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Palma: No law violated in donations

/ 09:25 AM July 17, 2011

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.

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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.

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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.”

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“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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TAGS: Church, donation, Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO)
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