Activist priest Robert Reyes says bishops got more than Pajeros
SAN PEDRO, Laguna—Activist priest Fr. Robert Reyes on Tuesday alleged that a number of Catholic bishops not only got expensive vehicles out of public funds but also benefited in other forms during the presidency of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
“Not just the Pajeros. She constructed houses (for priests), convents, cathedrals, and gave away cars,” Reyes, a staunch critic of the past administration, said in a phone interview.
Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office chair Margarita Juico earlier said they were verifying reports that Arroyo solicited the support of Catholic leaders by giving them Mitsubishi Pajeros.
This was after PCSO officials disclosed that Arroyo, now a congresswoman in the second district of Pampanga, left the PCSO some P4 billion in debt.
Reyes, who is now based in Palawan, added: “It doesn’t take much intelligence to know that you are being corrupted or bribed.’’
He said the Church’s weakness was exploited by a president who knew how to silence moral and spiritual leaders through corruption.
Reyes, who claimed to have an idea who these bishops were, said the practice of taking donations from Arroyo thrived, not only before she stepped down, but also during the “crisis points” of the past administration.
He cited the election cheating scandal in 2005 as one of the crisis points.
Asked how well he knew the practice, the priest said: “I’m not speaking from the outside (of the Church’s institution).”
He said the money, used for “donations” to the churches, did not only come from the presidential or emergency fund, but also from the buckets of the PCSO and Pagcor. The latter agency, in turn, has divided Church leaders on whether to support gambling or not.
Reyes said the creation of the Presidential Advisers on Ecclesiastical Affairs was also for Arroyo to have a better insight of who among the bishops most likely needed vehicles or church buildings.
“The vital and fundamental role of the Church is to complain and set the records straight (in government). We (were) weakened as an institution because of this,” he said.
He said with the auditing of the expenditures of the past administration, it was time for the Church to come clean, by urging the bishops involved to return the Pajeros to the government.
“They don’t have to make it public or announce it. Just listen to their conscience,” he said.
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