to his diocese.

PCSO board secretary Francisco Joaquin III confirmed that the previous board of the agency, then led by Manuel Morato, approved a resolution to issue a check for P1,704,147.90 to purchase 4X4 vehicle for Pueblos.

The same report posted PCSO’s list of the recipients of the donations that included the SUVs:

• Diocese of Butuan  – P1.704 million released on July 9, 2009

• Zamboanga Archdiocesan Social Action Apostolate – P1.54 million released on July 9, 2009

• Archdiocese of Cotabato – P1.44 million released on Feb. 24, 2009

• Diocese of Bangued, Abra – P1.129 million released on Jan. 16, 2009

• Roman Catholic Prelate of Isabela, Basilan – P1.125 million released on July 2, 2009

• Apostolic Vicariate Bontoc – P600,000 released on April 30, 2007

• Caritas Nueva Segovia- Ilocos Sur – P720,000 received on March 17, 2010

Bishop Odchimar refused to answer any more queries from the press after reading the pastoral letter saying the bishops concerned will explain their side on the issue when they attend the senate hearing on Wednesday. CBCP secretary general Monsignor Juanito Figura further said 6 of the 7 bishops will attend the senate inquiry since Salgado is still in the US.