CBCP starts own probe | Inquirer News

CBCP starts own probe

Ombudsman also forms special panel

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has launched its own probe into allegations that seven bishops had received sports utility vehicles from the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO).

But a senior prelate said he could not compel the bishops to appear at a Senate probe into the controversy.


“I cannot tell them [what to do]… it’s up to them,” said retired Cebu Archbishop Ricardo Cardinal Vidal, head of the Church hierarchy’s Committee on Bishops’ Concerns.

Asked if the vehicles should be returned, Vidal said: “It depends because (doing so) may appear that it’s an admission of wrongdoing.”


Vidal said that should the present administration decide to seize the vehicles, the bishops would willingly turn them over.

Caloocan Bishop Deogracias Iñiguez said that the CBCP Plenary Council would take up the issue during its current assembly and come up with a consensus.

“That’s what has been proposed we should do,” Iñiguez said.

Tandag Bishop Nereo Odchimar, CBCP president, earlier said the bishops would issue a statement on various issues after their assembly. The statement is expected to include the controversy involving the so-called “Pajero 7” bishops.

Ombudsman’s probe

Separately, the Office of the Ombudsman yesterday started its own investigation into supposed irregularities in the use of PCSO funds during the watch of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Asked if the Ombudsman’s investigation would include Arroyo, the spokesperson for acting Ombudsman Orlando Casimiro, Mary Rawnsle Lopez, said that “all possible public officials” would be part of the probe.


Casimiro has formed a special panel to conduct the Ombudsman’s fact-finding investigation. Casimiro said the probe would focus on how the PCSO funds were disbursed.

‘Privilege speech’

In a separate talk with reporters, Butuan Bishop Juan de Dios Pueblos said he was ready to face the Senate.

“I will have a lot of things to say… I will make a privilege speech,” said Pueblos, who personally requested a Mitsubishi Montero Sports 4×4 from Arroyo as a “birthday gift” in 2009.

He said he did not fear facing the inquiry because “it was given,” referring to the vehicle.

Asked if he would “educate” the senators who would grill him on Wednesday, the prelate replied, “No, I’m going to convert them.”

“I am working on this matter [because] I am in charge of the bishops,” Vidal said when asked if he was investigating the allegations against the bishops.

Vidal, along with several other bishops, talked to reporters when he attended yesterday the 50th anniversary of the Mother Butler Guild, an organization of Catholic women founded by an Irish nun, Mother Marie Joseph Butler.

The nun from the Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary formed the group in Manila in 1961.

Vidal, also a member of the CBCP’s Episcopal Commission on Clergy, said he had already spoken with the bishops concerned. He declined to elaborate.

But Vidal said he could not compel the bishops to attend the Senate inquiry.

Domestic issue

Interviewed on Radyo Inquirer, Ambassador to the Holy See Mercedes Tuason said from Rome that she saw no need for Pope Benedict XVI to comment on a domestic matter.

Tuason also said she doubted if the Pope, who is on vacation, would ask her to explain what the controversy was all about.

“I don’t think the Holy Father is going to comment on something that is domestic… (and) there is nothing definite yet,” Tuason said.

“I don’t think the Holy Father will call me for an audience.” she also said.

No solid proof

Tuason defended the bishops against the accusations.

“I’m sure whenever they get money from PCSO, they give it to the poor. I’m sure that is the truth,” she said.

“What I feel bad about is that they are attacking the bishops .. saying many things, without solid proof. It is not right,” Tuason said.

De Lima clearance

Meanwhile, Acting Immigration Associate Commissioner Abdullah Mangotara ordered all immigration officers at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia) and all other ports to bar former PCSO General Manager Rosario Uriarte and  former advertising and promotions managerManuel Garcia from leaving the country without a travel clearance from Justice Secretary Leila de Lima.

Mangotara, who signed the order on July 7, said the watch list would be valid for 60 days unless revoked or extended by the department.

“This means we will have to monitor if they will be leaving the country and we won’t allow them to do so unless they first ask permission from the DOJ that they be allowed to depart,” Ma. Antonette Mangrobang, BI spokesperson, said.

De Lima ordered the placing of Uriarte on the watch list motu proprio (on her own authority) as the latter is “the subject of an inquiry by the Senate blue ribbon committee in connection with the alleged anomalies in the PCSO.”

Garcia was placed on the watch list following a request from Sen. Teofisto Guingona III, chair of the Senate blue ribbon committee.

Garcia allegedly received kickbacks representing 40 percent of advertising contracts approved by the PCSO board.

Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said the Aquino administration would want to hear all sides involved in alleged anomalous PCSO disbursements from 2008 to 2010.

“We don’t want to dictate but due to the number of allegations coming out, perhaps they should use their better judgment on what their next step should be,” Valte said at a news briefing when asked if it would be better for Arroyo to speak on the allegations against her.

Valte said that according to the Commission on Audit report on the controversial vehicle donations, giving away grants was not a criminal violation.

“We must understand that those donations, even as found in the COA report, is not a criminal violation but (violates) a constitutional prohibition,” Valte said.  With a report from Chona Yu, Radyo Inquirer

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TAGS: Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), Church, Government, Graft & Corruption, PCSO, Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office
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