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PCSO identifies bishops in SUV scam

Luxury vehicles intended to benefit poor patients
Lawyer Aleta Tolentino, PCSO director
Lawyer Aleta Tolentino, PCSO director

MANILA, Philippines (June 30, 2011) - A priest and several Catholic bishops were controversial recipients of luxury sports utility vehicles (SUVs) during the dying months of the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo presidency.

This was revealed by Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) yesterday. According to reports, the previous management of the agency purchased the vehicles out of its charity fund under questionable justifications.

PCSO director lawyer Aleta Tolentino distributed to members of the media copies of resolutions approving the grant of vehicles for the diocese of Butuan, North Cotabato, Sorsogon and Iligan City.

In a series of resolutions in 2009, the former PCSO board approved the grant of two SUVs to Butuan City Bishop Juan de Dios Pueblos, one each for Rev. Orlando Quevedo of Cotabato, Monsignor Augusto Laban of Sorsogon and Fr. Roger Lood of the parish of Iligan City.

The request of Lood was coursed through Archbishop Fernando Capalla of Davao, who endorsed the letter to then President Gloria Arroyo on May 29, 2009.

The two SUVs of Pueblos costing P1.7 million each were contained in Board Resolution 328 dated March 12, 2009 and Board Resolution 783 of June 5, 2009.

The board said PCSO approved the grant of two vehicles as service to the diocese of Butuan for its various community programs in Caraga, especially the poor in far-flung areas in need of medical and health services.

Tolentino said the Commission on Audit (COA) cited in a report that the grant of the five vehicles amounting to P6.940 million violates the constitutional provision that “no public money or property shall be appropriated, applied or employed directly or indirectly, for the use of, benefit or support to any sect, church, denomination… except when such priest, preacher or dignitary is assigned to the Armed Forces or to any penal institution, or government orphanage or leprosarium.”

The request for the grant of service vehicles was coursed through former President Arroyo and forwarded to the PCSO board for action.

The board resolutions stated that the vehicles will be also used for the poor who are in need of medical help and services.

But Tolentino argued that the mandate of the PCSO is specific on the medical needs of the poor and they do not include purchases of SUVs.

“The PCSO can provide ambulances but not SUVs as service for religious activities,” she said, adding that the agency is now coordinating with COA on how to deal with the release of the SUVs, which are now being used as service vehicles of the bishops and priest.

This latest controversy hounding the agency prompted the Senate Blue Ribbon committee to investigate the alleged misuse of billions of PCSO funds during the Arroyo administration and other recently uncovered anomalies.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson said that he has discussed the details of the proposed investigation with Blue Ribbon committee chairman Sen. Teofisto Guingona III and that the initial hearing can come as early as Tuesday or Wednesday next week.

Lacson slammed Arroyo for digging her hands into the pockets of every institution in the country and in the process caused discord among the people in those institutions.

“Even the CBCP (Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines) was not spared. The bottom line of her distribution of funds is simply bribery,” he said in Filipino, referring to the reported “donation” of SUVs as claimed by current PCSO chair Margarita Juico.

Juico’s revelation about the vehicles was just part of the billions in PCSO funds that were diverted by her predecessors, allegedly used by former President Arroyo for political patronage.

She said her predecessors left the PCSO saddled in debt amounting to around P4 billion.

Lacson said the people mentioned by Juico in her revelation should stop criticizing her and even President Aquino, not only because they do not have the moral ascendancy to do so, but because it would only expose them further as recipients of bribes from the former president.

To the bishops who allegedly received the SUVs, Lacson said that they should immediately confess their sins to God and return the vehicles to the government because public funds were used to purchase them.

He also confirmed that he would push through with his latest exposé regarding newly uncovered anomalies of the Arroyo administration through separate probes by the Blue Ribbon committee.

Lacson declined to reveal any details about the anomalies, except that “these are issues that have not been uncovered until lately.”

The senator previously said that he was approached by people who knew about the anomalies and that they were collating evidence to support their claims.

Senate Minority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano said that these types of investigations on the sins of the previous administration should continue in order to ensure that the people behind them would be held accountable.

He admitted that the task is difficult because of the efforts of the previous administration to destroy all the evidence and placing “landmines” aimed at the would-be probers. (From