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Apology NOT accepted

(I stand with the new PCSO, Marge Juico and the President)

There is something wrong with the universe. A group of Bishops have sought moral absolution from a bunch of politicians, in a gallery crowded by the Catholic supporters, after some heavy lobbying with the politicians beforehand. Does it surprise anyone that the absolution was given? The CBCP is economically powerful. Church and affiliate Catholic groups are the top stockholders in companies such as the Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI), Philex Mining Corporation (PX), San Miguel Corporation (SMC), Ayala Corporation (AC), and Phinma Corporation (PHN) according to the latest data submitted to the Philippine Stock Exchange. Apart from its economic power the Church remains a powerful social institution.

The Senate Committee hearing, looking into the unconstitutional use of charity funds in the grant of vehicles to 7 Bishops, was a clinic in sycophancy, hypocrisy and farce.

The day before, the CBCP issued the same apology I hear erring husbands give to their wives. These are the similarities: Read the full story

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SUV: Secularism Unmistakably Violated

Make no mistake: The recent PCSO scandal violates the separation of churches and state. Yet some, including several senators, think that the PCSO and Catholic bishops weren’t doing anything wrong. By the end of this article, I hope you’ll agree: In every donation the bishops received from the PCSO, secularism was undoubtedly, unquestionably, and unmistakably violated.

First, let’s review the relevant rules regarding the PCSO donations:

  1. To paraphrase the Constitution, public money should not be given to or used by any religious group or individual.
  2. To paraphrase the PCSO charter, the funds allocated for charity should be used for health programs, medical services, and charities of a national character.

Consider the first rule. Does it make any qualifications? Does it say “public money should not be used for a religious group except when the money is used for secular purposes”? No. (Atty. Raul Pangalangan shares the same sentiment.)

Given this, we can now create two questions that test whether there were violations in the use of PCSO funds by the Catholic bishops:

  1. Was public money given to or used by a religious group?
  2. Were the PCSO funds used for a purpose other than health programs, medical services, or charities with a national character?

Tuguegarao Retirement Home for Priests

With these questions in mind, let’s begin with the Tuguegarao case. In Cagayan, the PCSO gave the Archdiocese of Tuguegarao P200,000 for the operational expenses of a retirement home for priests. The PCSO gave an unknown amount for “finishing touches” on the renovation of the said retirement home.

Let’s ask our two questions:

  1. Was the public money given to a religious group? Yes.
  2. Were the PCSO funds used for a something other than a health program, medical service, or charity of national character? Yes.

Is this a violation of secularism? Unless the priests actually retired to become doctors and the retirement home actually serves as a hospital, the answer is obvious. The fact that priests enjoy a retirement home funded by the public is an unmistakable violation of secularism, even if there were a small section in the retirement home that serves as a priestly private practice.

I’d be interested to hear a rebuttal of this case, especially by the senators who hastily accepted the bishops’ innocence and apologized for their involvement in this scandal. Will they be less apologetic when they learn that the Archdiocese of Tuguegarao didn’t even need the funds, because it had more than P100M invested in San Miguel and Ayala?

The Tuguegarao case should be enough to clear any doubt that there was a constitutional violation, and it’s unfortunate that this hasn’t come up during the investigation.

Sacred Utility Vehicles

Let’s move on to the next violation: the bishops purchasing Sacred Utility Vehicles (SUVs). (I redefined the acronym because, as some have furiously pointed out, not all of the vehicles are Sport Utility Vehicles.)

Some people seem to think that it’s OK for the bishops to receive SUVs as long as they are used for charity work. I’ve already explained that the Constitution does not care what the funds are used for; that a religious group received the funds is already a violation.

But even if we grant for the sake of argument that the funds (and SUVs) can be used for charitable purposes, at least one bishop implicitly admitted that it was used for more than that.

