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Tag Archive | "bishops"

Define Hypocrisy

Fr. Ranhilio Aquino has taken up the cudgel in defending the bishops who took the PCSO funding, going as far as calling the Senate investigation the bishop’s finest hour. Father Ranhilio even called us out for protesting against the bishops as reproductive health bill supporters, asking what the bill had to do with the PCSO issue.

And what were champions of the RH bill doing there? The hearing had nothing to do with the RH bill, but they were there to insult and to jeer, because this was their chance to insult those who had steadfastly refused to yield. I may not have identified myself unqualifiedly with the bishops’ position on the RH Bill, but certainly, one does not deride and insult when one is met with disagreement. One offers an invincible argument—if one has one. But the RH bill advocates who were there had no argument; what they had in abundance was hatred, spite and bile!

Bile, Father? Perhaps one should look askance to the bishops first before accusing us of hatred, spite, and bile. Terrorists and Satan? Certainly considered words from bishops aimed towards RH bill advocates. But no, Father, that bishops have called us terrorists and Satan for standing on our side of the RH debate is not why we protested against them.

The Filipino Freethinkers has always been a group that upholds secularism in the Philippines. Our vision is of a country where people are free and unafraid to use their own moral reasoning. As Dr. Sylvia Claudio so powerfully said, “I only ask that I too be given recognition as a moral actor. Not a moral paragon, just an equal moral agent. It is called secularism, this democracy of the moral.”

Our stance on the reproductive health bill debate stems from secularism. Our stance in this PCSO issue is likewise rooted in secularism. The Philippine Constitution guarantees that the separation of church and state shall be inviolable. But Father, when the bishops actively solicit funding from our government, and our government hands them that money, the secularism of our country has undoubtedly been violated.

The Filipino Freethinkers were there protesting against the Bishops as a secularist group. We were speaking out against further entrenchment of a legislative culture that ignores the Philippine Constitution’s call for a government that does not establish preference for any religion or sect. We were there to protest against the bishops who perpetuate this culture, who, because of their power, feel free to ask our government officials to violate the Constitution without a second thought.

Father Ranhilio also had this to say about one of the placards at the protest:

“Define hypocrisy” read one placard —obviously suggesting that the bishops were hypocrites. Why hypocrites? What did their steadfast rejection of the RH bill have to do with the accusations against them vis-a-vis the PCSO funds, accusations that turned out to be fatuous?

Is it not hypocrisy rather to change one’s declarations and position on moral issues when it is politically expedient and profitable to cross lines? “Define stupidity” would have been an apt poster for the bearer of that dumb placard to have carried instead—with the placard turned in her direction!

Father Ranhilio, thank you so kindly for defining hypocrisy, for this is exactly what the bishops displayed at the senate hearing. In 2005 the CBCP issued their own moral position against receiving money from gambling, legal or illegal. The bishops even stated in their moral teaching that they shall not take those funds even if they will help the poor with it (emphasis mine).

To inform the public better about the reasons for this CBCP position, we present the following moral teachings and pastoral imperatives:

Therefore, the CBCP has made it a collective policy:

3. To denounce illegal gambling in all its forms and prevent its legalization;

  • To combat the expansion of organized and systemic legal gambling;
  • To refrain from soliciting or receiving funds from illegal and legal gambling so as not to promote a culture of gambling; and
  • To encourage church personnel and church institutions to refrain from doing the same, even when the objective may be that of helping the poor.

But when the Senate started taking seriously the allegations of wrongdoings by bishops, the CBCP issued a non-apology, and marched their bishops to the Senate to trot out the party line: “We asked the PCSO for money so we could help the poor.”

Did the CBCP take a moral stand? Yes they did.

Did they change this moral position for political expedience? Most definitely.

Father Ranhilio, on the bishops’ finest hour, do you still feel the need to define hypocrisy?

