Manila bishop backs Senate probe of ‘Pajero 7’
Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo on Monday said that a Senate inquiry might just be the right forum to clear the issue involving several bishops in the alleged misuse of funds of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO).
But Pabillo said it was also high time for the state-run PCSO to spell out its functions and clarify its rules as a charitable agency so that the Church and its organizations can act accordingly.
“Their rules are not really clear if it can give donations or not… They should make that clear so that we would know what to do,” Pabillo, head of the Catholic bishops’ National Secretariat for Social Action, said in an interview with reporters on Monday.
He wondered what could have possibly changed in the policy of the agency, which for years has been known to seek the Catholic Church’s help in reaching out to the poor.
Pabillo also noted that for years, the Church had been acting as the PCSO’s “conduit” to get charity funds for the poor.
The new PCSO management under Margarita Juico last week identified six dioceses and one organization that received Mitsubishi Pajeros and cash amounting to P8.3 million in the last three years of the Arroyo administration.
They must appear
Several lawmakers said that bishops implicated in the PCSO fund mess must appear before the Senate to explain their side. The Senate blue ribbon committee is set to look into the disbursement of funds to the Church on Wednesday.
Two senators said the Constitution barred the donation of public funds for the benefit of any religious group.
Pabillo said a legislative probe was the proper move for the sake of transparency. “If we are looking for transparency, it should be OK [for them to face the Senate] or else everyone [in the Church] will be put in doubt,” he said.
He encouraged fellow bishops identified by the PCSO as the supposed recipients of anomalous grants to present official documents that would show whether they personally benefited from the PCSO donations.
“They could already present documents [this early] so that papers are already there for examination [and] the bishops no longer have to face an inquiry,” added Pabillo.
But another prelate, Sorsogon Bishop Arturo Bastes, strongly opposed a Senate inquiry.
“That is overkill. For me it is not necessary,” Bastes said over Church-run Radio Veritas on Monday.
“Why should you inquire over things that the bishops have not pocketed? Why don’t they just investigate corruption by erring officials of the government?” he said.
For his part, Archbishop Emeritus Oscar Cruz challenged President Aquino to dissolve the PCSO and Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor) if the latter really wanted to end corruption in the country.
Cruz said over Radio Veritas that the PCSO and Pagcor were both sources of corruption in government. “The PCSO and Pagcor must be abolished because both agencies are corporations of gambling,” said Cruz, a staunch antigambling advocate.
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