Consider what Bishop Pueblos said in reference to returning his Montero Sport:

“I don’t see any problem with that. I am riding a very old vehicle within the diocese itself. I could even ride a small vehicle if it is necessary. It will not really be a problem,” Pueblos said.

Think about it. If the Montero Sport were only being used for medical assistance or charity work, this is not what Pueblos would have said. He would have said something more like the following:

“I will return the vehicle, but it’s too bad. People in hard-to-reach barangays will not receive the medical assistance they so badly need. We don’t have any vehicle that can cross the tough terrain, so we’ll have to immediately start looking for one.”

But no. Pueblos said that he would use the “very old vehicle” and that he “could even ride a small vehicle.” (Because, you know, anything that’s not a Montero is small.)

The birthday bishop’s statement tells us that the Montero was primarily for his use, and non-sanctioned use of the Montero is a violation, regardless of whether he used it to go to the market or go to Mass. And does anyone seriously think that every trip Bishop Pueblos took on the Montero was a medical mission?

The statement also tells us that Pueblos didn’t need the Montero after all. If a very old vehicle or a smaller vehicle could have done the job, it means that he didn’t have to ask for the P1.7M birthday gift from GMA; even if he needed a car, it didn’t have to be a Montero.

In addition to the Tuguegarao case, this is also a clear violation. And I highly doubt that the other bishops used their SUVs only for charitable purposes. But let’s pretend for the sake of argument that the SUVs were used exclusively for medical missions. Would it still be a violation of secularism? Yes, and here’s why.

Sen. Miriam’s mistake?

As I’ve explained earlier, the Constitution categorically states that public money should not be given to religious groups, regardless of what the religious group does with it — there are no exceptions.

Senator Miriam Santiago argues that this is not the case, and she brings up a 1937 case to make her point:

The post office issued postage stamps commemorating an international Eucharistic congress of the Catholic Church. The issue was whether the stamps used public money for religious purposes, thus violating the Constitution. The Supreme Court ruled that there was no violation.

This is a bad analogy. The public money for issuing the stamps was used by the post office, a government organization — not a religious one. In comparison to the SUV scandal, the public money was given to and spent by a religious organization. The contrast couldn’t be more obvious.

Sen. Santiago goes on to explain a threefold test to check whether there was a constitutional violation. But as Atty. Raul Pangalangan explains, the threefold test does not even apply in this case:

Here we don’t even get to apply that test. What is at stake is not the broad language of the Establishment Clause (“No law shall be made respecting an establishment of religion ….”) but the specific and prohibitory language on the religious use of public funds (“No public money ….”). In interpreting laws, the specific and the prohibitory prevail over the general and the permissive. As the saying goes, “What part of ‘no’ don’t you understand?”

And for someone who said that “the COA report is wrong … there was no constitutional violation,” Sen. Santiago comes to a surprising conclusion:

PCSO management apparently admitted that it has not given similar donations to any other religion. If so, then PCSO management appears to be giving preference to the Catholic religion, and that would be a violation of the Establishment Clause.

So what the investigation has shown so far is that there’s at the very least a violation of the Establishment Clause in the Constitution. How can Sen. Santiago say that “there was no constitutional violation” and then say that there “would be a violation of the Establishment Clause” in the very same page?

Reputation vs. Integrity

Sen. Santiago concludes by calling for the investigation of the “maleficent twisted genius” who invented “Pajero bishops.” I wouldn’t mind the Senate investigating this.

But senators, please get your priorities straight. There are more things that deserve further investigation. What about the violations of the Establishment Clause made apparent by PCSO’s admissions? What about the possible violations committed from 1986 – 2007, when, according to the CBCP, receiving donations from the PCSO became standard practice? What about the unsanctioned usage of the SUVs as Pueblos has implicitly admitted? And what about the blatant violations in the Tuguegarao retirement home for priests?

