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SUV scandal is Church ‘biggest wound’

MANILA,Philippines (July 12, 2011) — The Aquino administration has made a history in the Roman Catholic Church.

A senior prelate said the fund mess at state-owned lottery maybe the “biggest wound” inflicted by the government to the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP).

In his 45-year experience as a member of the bishops’ collegial body, retired Archbishop Oscar Cruz said the recent issue has dipped the image and credibility of the Church.

“There’s no other bigger than that. It caught the national attention for over two weeks already. And there’s even a hearing tomorrow. Therefore, this is not yet over,” Cruz said.

In fact, he said, in the history of the Catholic Church in the Philippines, this would be the first time that bishops will be investigated at the Senate.

“My time, I was a resource person in the crusade against jueteng (an illegal numbers game),” said Cruz.

In the past, he noted, the controversies that hounded the CBCP only involved individual bishops that were accused of having children as well as sexual harassment cases.

The CBCP yesterday apologized to the public after some of its members were accused of receiving sports utility vehicles (SUVs) from the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) during the Arroyo administration.

Cruz, however, warned that the issue could turn into a nightmare and might end up to the discovery of more irregularities even at the current PCSO administration.

“I don’t think this will be the end of it. My only fear is that this could boomerang,” said Cruz but did not elaborate.

At least seven prelates have been implicated in the PCSO fund mess being probed by the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee.

Church leaders that were named as among the recipients of SUVs from the PCSO were Pueblos (Montero Sport), Bontoc-Lagawe Bishop Rodolfo Beltran (Nissan Pathfinder); Abra Bishop Leopoldo Jaucian (Mitsubishi Strada); Cotabato Archbishop Orlando Quevedo (Toyota Grandia Hi-Ace); Basilan Bishop Martin Jumoad (Mitsubishi Strada); Zamboanga Archbishop Romulo Valles (Toyota Grandia Hi-Ace); and Nueva Segovia Archbishop Ernesto Salgado (Isuzu Crosswind).

The said bishops will appear at the Senate probe on Wednesday except Salgado, who is reportedly out of the country.

They also have expressed their readiness to give back to PCSO the vehicles. (CBCPNews)