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CBCP apologizes over PCSO fund mess

MANILA, July 11, 2011—The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) apologized Monday as the Church is stung over allegations that some prelates received vehicles from a state-run lottery agency.

In a pastoral statement, the CBCP said the bishops involved in the controversy are willing to be investigated and accept responsibility for their action.

“… We are sorry for the pain and sadness that these events have brought upon you,” read part of the statement read by outgoing CBCP President Nereo Odchimar in a press conference.

“We assure you that the bishops concerned are ready to accept responsibility for their action and to face the consequences if it would be proven unlawful, anomalous, and unconstitutional,” it said.

The Catholic hierarchy has been reeling under heat after the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) accused at least seven prelates of accepting vehicles from the agency.

The PCSO alleged that the vehicles were used by the past administration for political patronage at the time when calls for resignation had been hounding former President Gloria Arroyo.

The CBCP, however, maintained that the seven bishops’ request for vehicles from the PCSO “was done without malice.”

“Out of their sincere desire to help their people, they failed to consider the pitfalls to which these grants could possibly lead them,” Odchimar said.

The bishops also asked the public “to be slow in judgment” and to “conscientiously” seek the truth behind the scandal. “Let us seek the truth always in charity,” said Odchimar.

The pastoral statement titled “A Time of Pain, A Time of Grace,” was made after the CBCP’s three-day 103rd plenary assembly which ended Monday noon.

Among those present in the meeting were Archbishop Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales of Manila, retired Archbishop Ricardo Cardinal Vidal, and former CBCP head Archbishop Angel Lagdameo of Jaro.

Five of the seven bishops involved in the controversy were also present. They were: Cotabato Archbishop Orlando Quevedo, Abra Bishop Leopoldo Jaucian, Basilan Bishop Martin Jumoad, Bontoc-Lagawe Bishop Rodolfo Beltran and Butuan Bishop Juan de Dios Pueblos.

The other accused, Archbishops Romulo Valles of Zamboanga and Ernesto Salgado of Nueva Segovia, did not attend the meeting. Salgado is reportedly in the US for an appointment.

The bishops admitted the issue “deeply wounded” the Church causing confusion among the Catholics “because of the apparent inconsistency of our actions with our pastoral preaching.”

“Some members of the Church believe in the innocence of the bishops involved in the issue, while others do not. There is no doubt that everywhere in the Church there is great sorrow,” they said.

The bishops then vowed it would “re-examine” the manner of their collaboration with government agencies for purposes of helping the poor “making sure that pastoral sensibilities are respected and the highest ethical standards are observed.”

“We express again our deep sorrow for the pain that the recent events have brought to you our beloved people. The good Lord knows our love for you,” they said. [CBCPNews]