(Image taken from Buelahman’s Revolt)

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Inglorious Gifts

It used to be that crimes were done in the name of God. Hand it to the inglorious Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to hit rock bottom and commit malfeasance for bishops’ birthdays. Yes, that’s birthday-plus-s because the Mitsubishi Montero gift was not a lone event. On March 9, 2006, Arroyo made a much bigger offering to mark the birthday of Pampanga Archbishop Paciano “Apu Ceto” Aniceto—policies on women and the Filipino family that, in her words, “would be the best birthday gift” she could give. Unconcerned about displaying the power of Catholic bishops during Arroyo’s rule, the Philippine Information Agency (PIA) released the following account:

[Arroyo:] “It must be providential that the birthday of Apu Ceto (her important adviser) falls within International Women’s Week when I have to make policy statements on women’s concerns and issues relating to them.”
After the concelebrated mass held in the Bishop’s honor at the Mother of Good Counsel seminary in this city, the President would attend a meeting of all female members of her cabinet in which women’s issues would be discussed.
After this, the President said she would make a declaration that “a strong family makes a strong republic”, and follow up with measures designed to further strengthen the Filipino family.
“This I think would be the best birthday gift I could give to Apu Ceto”, the President said amidst loud applause from the audience composed mostly of the bishop’s religious congregation in the province.

Strange but true. Our highest public official openly gifted someone who is not a woman and does not claim to have a wife or kids with policies on women and families. Can this be just one of those quirkiness that makes our great nation so, well… quirky? To answer this, we have to go further into the Archbishop’s background and the context when this event occurred.

Arroyo’s Gifts

Luckily, the regime then was truly indifferent about revealing Catholic church influence over governance. The same PIA piece stated that the Archbishop was the President’s adviser on “issues concerning population, family, women welfare and health” and was consulted on March 2001, just two months into Arroyo’s term, prior to her making a statement on these issues; that the President “consults with him when making a choice for a new Secretary of Health”; and that at an Interfaith Summit and the UN General Assembly in 2005, the President “brought much of the Bishop’s inputs into the statements she made in front of these prestigious international bodies”.

Dr. Manuel Dayrit—a member of Couples for Christ—became the Archbishop-and-President’s Secretary of Health in 2001. In the next few years, Dr. Dayrit created the legal basis and structures for overly expanding natural family planning (NFP) and entwining it with Catholic doctrine. He set an ambitious “mainstreaming” target—unmet up to now—to raise NFP use to 20%; created a National Natural Family Planning Committee with a Couples for Christ doctor as Chairperson and with a representative of the CBCP Family Life specified as a member; and separated NFP from the national family planning program to let the government “work more closely with groups and partners that want to promote NFP exclusively”. He even tried to ban the IUD for being an “abortifacient” but was foiled by protests done by women’s and doctors’ groups.

And what was the Archbishop’s inputs to Arroyo’s statement at the UN? The full speech was 10 paragraphs long, but these two about funding NFP exclusively in the name of Catholicism, and belittling the value of artificial contraceptives are proclamations the Archbishop would surely be proud of:

… We expect the United Nations to be sensitive to the deep Catholicism of the vast majority of the Filipino people. The funding given by the United Nations to our national Government for reproductive health will be dedicated to training married couples in a natural family planning technology which the World Health Organization has found effective compared with artificial contraceptives.
The Population Council of New York has found that artificial contraception contributes only 2 per cent to the decline of birth rates, while the combination of improving the economic condition of the family, urbanization and breastfeeding contributes 98 per cent. Thus we ask the United Nations and donor countries to direct their assistance towards the improvement of family productivity and income.

Both are based on lies, or lapses in judgment if your prefer the colorful language of the powerful who when caught are always absolutely sorry about absolutely nothing prosecutable.

The World Health Organization (WHO) rates most artificial methods as more effective than fertility awareness methods. Moreover, limiting people to a method not of their own choosing—whether pills, NFP or whatever—will do nothing but cut sharply its effectiveness and violate fundamental human rights which the WHO promotes.

As for the Population Council, here’s what they said in an article entitled Family Planning Programs Remarkably Successful: “Decades of research show that comprehensive family planning and reproductive health services lead to sharp rises in contraceptive use that help women avoid unintended pregnancies. Over a 30-year period (1960–90), fertility declined in the developing world from more than six to fewer than four births per woman, and almost half of that decline—43 percent—is attributable to family planning programs.”

What’s the Catch?

The Population Council’s 43% became 2% at the UN speech, a remarkable manipulation of numbers to suit one’s needs. Audacious but nothing new. Just a few months earlier, Arroyo was heard in a wiretapped conversation with Comelec Commissioner Virgilio “Garci” Garcillano asking for a lead of one million votes while counting was still going on for the presidential election of 2004.

