We have read with deep dismay the sentiments of Senator Miriam Santiago regarding the recent Senate investigation hearing on the bishops who received Pajeros (oh, sorry, SUVs— for some strange reason the distinction has become vitally important) during the Arroyo administration. We were particularly saddened by the following:
Q: To clarify, you mentioned that there are people behind the “Pajero bishops” propaganda?
A: That’s right. The public will not spontaneously call the issue “Pajero bishops” if someone had not put that thought into their heads. And if someone can make this basic unintelligible mistake as calling the SUVs Pajeros when none is a Pajero at all, then that can only mean that perhaps a PR practitioner designed this entire program. We’re barking up the wrong tree. We are only talking 7 million, and there is even a constitutional issue involved, maybe it’s correctly appropriated or not—as we said, we have to wait for the Supreme Court.
Why the emphasis on 7 million pesos when there are billions that on the surface were apparently abused and wasted by these officials? Why are we being led this path? Who is manipulating the scenarios? They are trying to cover up bigger multibillion peso anomalies in the PCSO and PAGCOR, and they have conveniently found a scapegoat in the CBCP because, you know, it makes a sensational headline.
I feel outraged, and I really feel that there is an air of final desperation about our government if people who have not been elected can feel free-despite the installation of a new administration based on its anti-graft platform—to steal billions of pesos from the people’s money.
I understand that there is a certain PR practitioner has been going the rounds at least in the print media, emphasizing the bishop controversy. That is my understanding. I haven’t had time to check it out. Of course he is free. That is a very legitimate profession. But if he is purposely maligning other sectors so as to derail the Blue Ribbon investigation on the PCSO anomalies, then it already becomes a criminal effort to cover up obstruction of justice.
Q: Can you name this person?
A: No, not yet. I’m just wondering why we are spending so much time and effort on 7 million pesos when there are billion-peso anomalies involved. And why all of a sudden when I’m coming to my workplace am I assaulted by this group who are all against a group of people under investigation without even having heard their side. They could have just sat here and listened first and then go out there and start waving their placards up and down.
We say dismay because up until now we have had quite a lot of respect for Senator Santiago, who has in the past campaigned against corruption and general skullduggery at great cost to her personal and political life. It has also been refreshing and often entertaining to have a politician unafraid to speak her mind in public, particularly about things most others might feel it impolite to discuss.
Therefore it is with all due respect that we say this, in the hopes that it may clarify matters and lay her many suspicions about the action to rest:
Dear Honorable Senator — we, the Filipino Freethinkers, are the people behind this. We were the ones who made the cardboard Pajeros and rode them in bishop’s attire. It was we, along with fellow like-minded groups who banded with us to form a single movement, who showed our ire towards this glaring violation of Church-State separation the day of the Senate hearings. We are not PR practitioners. We are a grassroots movement dedicated to advocating reason, science, and secularism.
It was not, and never will be, our intention to cover up other bigger issues of corruption. We remain a relatively small group with limited resources, and as such we are simply focusing on the bishops’ fault in this case, because it is and always has been our niche to address violations of secularism, and of late it has been Catholic Bishops who have been the most prominent offenders.
If you take a look at our website you would see that we have indeed been listening very carefully to what the bishops have had to say for quite some time now, and we believe that their continued wrongdoings are blatant enough that ordinary citizens like ourselves — the ‘public’ you seemed to have casually dismissed early on in your statement — have good cause to call them out for it.
Ultimately, while we are flattered that you think our recent action looked fabulously expensive enough that it must have required some shadowy bogeyman funding everything, the hats were made with corrugated plastic, the SUV costumes with cartons and printed tarps, and the robes were all borrowed soutanas. About a dozen of us spent the sleepless night before putting them all together with duct tape.
We did it, Senator Santiago. We did it, and unlike a lot of other people as of late, we are certainly not sorry for what we have done.
The Filipino Freethinkers
(Image from Orkut Plus)