Donations for bishops’ cars range from P1 to P200,000
“Even if I am donating a small amount, this is for the bishops. They do not deserve to be treated this way. It’s just money.”
Shaking with anger and fighting off tears, 52-year-old Rosemarie Espandones railed Friday at what she said was the insulting treatment bishops were getting in the wake of the so-called “Pajero” scandal as she dropped a P20 bill into a plastic jar in support of a campaign to raise funds for the prelates.
The campaign, aimed at buying new vehicles for seven Roman Catholic bishops who had to return what they got with help from the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO), has brought together the rich and the poor.
While Espandones dropped her small bill into the jar set up under a tent outside the Quiapo Church in Plaza Miranda, other donors—businessmen, politicians and institutions—sent checks amounting to thousands of pesos.
Total donations, starting Tuesday, had reached P808,250, according to organizer and lay leader Romulo Macalintal, an election lawyer.
Organizers said among those who sent checks were: Senator Francis Escudero for P100,000, Senator Vicente Sotto III for P200,000 and party-list Representative Mikey Arroyo, the elder son of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, for P50,000.
Several businessmen also sent checks for P100,000, while Radio Veritas gave P100,000, said another organizer, former Manila mayor Lito Atienza.
“I respect them (the bishops) a lot and they are being harshly criticized. I am angry at how they are being treated,” Espandones, a Church devotee from Dasmariñas, Cavite province, told the Inquirer.
She said the bishops needed the funds to propagate the word of the Lord.
“They are belittling the bishops,” said Severita Juanitas, 53, of Quezon City. “They never stole those vehicles. They use them to go around in their work. The PCSO gave them the vehicles.”
Lawyer Fred Perito, who heard about the campaign, said he took a taxi to Quiapo Church just to donate some of his money.
The seven bishops obtained the controversial vehicles using funds released by the PCSO during the Arroyo administration supposedly in exchange for their loyalty. The grant sparked a Senate investigation and the bishops agreed to surrender the vehicles.
The fund-raising campaign was organized by lay leaders belonging to the Coalition for Family and Life to help the now “car-less” prelates get new vehicles.
Macalintal said they hoped to pursue their campaign until next week. He urged car companies to make donations.
“The amounts donated are not that important,” he said. “What is important is we want this to be shared by the poor. We want them to be a part of this undertaking. Everyone is getting involved. Everyone is interested to help. There is still unity in the Catholic Church.”
From P1 to P20
Macalintal said this was the reason they brought the campaign to Plaza Miranda. “Even sampaguita and fan vendors are donating money although they earn little,” he said.
The group’s efforts drew well-heeled churchgoers and poor vendors to the tent.
While others gave P1,000, vendors gave portions of their earnings for the day—their donations ranged from P1 to P20.
Atienza, a leader of a Catholic prolife movement, said they hoped to raise the equivalent of P8.258 million, which was what the bishops reportedly received from the PCSO.
“We are collecting money so that the bishops and priests in the provinces who need vehicles will be given aid through our group, a coalition of family and life organizations,” Atienza said.
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) yesterday said it would be extra cautious and discerning in accepting donations from any group.
“I heard of this move … but if this group will donate vehicles to the CBCP, the CBCP as a body will have to be consulted,” said Msgr. Juanito Figura, CBCP secretary general.
“In the first place, the CBCP did not ask nor did it express any need for a vehicle,” Figura said.
He said that if the lay group would give either vehicles or cash donations directly to the seven bishops, the CBCP would leave the decision of accepting them to the prelates concerned.
“But if they consult the CBCP before accepting, then the CBCP might be able to help them in making a decision,” Figura added.
On hearing that some politicians gave large sums of money, Figura said: “We don’t take it against them. We understand that they might also be sincere in their desire to help, but learning from that sad experience, the bishops will really think hard first before accepting anything.”