The Garci scandal and Arroyo’s no holds barred battle to cling to power set the stage for the Archbishop’s birthday gift in March 2006. The scandal erupted nine months earlier in June 2005. Despite widespread protests and calls for Arroyo to resign, the CBCP merely asked for an independent “Truth Commission”. The protests continued and on February 24, 2006, two weeks before the Archbishop’s birthday, Arroyo declared a State of Emergency to quell a supposed coup attempt against her.

The tottering Arroyo needed the bishops to survive. She bought them with various currencies, from religion-inspired policies to the glittering currency of legal gambling. To their historic ignominy, majority of Catholic bishops granted her wish.

Something died during those trying times of Arroyo’s decadent rule. Some may call it the moral authority of Church leaders. Or the principle that the end never justifies the means. Or maybe just plain honesty, fair play and decency. Whatever you call it, something is dead and rotting. And the stench is inevitably escaping.

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The Ghost of Bishops Past

So the CBCP supposedly apologized for receiving PCSO funds to buy themselves SUVs, all the while mewling that those funds were used to help the poor. At the Senate hearing, this is what they had to say for themselves:

For his part, Bishop Jaucian said the Mitsubishi Strada purchased out of the P1.29-million donation was used to help the poor communities in Abra.

Bishop Salgado, represented by Bishop William Antonio, said he was returning the vehicle which was used for the social missions of Caritas Nueva Segovia.

And finally Archbishop Orlando Quevedo said this about the rules the CBCP had with interacting with the PCSO:

We think we can do our job without encumbrance of the political or any reason whatsoever that has given shame to the whole conference. We shall collaborate with PCSO but I think we shall be forced to change the rules for ourselves…

What the good Archbishop seems to have forgotten is that the CBCP already had a rule for themselves when dealing with funds that come from gambling. In 2005, to address the jueteng scandal, the CBCP issued this statement on gambling, a statement which they so boldly called a moral teaching (emphasis mine):

To inform the public better about the reasons for this CBCP position, we present the following moral teachings and pastoral imperatives:

Therefore, the CBCP has made it a collective policy:

3. To denounce illegal gambling in all its forms and prevent its legalization;

  • To combat the expansion of organized and systemic legal gambling;
  • To refrain from soliciting or receiving funds from illegal and legal gambling so as not to promote a culture of gambling; and
  • To encourage church personnel and church institutions to refrain from doing the same, even when the objective may be that of helping the poor.

This issue should bring into sharp relief the hypocrisy of the CBCP and the bankruptcy of their moral leadership. In the height of that previous scandal, where bishops received money from PAGCOR and jueteng lords to supposedly help the poor, the CBCP found it useful to issue a pastoral statement condemning the receipt of funds from sources of gambling to placate an angry nation.

And then here we are in 2011, with the people angry at the CBCP again for turning their back on one of their “moral teachings” to justify their actions. These bishops solicited and received funds from the PCSO, an arm of the government that runs gambling games. These bishops then cried that these funds and these vehicles are just being used for the poor.

Actions which the CBCP deemed immoral just six years ago suddenly become the paragon of morality and charity, enough that Senators would kowtow to them and offer to let the Bishops keep their apparently now moral vehicles.

When we have a Church whose morality is this loose and flexible, changing their moral teachings to save themselves, do the CBCP really have any credibility when in comes to other moral pronouncements? They put themselves forward as the moral guardians of the country. When the CBCP dogmatically hold that reproductive health is immoral, that divorce is immoral, that people loving each other is immoral, do their words really mean anything?

Or do these moral pronouncements have just as much substance as that of a ghost, an empty spirit haunted by his past?

(Image from Clker)

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Your Face is a Heavily Funded PR Conspiracy

It’s a miracle any of us have been posting on the site recently, considering how little sleep we’ve gotten these past few days. It’s been all cardboard and pens and scissors and tarps and lots and lots and lots of tape for us recently as a handful of us scrambled to create 7 miniature SUVs and placards from scratch in a single night. While some ended up falling unconscious for an hour or two, most had foregone sleep entirely. We be badass.

So, little did others know that while the Freethinkers stood with the rest of Bantay Bishop outside the Senate gates last Wednesday morning, greeting the bishops and Senators as they cruised in for the PCSO hearing, we were running on the barest minimum of energy, half-thinking of the Pajero 7, half-thinking of random mattresses and Jollibee Breakfast Joys. Fortunately, our determination kept us from keeling over.