As I said in a recent interview, the investigation into the bishops’ involvement in this scandal appears to have been done in haste. The excessive respect shown by the senators toward the bishops borders on devotion, and this has undoubtedly affected their objectivity. I hope the more sensible Senators remind their more pious colleagues that the bishops’ reputations are less valuable than the Blue Ribbon Committee’s integrity.

For the latest Philippine news stories and videos, visit GMANews.TV

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The Top 10 List – Tips on Writing the Perfect “Non-Apology” Apology Letter

A public apology can make or break public sentiments towards well known public figures, be they philandering spouses caught with their pants down, corrupt officials caught with their hands in the cookie jar, or like in recent news… sneaky little clerics asking for special gifts from the President.

I'm soweeee!

An apology can elicit sympathy… or expose you for the creepy little rat that you are. Thus, scripting the perfect apology letter has become something of an art-form. In typical pinoy fashion, the best technique is to go for all-out drama. Take a cue from old-school Nora Aunor movies… shed a few melodramatic crocodile tears and utter the immortal phrase “kung kasalanan ang magmahal, then… I… AM… GUILTY.”


[Image from / get your copy now!]



So with a little bit of theatrical sleight-of-hand, you have turned from perpetrator to martyr,  transforming actual crime into a “crime of passion”. Suddenly, the only thing you’re guilty of is loving too much or helping too much. Bravo! The crowd applauses and you are guaranteed a FAMAS award for best dramatic performance.


So now you know the power of a good apology. So to help all you aspiring apologists out there caught red-handed and eager to turn the tides of public sympathy, here’s the:





  1. Apologize about everything except the crime you’re actually charged with. This is an apology letter, not a confession. Knowing the difference means this could never be used as court evidence as an admission of guilt. So what do you actually apologize about? That’s where Tip#2 comes in…
  2.  Apologize profusely for all the “sorrow” this incident has caused the general public. (even though it’s not actually sorrow the general public feels, its DISGUST). Apologize to your constituents, family and loved ones too. (again, even if its not sorrow they’re actually feeling, its actually closer to SHAME). Express your regret over the whole matter but be vague on exactly what it is you regret (people don’t want to hear that you regret getting caught).
  3. Garner sympathy by mentioning how much the incident has affected you personally. Recount the sleepless nights,  loss of appetite, and stress-induced wrinkles it has caused you. Make it look like you are hurting more from your crimes that even the victims themselves.
  4. Emphasize how deeply spiritual and religious you are. Invoke the name of God frequently (don’t worry, this doesn’t count as taking the Lord’s name in vain because it’s for a good cause). Make sure you mention over and over again how much you prayed for guidance. Quote a few bible passages with themes on forgiveness and redemption.
  5. Justify any previous attempts at cover-ups and intentional misdirection as unfortunate side effects of your clumsy attempts to protect your loved ones or those close to you from any collateral damage. It’s totally a SELFLESS act.
  6. Explain to people how difficult and stressful your job is, causing you to have the occasional lapse in judgment. You have so many balls to juggle that you are sometimes put into compromising situations. Your work is the most horrible, thankless job in the world and your critics don’t understand how terribly pressured you are. Those ungrateful wretches should be thankful that you’re even sticking around.
  7. Remind everyone of the virtue of forgiveness. Sprinkle words like “repentance“ and  “atonement” liberally. While on the subject of penance, don’t elaborate on exactly how you plan to do it. Leave it to people’s imaginations (or better yet, their short attention span). Never ever bring up the issue of punishment. Instead, segue straight into the future, where you hope to “build a brighter future for everyone.”
  8. Invoke justice and due process. Justice is not about you being punished for your crimes, it’s about you being protected from public scrutiny until proven guilty beyond any shadow of doubt. Due process is all about being completely innocent until completely proven guilty. Until then, you have complete immunity from criticism. If someone from the media or even the public condemns you for your actions, reprimand them for jumping the gun.
  9. Thank the people for all their love, understanding, and support. It doesn’t matter if there isn’t actually any… just thank them. That way, they’ll look like heartless bastards if they don’t actually show any sympathy towards you after you’ve profusely thanked them in advance.
  10. Turn this into a “lesson” for everyone. It’s not about you or the shameless crimes you’ve committed, it’s about the wisdom gleaned from all this. This is all merely a test from God. Sometimes, it’s tough being the instrument of God’s teachings. But with everyone’s unconditional support, we all learn a valuable life lesson today.



