(July 13, 2011) Philippines — Over 150 individuals launched the Bantay Bishop movement to support the Senate Blue Ribbon committee investigation on the 7 Pajero Bishops allegedly bribed by ex-President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. The individuals come from different organizations, including Filipino Freethinkers, Likhaan, Democratic Socialist Women of the Philippines, Watchbiatches, Pink Rockers, and Interfaith Partnership for the Promotion of Responsible Parenthood. Individual supporters include Carlos Celdran and Dr. Sylvia Claudio.
“We’re here to remind everyone that even bishops can be criminals, too,” said Red Tani, spokesman of Bantay Bishop. “Criminals must be brought to justice, even if they’re leaders of religious organizations.”
The demonstration featured 7 activists, each wearing a costume that resembles a bishop riding an SUV. The costumes were dubbed “Mitsubishop Montero,” “Nissan SaPari,” and “StraDamaso,” alluding to the brands of the SUVs received by the bishops.
“The costumes represent the hypocrisy of the Roman Catholic Hierarchy,” said Tani. “They claim to be pro-poor. But by accepting PCSO funds, they rob the poor of resources reserved for them. They claim to be anti-corruption. But they accepted bribes from a corrupt president, refrained from asking her to resign, and kept quiet about this bribery until forced to confess by someone else. They claim to be pro-life. But by delaying the passage of the RH Bill, they indirectly cause thousands of deaths.”
“(1) The bishops must be treated like any other Filipino citizen — no more, no less. Recent statements from Sen. Enrile and Sen. Drilon imply that bishops will be treated more carefully than other individuals suspected of corruption. But it’s this special standing that allows corruption to continue because everyone assumes their innocence. It can be difficult to recognize wolves in shepherds’ clothing.
“(2) If found guilty, the bishops must be punished accordingly. In addition to the separation of church and state mandated by our Constitution, the bishops also violated RA No.3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, which states that it is “unlawful for any person knowingly to induce or cause any public official to commit” corrupt practices, of which allocating PCSO funds for the bishops’ SUVs is included.
“(3) In addition to following through with this investigation to its conclusion, the Senate Blue Ribbon committee must launch an investigation into other illegal donations that, according to the bishops themselves, have become standard practice since Cory’s administration. The investigation only covers 2007-2009, a mere two years; there are two decades of “donations” yet to be uncovered. We believe that the 7 SUVs are just the tip of the iceberg.
Bantay Bishop will continue to observe the Senate Blue Ribbon investigation and publish commentary on its channels. “We need to guard the bishops because they have shown that they will not guard themselves,” said Tani. “But whatever the result of the investigation we already know this: the CBCP does not occupy the moral high ground.”
If you support the movement, join Bantay Bishop on Facebook. If you’d like more information about this, or to schedule an interview with Red Tani, please send an email to [email protected] or visit our contact page.