Moreover, we did this despite our day jobs and other priorities. And all the materials were either from our personal belongings, borrowed, or bought using cash pooled from our members and friends. In the midst of our criticizing an issue regarding certain people getting grossly undeserved funds that could have gone to deserving citizens, it is highly ironic that we would be accused of enjoying this very form of corruption due to some bizarre conspiracy theory. Unlike other people, we helped ourselves.

None of us would have done this because we were told or paid to. We didn’t walk away from this event with extra cash in our pockets or pats on the back from some greasy bigwig. Instead, we headed off for the jobs and deadlines we had put on hold, for a place to finally get some grub and, for a lucky few,  for our homes where we fell unconscious on our beds. And we’d do all of this all over again if (and when) we have to.

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We Did It

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)

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Fun With Fundies: On Victim-Blaming And The Bacani Conundrum

Oh no, you di’int!

It all started with an (in-character) Tweet.

Thanks to an offhand comment on my Twitter about Bishop Bacani’s objections to same-sex unions, I ended up looking into the man’s history with a little more depth than I would’ve wanted to. The comment was one of my typical one-liners, meant to imply that he finds it all sorts of wrong, yet doesn’t seem to have any objections about the numerous cases of pedophilia within the clergy.

For someone to demand proof of this is ridiculous, given the fact that for an activist bishop who has dipped his hand into the RH Bill issue, among other issues of sexual persuasion, it bothers me why he would deliberately sidestep the issue of sexual indiscretion among his own kind, and why his defenders always insist that we should let the Church handle these issues internally.

Why? Why should we let them handle an issue like this internally, when it steps well into the realm of the criminal? Why would a trial by the church hierarchy trump the legal procedure of the government who made laws against this very thing?

So this fundie attacks me and starts calling me ancient because I was condescendingly calling him “son”. Wow. He sure showed me. I don’t even know how old he is, but unless he’s ten, I doubt he’d have any room to call me “lolo”. Not that I mind, really. It’s not like being old is such a bad thing.

Clearly, being old has its perks.


In any case, after putting out multiple sources about the cases of pedophilia that have been swept under the rug by the church, he quickly dismissed them as “rumors.” He then quickly tried to make a fuss about the fact that my sources point to cases in the States, whereas I didn’t mention anywhere (How could I? I had only 140 characters to work with on Twitter!) that this “looking the other way” is exclusive to the Philippine situation.

When I pointed out the sexual harassment case that hounded Bishop Bacani about eight years ago, the fundie dismissed them as “lies,” which, to me, was a warning flag that I was fighting a battle of wits with someone who was woefully unarmed.

Clearly, in his mind, the clergy are immune from any kind of wrongdoing whatsoever. Apparently, this “infallibility” business that the Pope actually needs to invoke before being so rubs off on the clergy like some kind of divine STD.

This is the face of divine STD.


At this point, I felt compelled to look closer into the Bacani case. Eight years have passed. Why is there still no conclusive verdict? Why are the so-called wheels of justice turning so agonizingly slowly? As expected, though, a cursory glance at articles written over the matter painted a very clear picture of the whole sordid mess.

Now, see, I like what Bishop Bacani has done for the poor. Compared to certain other bishops, he relatively holds steady to his vow of poverty.

That doesn’t make him perfect or laudable in any way, though. He’s supposed to do that, because he took a bloody vow of poverty, obedience, and chastity. Anything less would be a failure on his part.

“Failure” is exactly how well he did with his vow of chastity. For a girl seeking “publicity,” she sure kept her identity pretty down low for the most part. It was actually a bit sad that the only defense Bacani’s supporters could muster was yet more victim blaming by assaulting the character of the woman who was sexually harassed. The thinking is, if she’s a woman of demonstrably “loose” morals, then nothing Bishop Bacani could do to her should be construed as sexual harassment, thereby proving how little they understand about the dynamics of sexual harassment. And we’re supposed to listen to these guys when they give advice how to conduct ourselves in the bedroom?!?

