“Pajero Bishops” - This is what media has portrayed the seven Catholic prelates who received financial assistance from the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) during the GMA administration. But, the PCSO never gave out any Pajero. What the bishops actually received was money that they then used to buy the vehicles they needed for charity missions in their respective dioceses.
The bishops reportedly bought the following vehicles: Montero Sport(Bishop Pueblos), Nissan Pathfinder (Bontoc-Lagawe Bishop Rodolfo Beltran), Mitsubishi Strada (Abra Bishop Leopoldo Jaucian), Toyota Grandia Hi-Ace (Cotabato Archbishop Orlando Quevedo), Mitsubishi Strada (Basilan Bishop Martin Jumoad), Toyota Grandia Hi-Ace (Zamboanga Archbishop Romulo Valles), Isuzu Crosswind (Nueva Segovia Archbishop Ernesto Salgado).
The bishops’ dioceses are located outside Metro Manila. And roads in the provinces are far from ideal if at all there are any paved roads. For sure, they can readily explain why they chose the above-listed type of vehicles. Bontoc-Lagawe and Abra are mountainous areas and a Nissan Pathfinder and Mitsubishi Strada would surely fit rough terrain challenges.
Nevertheless, what was really scandalous is the request-letter of Bishop Pueblos to then president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo for a brand new car as a birthday present. That GMA acceded to the bishop’s request using PCSO money or government funds certainly made the matter worse. It raises questions not only of propriety, but even legality.
We thus welcome the formal apology of the CBCP on the matter. In its pastoral statement entitled, “A time of pain, a time of grace,” our bishops stated, thus:
“As shepherds struggling to love you like Jesus the Good Shepherd, we are sorry for the pain and sadness that these events have brought upon you.”
“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. xxxx
“We also assure you, our beloved people, that we shall re-examine the manner of our 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 shall examine our values in the light of our vocation to be disciples of Jesus Christ. We commit ourselves to the long journey of personal and social transformation required of all disciples of the Lord. We plead with you to walk with us in this path of constant renewal.” (Emphasis ours.)
On this note, we must support our Church to the best we can, so that our leaders do not have to run to the government. But then again, public funds are our money that come from the taxes we pay. Hence, I’d rather see the Church as government’s partner for charity missions than politicians having a freehand over our money for their own interests, especially given the well-entrenched patronage system in our political life that is the root of corruption.
Indeed, this is a time for rethinking Church-State relations.