So hopefully after you’ve followed all these tips, you can come up with your very own soul-stirring, heart-wrenching “non-apology” apology letter guaranteed to evoke sympathy from even your most cynical critics.  If you’ve done it correctly, you’ll soon be swimming in high praise from everyone for your “humility” and “contrite heart“. Good luck crawling your way out of whatever mess you got yourself into.



Need a few good examples of a good “non-apology” apology letter? Take a cue from the Catholic Bishop’s conference letter, “A Time of Pain, A Time of Grace”.

Our Dear People of God,

Our Mother Church has been deeply wounded by the controversies in the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office that have erupted in the past two weeks. Some members of the Church believe in the innocence of the bishops involved in the issue, while others do not. There is no doubt that everywhere in the Church there is great sorrow. We your pastors are one with you. 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 are saddened that many of you, especially the youth, the poor, our Basic Ecclesial Communities, have been confused because of the apparent inconsistency of our actions with our pastoral preaching.

 As we express our sadness, we also ask you to be slow in judgment and to conscientiously seek the whole truth behind the controversy. Let us seek the truth always in charity.

 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. We assure you that their action was done without malice. Out of their sincere desire to help their people, they failed to consider the pitfalls to which these grants could possibly lead them. They have also expressed their readiness to do everything that is necessary to heal this wound so that we can all move forward in hope.

 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.

 We express again our deep sorrow for the pain that the recent events have brought to you our beloved people. The good Lord knows our love for you. The words of the psalmist come to our mind: “My sacrifice, a contrite spirit. A humbled, contrite heart you will not spurn” (Ps.51). As the same Psalmist addresses the Lord, we take his words as our own to encourage and challenge us: “Indeed you love truth in the heart; then in the secret of my heart teach me wisdom.”


For the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines,


Bishop of Tandag

President, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines

July 11, 2011


Notice the deft use of techniques employed in Bishop Odchimar’s “apology”… it says a lot without… well, without saying anything at all. Even after reading it for the nth time, you’re still not sure what he’s sorry for… but somehow you feel sorry for him now. Now that is the mark of a truly well-written non-apology apology letter.





Now compare it with the apology letter Bill Clinton wrote during the Monica Lewinski sex scandal. Who did a better job at non-apologizing? :


Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to the White House and to this day to which Hillary and the vice president and I look forward so much every year.

This is always an important day for our country, for the reasons that the vice president said. It is an unusual and, I think, unusually important day today. I may not be quite as easy with my words today as I have been in years past,

and I was up rather late last night thinking about and praying about what I ought to say today. And rather unusual for me, I actually tried to write it down. So if you will forgive me, I will do my best to say what it is I want to say to you – and I may have to take my glasses out to read my own writing.

First, I want to say to all of you that, as you might imagine, I have been on quite a journey these last few weeks to get to the end of this, to the rock bottom truth of where I am and where we all are.

I agree with those who have said that in my first statement after I testified I was not contrite enough. I don’t think there is a fancy way to say that I have sinned.

It is important to me that everybody who has been hurt know that the sorrow I feel is genuine: first and most important, my family; also my friends, my staff, my Cabinet, Monica Lewinsky and her family, and the American people. I have asked all for their forgiveness.

But I believe that to be forgiven, more than sorrow is required – at least two more things. First, genuine repentance – a determination to change and to repair breaches of my own making. I have repented. Second, what my bible calls a ”broken spirit”; an understanding that I must have God’s help to be the person that I want to be; a willingness to give the very forgiveness I seek; a renunciation of the pride and the anger which cloud judgment, lead people to excuse and compare and to blame and complain.

