Bishops vow to return SUVs to PCSO, Senate urges them to reconsider
(SPOT.ph) At yesterday's Senate Blue Ribbon Committee hearing, the Catholic bishops involved in the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office fund scandal promised to return the SUVs they received from former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's administration, reports GMA News. It was the first time that the prelates appeared before the Senate to answer the corruption charges against them. Apart from cars, the seven bishops supposedly received a portion of PCSO's charity funds.
Butuan Bishop Juan de Dios Pueblos, who wrote a letter asking the former president for an SUV for his birthday in 2009, said he made a "lapse in judgment." "I accept full responsibility for this personal action," he said. He added, however, that his diocese really needed a "good vehicle" to reach far-flung areas for their missions, including bridging peace in Mindanao.
Cotabato Archbishop Orlando Quevedo, Zamboanga Archbishop Romulo Valles, and Abra Bishop Leopoldo Jaucian also said they used the donated vehicles to transport the sick and relief goods. They added that they help not only Catholics but also Muslims, who comprise majority of the population in their areas.
During the hearing, Quevedo said that they were returning the vehicles no matter what. "We honestly failed to consider the pitfalls to which these grants could possible lead. We also express our readiness to heal this wound so we could all move forward," Quevedo said. Even without the cars, Jaucian assured that they will still help their communities. "Ito po ang aming buhay at misyon (This is our life and mission)," he said.
The senators, however, supported the Church leaders, and believed that they were using the vehicles for social work and not personal gains. Senators Jinggoy Estrada and Vicente Sotto III asked the bishops to reconsider their decision to return the vehicles. "I know all of you mean well. I know you’re using it for our people," Estrada said. As of press time, four of the vehicles have been returned to the PCSO.
GMA News report on the Blue Ribbon Committee hearing