Newsflash: prostitutes can get raped, too. So even if you assumed the worst of Bacani’s secretary, you need to come up with something better than “but my hug wasn’t intended to harass!” to defend yourself from someone who believes you did. You are a powerful bishop who was heir apparent at one time to the late Cardinal Sin. She was your secretary. The imbalance of power was unmistakable, and no amount of handwaving your “natural attitude” should erase the fact that you are in a position where you can do something questionable and so much more all under your clear power over her. We don’t say that it’s a serial killer’s “natural attitude” to kill people at will now, do we?

Bacani’s admission was pretty damning: “I am deeply sorry for the consequences of any inappropriate expression of affection to my secretary.”

This indicates regret over the result of the act, but not the act itself. This is very typical of people in privilege, and is indicative of a lack of understanding over exactly what went wrong. It’s the same attitude typified by the CBCP “apology” over the Pajeros.

As far as the good Bishop was concerned, and most perpetrators of rape culture will share the same view, intent is mucking fagic. Apparently, because Bishop Bacani didn’t intend to sexually harass his secretary, suddenly, she has no right to feel harassed.

The fact that this instance was actually not the first time this happened should even be a bigger warning flag: true, I’m not a lawyer, but when you’re supposedly a shepherd of morality, I figure that prudence and discretion should take precedence over legalities and technicalities. If you know your secretary is upset by certain displays of affection, if you’ve already apologized to her for it before, then why would you do it again? Because you can go to confession and have it absolved or something?

I’m actually shocked that I have to explain such a basic concept to a man almost three times my age and someone who’s supposed to be my “moral shepherd” considering I’m supposed to be a Catholic apologist and all, but what may be an okay display of affection for you may not be an okay display of affection for somebody else. Precisely because they’re not you. No amount of spinning and pointing to intent can change that.

In the end, Bishop Bacani was, to paraphrase his own words, sorry only because he got caught, hence, “Sorry for the consequences of his act.” He is neither sorry because he trampled on the dignity of another human being, nor that he was insensitive to that fact. His apology was every bit as sincere as Vince McMahon’s was last Monday night on RAW.

“I’m sorry, you son of a bitch!”


To this date, we don’t know what the results of the Vatican “investigation” have yielded. It’s mysterious how slow their investigations progress, to be honest, but then again, maybe that’s really just how they roll. I suppose this is the kind of “temperance” that they are asking from people when it comes to their luxury vehicle issues at present.

It also seems to be the same kind of “temperance” that they are demonstrating in quickly calling any Catholics who support the RH Bill “fake Catholics”.

Are we saying that Bishop Bacani is guilty as charged? Of course not. What we’re saying is that the defense of victim-blaming is so tired, so sexist, and reeks of so much privilege, that it’s shocking someone who claims moral ascendancy would have to resort to such tactics instead of just actually proving that none of these morally questionable actions ever happened.

That we are now merely questioning the nature of these actions but taking the actual commission of these actions for granted may pass muster in the court of law, but it seems rather odd that instead of acting in a manner beyond moral reproach, one needs to resort to technicalities and legalities while still maintaining that very veneer of moral inculpability. Isn’t that having your cake and eating it, too?

True, if Bishop Emeritus Bacani were any other man, we probably would frown at his actions a bit, and not raise much of a furor over him beyond that. Unfortunately, he isn’t any other man: he is a man of the cloth, and someone who won’t hesitate to tell everyone what is and isn’t morally acceptable. When his own morality comes into question in such a flagrant manner, how do we expect his words to hold any water?

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They Try To Catch Me Riding…

This is Bishop Pueblos, he got quite a nice car from Gloria Arroyo! It was his birthday you see. It wasn’t just him though. A few of his other friends got nice shiny cars too!

Happy happy Birthday, to you!

This is his shiny new car. People are angry with Bishop Pueblos and his friends at the CBCP now. His friends at the CBCP are sorry. Sorry for making people sad anyway. They’re not really saying sorry for what they did. They’re not really sorry to the country from which the funds came to buy those shiny new cars. They are sorry that their momma church got hurt though. Aww. Wawa you.

Photo shows a Mitsubishi Montero parked outside the house of Butuan Bishop Juan De Dios Pueblos at the St. Peter Seminary in Barangay Ampayon, Butuan City. BEN SERRANO, source Philippine Star.

But hey, you know what Bishop Pueblos said? He’ll return the SUV. He says he’ll even ride a small vehicle if necessary! Wow, what a guy folks. Uhm. Anything about an apology, Pueblos? Oh, what’s that? He remains defiant? Oh.

