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CBCP apologize amid scandal

/ 03:33 PM July 11, 2011

MANILA, Philippines – Roman Catholic church leaders in the Philippines apologized on Monday after some bishops accepted donations from a state-run lottery and became entangled in a corruption scandal.

The president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), Bishop Nereo Odchimar, also said that the seven bishops involved were ready to “face the consequences” if they were found to have broken the law.

“We express… our deep sorrow for the pain that the recent events have brought to you our beloved people,” Odchimar said in a statement.

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The scandal stems from accusations that then president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo used state lottery funds to give the seven bishops 4WD vehicles and P8.38 million ($196,000) in cash between 2007 and 2010 to buy their support.

The cars and donations came as Arroyo faced an impeachment crisis stemming from accusations of corruption and that she rigged the 2004 presidential elections.

The Philippine senate is investigating the allegations against the bishops, specifically probing whether the donations were illegal and violated the constitutional separation of church and state.

The bishops have acknowledged accepting cars and cash but said they did so only to help the poor people in their communities.

And while Odchimar emphasized again on Monday that the bishops had not admitted to any wrongdoing, they were prepared for sanctions.

“We assure you that the bishops concerned are ready to accept responsibility for their action and to face the consequences if it would be proven unlawful, anomalous, and unconstitutional,” he said.

He also conceded that the scandal had hurt the image of the church, one of the most influential institutions in the mainly Catholic Philippines.

“We are saddened that many of you, especially the youth, the poor… have been confused because of the apparent inconsistency of our actions with our pastoral preaching,” Odchimar said.

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A spokeswoman for President Benigno Aquino III, a major critic of his predecessor who has also been facing political pressure recently from the church on social reforms, said the bishops’ apology was “very welcome”.

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