Now, what does all this mean for me and for us? First, I will instruct my lawyers to mount a vigorous defense, using all available appropriate arguments. But legal language must not obscure the fact that I have done wrong. Second, I will continue on the path of repentance, seeking pastoral support and that of other caring people so that they can hold me accountable for my own commitment.

Third, I will intensify my efforts to lead our country and the world toward peace and freedom, prosperity and harmony, in the hope that with a broken spirit and a still strong heart I can be used for greater good, for we have many blessings and many challenges and so much work to do.

In this, I ask for your prayers and for your help in healing our nation. And though I cannot move beyond or forget this – indeed, I must always keep it as a caution light in my life – it is very important that our nation move forward.

I am very grateful for the many, many people – clergy and ordinary citizens alike – who have written me with wise counsel. I am profoundly grateful for the support of so many Americans who somehow through it all seem to still know that I care about them a great deal, that I care about their problems and their dreams. I am grateful for those who have stood by me and who say that in this case and many others, the bounds of privacy have been excessively and unwisely invaded. That may be. Nevertheless, in this case, it may be a blessing, because I still sinned. And if my repentance is genuine and sustained, and if I can maintain both a broken spirit and a strong heart, then good can come of this for our country as well as for me and my family. (Applause)

The children of this country can learn in a profound way that integrity is important and selfishness is wrong, but God can change us and make us strong at the broken places. I want to embody those lessons for the children of this country – for that little boy in Florida who came up to me and said that he wanted to grow up and be President and to be just like me. I want the parents of all the children in America to be able to say that to their children.

A couple of days ago when I was in Florida a Jewish friend of mine gave me this liturgy book called ”Gates of Repentance.” And there was this incredible passage from the Yom Kippur liturgy. I would like to read it to you:

”Now is the time for turning. The leaves are beginning to turn from green to red to orange. The birds are beginning to turn and are heading once more toward the south. The animals are beginning to turn to storing their food for the winter. For leaves, birds and animals, turning comes instinctively. But for us, turning does not come so easily. It takes an act of will for us to make a turn. It means breaking old habits. It means admitting that we have been wrong, and this is never easy. It means losing face. It means starting all over again. And this is always painful. It means saying I am sorry. It means recognizing that we have the ability to change. These things are terribly hard to do. But unless we turn, we will be trapped forever in yesterday’s ways. Lord help us to turn, from callousness to sensitivity, from hostility to love, from pettiness to purpose, from envy to contentment, from carelessness to discipline, from fear to faith. Turn us around, O Lord, and bring us back toward you. Revive our lives as at the beginning, and turn us toward each other, Lord, for in isolation there is no life.”

I thank my friend for that. I thank you for being here. I ask you to share my prayer that God will search me and know my heart, try me and know my anxious thoughts, see if there is any hurtfulness in me, and lead me toward the life everlasting. I ask that God give me a clean heart, let me walk by faith and not sight.

I ask once again to be able to love my neighbor – all my neighbors – as my self, to be an instrument of God’s peace; to let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart and, in the end, the work of my hands, be pleasing. This is what I wanted to say to you today.

Thank you. God bless you.


President Bill Clinton – September 11, 1998




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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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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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The CBCP as a body IS guilty

“The CBCP as a body did not have any part in that… it also stands pat on its statement issued six years ago,” Quitorio said.

— Msgr. Pedro Quitorio


“We categorically deny that the CBCP as a body has ever solicited or knowingly received from illegal gamblers.

— 2005 CBCP Statement on Gambling

“The CBCP as a body did not have any part in that.” When I first heard this excuse, I suspected it was an implicit admission of guilt. And I was right.