Well, since he’s defiant, perhaps I can help him out. He needs a theme song to keep that swagger right? To show the people who’s boss? Hey! I know the perfect song for him!

Tryin’ to catch me ridin holy

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So I Heard You Liek Pajeros

So you know those 7 Pajeros Gloria Arroyo bribed those Bishops with? Yesterday at a Senate hearing, the PCSO revealed they got more than Pajeros. The Bishops also got a Crosswind, a Montero, a Strada, a Grandia, and a partridge in a pear tree.

And it gets better still! The PCSO also uncovered a letter from one of the Pajero Bishops, Bishop Juan de Dios Pueblos, asking GMA for an SUV on his birthday. Here is an excerpt from his letter to GMA:

Pueblos, the birthday boy

I will be celebrating my 66th birthday on March 8, 2009. I know this will be a precious day and timely occasion to thank the Lord for giving me another year … After a prayerful discernment and due considerations to the existing crisis phenomenon today, I have decided not to hold a birthday party. Instead, I prefer to make use of my birthday as a day with and for myself, and with God.

I hope you will never fail to give a brand new car which would serve as your birthday gift to me. For your information, I have with me a 7-year-old car which is not anymore in good running condition. Therefore, this needs to be replaced very soon.

So kids, what have we learned from the Bishops today? You don’t really need to pray to God to get a SUV. What you should do instead is buddy up to a corrupt president and then ask her nicely. It’s like Bishop Pueblos knows that prayer doesn’t really work!

Even better, the CBCP might have brought these troubles on themselves. Just last Monday, the CBCP told the Aquino government to stop whining about GMA and start filing cases after government officials disclosed the financial fallout on the PCSO from GMA’s corruption.

Well, looks like they got what they asked for.

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The Catholic Church: “Everybody Else is Doing It, So Why Can’t We?”

Some bishops of the CBCP have been caught in a bribery scandal involving Pajeros, the PCSO and Gloria Arroyo’s administration.

The CBCP, staunch defenders of Roman Catholic morals that they are (that’s been their rhetoric in the reproductive health, divorce  and same sex marriage debates) have responded and oh boy… One would think that the moral thing to do when caught taking bribes would be to at the very least apologize and take action on the sinning bishops. Clean your houses bishops, it will be good for you.

But that’s not the first thing that they did.

Instead they petulantly whine, “but the other churches are doing it too!”. Oh persecution complex, you make everything so much more worse:

A ranking Catholic archbishop has challenged the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) to identify other religious groups who received financial aid from the agency.

“If there’s malice in those donations to Catholic bishops, the PCSO must also identify all the other recipients from other Churches,” Davao Archbishop Fernando Capalla said.

While an ex-president of the CBCP implicitly admits to the bribery allegations, the first reaction of current CBCP president Nereo Odchimar was to call the PCSO irresponsible and challenge them to name names.

The president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), Tandag, Surigao del Sur Bishop Nereo Odchimar, said last Friday he was not discounting the possibility that the issue that some prelates accepted vehicles from PCSO was somehow linked to moves aimed at discrediting the Catholic Church.

“They (PCSO) should be accurate because names are being destroyed. It would rather be irresponsible to be implicating names. They were just made suspects,” he said.

So the PCSO did. Well that shut him up. For now the CBCP are making noise about taking some sort of action. Or at least sitting around and talking about it anyway.

This kind of behavior, that of whining that other churches are doing bad things too and then sitting around on their derrieres taking the minimal action is not a foreign concept to the Roman Catholic hierarchy. This kind of thinking goes all the way up to the Vatican. In 2009, this is what the Vatican said to the UN Human Rights Council about the child abuse cases:

The Vatican has lashed out at criticism over its handling of its paedophilia crisis by saying the Catholic church was “busy cleaning its own house” and that the problems with clerical sex abuse in other churches were as big, if not bigger.

[Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Vatican’s permanent observer to the UN,] quoted statistics from the Christian Science Monitor newspaper to show that most US churches being hit by child sex abuse allegations were Protestant and that sexual abuse within Jewish communities was common.

Given the history of how the Roman Catholic church has handled sex abuse within its priesthood, one wonders how long it will take the CBCP to act on these bribery allegations and whether any meaningful justice will be served. It has taken the Vatican decades to sort out any sensible guidelines for handling child abuse and even then, the victims say these guidelines are not enough.

