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Montero is Pajero, "devil's money" is people's money

The bishops came out cleaner from yesterday's Senate hearing, but maybe only enough to allow them to restart with clean slate in their relationship with the government and, more importantly, the Filipino people.

Bishop Juan de Dios Pueblos' humble admission of some "lapse of judgement" in requesting for a vehicle from former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is a courageous act borne out of deep reflection.

More admirable is the bishops' collective decision to return the vehicles they bought out of charity money, even as Senators Panfilo Lacson, Tito Soto and Jinggoy Estrada lined up to urge them to reconsider their decision.

It was a prophetic decision, said Archbishop Orlando Quevedo of the group decision to return all the tainted vehicles regardless of the status of their acquisition. More than any group in the hall, the bishops knew that clinging on to the vehicles would not sit well with the people who is becoming increasingly sensitive to any perceived abuse of privileges.

The die is cast. Bishops are now thinking less of the senators than the people - and God.

In days, what were said at the hearing will be talk of the town.

In defense of the bishops, Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago was angry at everyone for wasting time and money investigating a 10-year old Nissan Terrano pick up and other low-class vehicles, but she deliberately omitted mention of Bishop Pueblos' Montero.

She went on to slam the COA report of possible violation of the constitution in the PCSO donation to a religious group, insinuating that the absence of a Supreme Court decision on a constitutional provision shall make even obviously violative acts acceptable, right or forgivable. It makes for good legalese but not wholesomeness.

She claimed that the investigation of the bishops is an effort to divert attention from an unauthorized P1.5 billion PCSO deposit in a private commercial bank, but she did not qualify that the culprit in this is the old PCSO board lead by ex-chairman Sergio O. Valencia, Manuel L. Morato, et. al.

Soon, people get to absorb Miriam's cherry-picking and the senators' go-easy attitude towards the bishops.

Critics can only temporarily make much of Chairman Juico's Pajero spin fiasco. Sooner it would appear she was partially right. A check with Wikipedia reveals this:

"The Mitsubishi Pajero is a sport utility vehicle manufactured by Mitsubishi Motors. It was named after Leopardus pajeros, the Pampas Cat which is native to the Patagonia plateau region of southern Argentina. However, since pajero is an offensive term for "wanker" in Spanish, alternative names have been used for many markets overseas. It is known as the Mitsubishi Montero (meaning "mountain warrior") in Spain, India, and the Americas (excepting Brazil), and as Mitsubishi Shogun in the United Kingdom."

No Wikipedia author has yet entered an update that Pajero is also known as Montero in the Philippines. But Pajero has been a by-word in the Philippines when refering to a vehicle that appears luxurious and Butuanons cannot be faulted when they say Bishop Pueblos travels around Caraga region in a Pajero.

Chairman Juico also cannot be faulted for not knowing the similarity. But in the over-all picture this is just as un-monumental as a non-gambler erroneously calling an Ace of Heart an Ace of Spade.

At the hearing, Commissioner Heidi Mendoza revealed that they are still awaiting the liquidation reports on the money issued to the bishops.

Not to be faulted, the bishops are apparently only vaguely aware that anyone who receives money from the government is under obligation to submit receipts  and pertinent documents, even returning unspent money, to liquidate a transaction. No distinction is made between money from the national treasury or the "devil's money" A.K.A. loto and sweepstakes money, which Gloria Arroyo and company loosely handled and did not seem to consider worthwhile accounting for in behalf of the people.

The Pajero label might soon be removed from some bishops, but they know more is to be done.

Adverse comments in online forums show no indication that the people will be as kind as the senators. Gloria's 9-year rule galvanized people's mistrust of the government but it appears bishops are not immune to this.

To end in optimistic conclusion, however, we feel that after this ordeal the bishops shall be able to deal with a suddenly inquisitive and vocal population using  fresh approach while  strictly observing a long-forgotten virtue among Filipinos - delicadeza - probably the only way to make ammends.