Palma: No law violated in donations
In his first public appearance in Cebu following the controversy over donations of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO), Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma said the Church did not violate any law.
“The truth is there was nothing illegal, unconstitutional and anomalous” with the donation of vehicles to bishops, he said.
Palma spoke during a Mass celebrating the feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel in Mabolo, Cebu City.
The fund donations for “service vehicles” were made during the Arroyo administration.
Palma said the seven bishops received the donations in good faith.
Palma was elected president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) over the weekend and will assume his new duties in December.
Palma told churchgoers the PCSO controversy mirrored the “contest between what is true and false.”
“If we are followers of the true God, we should defend the truth,” he said.
In his homily, Palma said the vehicles were used by the bishops to implement church programs for “health care and poverty alleviation.”
The PCSO donations, which were earlier questioned by officials of the state-owned lottery, opened Catholic leaders to criticism as they were given at a time when then President Arroyo was being hounded for calls to resign over corruption allegations.
In a separate Mass, Palma’s predecessor Cebu Archbishop emeritus Ricardo Cardinal Vidal asked the Cebuano flock not to be misled by the controversy especially about “morality and propriety.”
“We wound ourselves and we also wound others with these issues,” he said.
Vidal encouraged the flock to “let go of their needs” and to let silence prevail to be able to listen to God.
The CBCP in a pastoral statement apologized to the public for the “pain” of the scandal. Bishops later returned the vehicles, which included sports utility vehicles (SUVs) like a Mitsubishi Montero and Nissan Pathfinder along with pickup trucks and vans to the government when representatives appeared before the Senate.
The bishops said it was unfair and inaccurate to say they received “Pajeros.”
Palma said the bishops’ apology should be understood in its absolute sense.
“We are sorry because we caused you pain; not because we did something wrong,” he said.
The CBCP stated in its pastoral letter that the Church “has been deeply wounded by the controversies in the PCSO.”
Palma is scheduled to hold a press conference later today.
For his part, Vidal said the Isuzu Trooper and a Toyota Grandia van issued to him before his retirement last January were bought by the Archdiocese.
“That’s mine. All the vehicles are from the archdiocese. I’m always clean,” Vidal told reporters after his Mass at the Carmelite monastery.
Archbishop Palma uses an Isuzu Alterra, a seven-seater pickup-based wagon assigned to him a month after he was installed in January.
When Palma arrived from his old archdiocese in Leyte, he brought over a 1980s model Toyota Corolla sedan. Reporters Ador Vincent Mayol and Candeze R. Mongaya
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