Bishops, where is this moral ascendancy that you talk about so much? How the CBCP handles these bribery allegations will reveal much of their morals but when the hierarchy’s response to Bacani being accused of sexual harassment is to have him go off to America for a vacation, you really have to wonder what kind of morality they are operating with.

If the CBCP can’t clean house on bribery, what more (or less) will they do for actual victims of rape from priests?

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PCSO reveals 5 of 7 bribed CBCP bishops

After throwing allegations left and right, the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) finally began to back it up. They’ve revealed the recipients of the 7 Pajeros:

PCSO board director, Atty. Aleta Tolentino, said a 2009 Commission on Audit report showed there were several checks representing the amount that were taken from the charity fund.
She said P1.44 million was given to the Archdiocese of Cotabato for the purchase of a service vehicle, P1.5 million went to the Zamboanga Archdiocesan Social Action Apostolate, P720,000 was given to Caritas Nueva Segovia, P1.125 million to the Roman Catholic Prelate of Isabela, Basilan and P1.7 million to the Diocese of Butuan.

So that’s

  1. Archdiocese of Cotabato
  2. Zamboanga Archdiocesan Social Action Apostolate
  3. Caritas Nueva Segovia
  4. Roman Catholic Prelate of Isabela
  5. Diocese of Butuan

Wait. There’s only 5 in that list. Maybe some of those people received more than one Pajero. Or maybe 2 bishops got away. Anyway, it’s either PCSO is still looking for evidence against the 2 bishops (or got the initial allegations wrong), or these 2 bishops are too high up in the hierarchy to go after. I sure hope it’s not the latter.

Whatever the case, Atty. Tolentino said that the ones revealed and the officials involved will be investigated by the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee, chaired by Sen. TG. Guingona:

“Based on the COA report, may violation ng Republic Act 3019 (Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act). Siguro kung may kasalanan ang bishops, dapat parusahan sila. We should be God-fearing, not bishop-fearing,” she said.

I applaud the PCSO for following through, and for knowing that bishops should not be feared. But it’s not really necessary that people be God-fearing to follow the law. As these corrupt CBCP bishops will soon realize, the harsh criticism of society and the punitive power of the state are scary enough.

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Ex-CBCP President implicitly admits bribery allegations

“I believe the allegations that bishops got Pajeros and other bribes are all true.” Ex-CBCP President Oscar Cruz did not say this, but he should have just as well. Because although Oscar did not explicitly say it, his response to the bribery allegations was almost as good as an admission of guilt.

First, he never denied the allegations. Like Msgr. Pedro Quitorio, Oscar could have simply said that there is no truth behind the allegations. But neither of them did.

Nor did Bishop Bacani. It seems that he already knows that bribery went on. Because the only “if” in Bacani’s mind is whether the bribery would be proven true:

“If proven true that some bishops are on take, it could dent the credibility of the Church,” said retired Bishop Teodoro Bacani.

Oscar Cruz seems to agree. He is so sure that there are indeed bishops accepting bribes that he addresses them directly, and there is nothing implicit about this:

“I think those concerned should speak up… otherwise the whole hierarchy will be affected,” said Cruz, a former president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines.

“Whether this is proven by the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) or not, they should come out. The truth will set you free,” he said.

Again, by saying that the bribed bishops should come out “whether this is proven by the PCSO or not,” Oscar is clearly saying that regardless of the outcome of PCSO’s investigation, there is no doubt in his mind that some bishops were bribed.

If the ex-President of the CBCP himself is sure that there was bribery, then that’s probably the case. Oscar should work with Father Robert Reyes and expose the corruption within their ranks. Oscar would only be consistent. And he’d be hitting two birds with one stone — isn’t Oscar against both gambling and corruption? Otherwise, he would be just another CBCP hypocrite.

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Catholic priest says CBCP bishops got more than Pajeros

Father Robert Reyes said that Catholic bishops got a lot more than the Pajeros allegedly given to them by ex-President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (GMA).

According to Fr. Reyes, GMA “constructed houses (for priests), convents, cathedrals, and gave away cars” so that bishops would not criticize GMA’s presidency or ask her to step down during “crisis points” such as the election scandal in 2005.