In anticipation of some bishops getting caught, the CBCP distanced the group from its guilty members in advance. They further distanced themselves by explaining that “while there is a conference of Filipino prelates, all bishops and their dioceses are independent of one another and are directly responsible to Pope Benedict XVI.”

This is quite interesting. Because abroad, Vatican lawyers protect the pope from implication in child abuse cases by asserting that bishops are not directly responsible to the Pope.

Aside from contradicting the Vatican, the CBCP also contradicts itself. The CBCP cannot say that its bishops are independent (not part of a group) and then say that it does not receive bribes “as a body.” Either the CBCP takes responsibility for its members “as a body,” or they avoid making statements “as a body” at all.

And consider what would happen if a Catholic bishop were to do something truly independent — say, support the RH Bill. Would they say that the dissenting bishop is free to be pro-RH independently? Of course not. The CBCP wouldn’t waste a second censuring the pro-RH bishop for ignoring his obligation to be consistent with the CBCP “as a body.”

Because as long as the CBCP exists, they will continue to act as an organization. After all, this is where their perceived power comes from. Flock follows priest, priest follows bishop, bishop follows archbishop, and so on — this ideal hierarchy perpetuates the illusion that the CBCP speaks for 80% of the population. It’s why despite their unpopular, unscientific, and irrational opinions, some people — politicians in particular — listen to them at all.

If the allegations are true, it’s why then-President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (GMA) bribed at least 7 bishops. When the election scandal broke, several bishops, including ex-CBCP President Oscar Cruz, asked GMA to step down. But after the CBCP declared its “collective decision … to not demand her resignation,” none of the bishops, not even Oscar, called for Gloria to step down. By buying at least 7 bishops, GMA bought the entire CBCP. This clearly shows that the CBCP acts as a body.

And if the CBCP knew about these bribes or illegal donations — as their statements and actions imply — why did they remain silent? They could have told the authorities, and the “standard practice” would have stopped. By keeping quiet, they allowed the illegal donations to continue. They may not have directly committed the crime, but the silent bishops are guilty of aiding and abetting. So although the CBCP did not officially declare it, condoning bribery practically made it an organizational policy. And for this, the CBCP as a body is definitely guilty.


In a way, this excuse is meaningless. Of course the CBCP “as a body” cannot accept a bribe. Each bribed bishop received a PCSO check individually. And only individuals, not organizations, go to jail for a crime.

The inanity of this excuse becomes more obvious when you apply it to another scandal. Recently, a 17-year-old girl in Agusan del Norte accused a Catholic priest of rape. Do you think they’ll try to use “the CBCP as a body did not rape the girl” as an excuse?

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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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Bishops can be criminals, too

If there’s anything we’ve learned from this recent Pajero scandal, it’s that bishops are just ordinary people — nothing more, nothing less. There’s no holy force field protecting these religious men from making mistakes and, sometimes, even breaking the law.

But some people think that religious leaders are somehow special. One of them is Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile:

“We will give them the benefit of the doubt…” Enrile said it would be rash to accuse the bishops of wrongdoing, saying they’re not politicians or businessmen.

So if a politician or businessman were accused of accepting bribes, it would not be rash to accuse them?

And it gets worse. Not only does Enrile think bishops are inherently more moral, he believes that thinking otherwise puts society at risk:

“I don’t think that we should be cynical and suspicious about the conduct of religious people. Let us try to be objective about it and preserve our institutions. Otherwise, we will break up as a society.”

Although he asks for objectivity, I think what he wants is the opposite. Objectivity requires that we follow where the investigation leads regardless of who’s being investigated. Enrile’s statements imply that he wants the investigators to be careful about the implications of investigating bishops and potentially finding them guilty.

But it’s this special standing that allows bishops to continue covering up their crimes. If Enrile really wants to “be objective about it,” “preserve our institutions,” ” and keep society together,” the Senate Blue Ribbon committee needs to do its job without bias — even if it means putting some bishops behind bars.

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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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