Fr. Reyes said that the Presidential Advisers on Ecclesiastical Affairs was used by GMA to find out which bishops needed to be bribed with vehicles or church buildings.

He said that as an insider, he was “not speaking from the outside (of the Church’s institution).” He even had an idea of who these bishops were.

I hope that Fr. Reyes gives insider information such as this to the authorities. Unfortunately, I think he is expecting that the bishops themselves confess their sins. He urged the corrupt bishops to come clean and return the gifts to the government, telling them that “they don’t have to make it public or announce it.”

I agree that the CBCP and its corrupt bishops must come clean, but I don’t agree that anyone should be quiet about this. The CBCP should make a public apology and reveal the identities of those involved in this scandal. Only by doing this can they show the public that they are serious about reform. Anything less would perpetuate the culture of secrecy that allows corruption like this to thrive.

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7 CBCP bishops bribed with Pajeros as part of “standard practice”

7 Catholic bishops each received a Pajero from ex-President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (GMA). This allegation was made by Margarita Juico, chair of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO).

Juico told the Inquirer that GMA “moved to divide the bishops by getting some of them on her side to ensure that the CBCP (Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines) would not have a unified stand on her.” According to the Inquirer report, “Juico said that she was told by some of the agency’s old-timers that these ‘donations’ to the Church leaders had become standard practice since Arroyo faced a real threat of removal from office with the ‘Hello Garci’ election cheating scandal six years ago.

The CBCP replied by saying it didn’t accept bribes “as a group.” But it did not deny the allegations that 7 bishops were bribed with Pajeros (emphasis mine):

Msgr. Pedro Quitorio, media director of the CBCP, said the Church hierarchy as a group did not avail itself of the supposed extravagant gifts from PCSO during Arroyo’s term.
“The CBCP as a body did not have any part in that…” Quitorio said.

How easy would it have been for Msgr. Quitorio to say that none of the CBCP bishops received a Pajero? To me this is almost as good as admitting that there were indeed some bishops who were bribed by GMA.

And according to Juico, these Pajeros were given a few months before GMA stepped down. What other expensive gifts were given as part of GMA’s “standard practice” of “donating” to the CBCP?

It is not enough for Quitorio and the CBCP to disassociate themselves with the individual bishops who accepted bribes in spite of the official position of their organization. If Juico’s allegations are true, it was the dissent of these bribed bishops that ensured the CBCP would not go against GMA’s administration. This silence amidst obvious corruption was an organizational action, and the CBCP as a whole is guilty for it.

I hope the PCSO continues its investigation into this scandal. Juico’s allegations are serious, and needs to be backed by evidence. At the same time, the CBCP should do its own investigation and expose corruption within its own ranks. Otherwise, with all their crusades against gambling and corruption and immorality, they will be nothing more than hypocrites.

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Talking to Death

A fictional face-off between Aquino and bishops

A fictional face-off between Aquino and bishops

The common sexist notion is that women talk too much. But on the issue of reproductive health, a bachelors’ club and a bachelor president may well be gearing up to talk each other to death.

I’m talking of course about the CBCP bishops and President Aquino. Listen to the palace’s spokesman and pray tell if you can detect any sense of urgency: “As you know we still have a dialogue with the bishops on the end of February. We committed to propose a responsible parenthood bill with inputs from the dialogue. … The President will limit his power to certify measures as urgent based on what is stated in the Constitution. It refers only to emergency cases. So most likely, [the RP bill] will not be certified as urgent.”

But really, what can these bachelors with palaces talk and agree about?

The bishops are sworn to obey the pope and Humanae Vitae—they can’t agree to any law that includes artificial contraception as a choice, even if it’s called “The Most Sacred, Blessed and Responsible Parenthood Within Holy Matrimony Act.”

The president has sworn to a Constitution where human rights and Church-and-State separation are fundamental principles. His idea that informed choice must be central to family planning is a mere reiteration of constitutional tenets. He cannot endorse the bishops’ NFP-only doctrine without junking his “daang matuwid” (honourable path) and following his predecessor’s hobby of trashing our basic law.

And so we had mighty men glaring at each other the last few months. A tense deadlock, dramatically broken when the most powerful of them all decided… to talk some more.

Poor mothers and infants die each day, half from pregnancies unplanned, others due to simple RH services unavailable. Will bachelors with palaces notice or care?

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