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Tag Archive | "Pajero"

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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The CBCP’s Non-Apology Apology

A headline on the CBCP website reads: “CBCP apologizes over PCSO fund mess,” referring to the pastoral statement of CBCP president Nereo Odchimar, A time of pain, a time of grace. But reading the statement makes one wonder if the CBCP has indeed apologized.

Apology is defined as “an admission of error or discourtesy accompanied by an expression of regret.” Notice that the definition has two parts: 1) the admission of error, and 2) the expression regret. Let’s take a look at some key passages from the pastoral statement and see if they satisfy the definition of apology:

we are sorry for the pain and sadness that these events have brought upon you.

We are saddened that many of you…have been confused because of the apparent inconsistency of our actions with our pastoral preaching.

We express again our deep sorrow for the pain that the recent events have brought to you our beloved people.

We can see no admission of error in those sentences (or anywhere in the entire pastoral letter), but only an expression of regret: the first sentence “apologizes” for the pain and sadness brought by the ‘events’; the second says they are saddened by the confusion over the apparent inconsistency of their actions with their preaching; the third expresses deep sorrow for the pain brought about by, again, the recent ‘events’. What’s missing is the part where they are supposed to actually say that they are sorry for the involvement of their bishops in the PCSO scandal.

The pastoral statement is actually a “non-apology apology.” The humorist Bruce McCall noted that “with sufficiently artful double talk, you can get what you want by seeming to express regret while actually accepting no blame.” The political consultant William Schneider said that nonconfessions like “mistakes were made” should be referred to as the “past exonerative,” while presidential speechwriter William Safire defined the phrase as “a passive-evasive way of acknowledging error while distancing the speaker from responsibility for it.”

The CBCP’s “apology” is clearly a passive-evasive artful double talk in the past exonerative tense. There is no true apology here, only half-hearted excuses and weasel words. Surely the bishops can do better than that? In the words of the journalist Mignon McLaughlin, “True remorse is never just a regret over consequence; it is a regret over motive.” The CBCP statement is just a sorry excuse for an apology.

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A Scene from the Upcoming Blockbuster “The Pajero 7: Come Take a Ride Wit Me”

Bishop X steps out from inside the CBCP Headquarters and into the sunlit garage. As he slips his shades on, the cellphone in his cassock rings. He takes the call.


(on the phone)

Yo yo yo, Mama Sita, what’s the haps?

There’s a revving of an engine from the back of the garage. After a few moments, a shiny black Pajero with heavily tinted windows pulls up before Bishop X. The driver, a gaunt man in a grey barong, steps out of the vehicle, runs to Bishop X, and opens the middle seat door for him. 


(on the phone)

Those heathen biatches will know what’s comin’ to ’em, ayt? That shit won’t stand s’long as mah crew works it, yo.

Bishop X enters the Pajero. The driver closes the middle seat door for him and runs back to the driver’s seat. The Pajero pulls out of the CBCP headquarters. 


The Pajero rolls out of Intramuros and into Roxas Boulevard. Bishop X is still on the phone. 


(on the phone)

I hear ya, Mama Sita. That there shit they throwin’ at you’s whack. You just be makin’ a call to your homeboy Garci is all and suddenly they all on you like a ho on Q. Ave? Yea, that shit be whack, yo. What’s a Prez gotta do to get some privacy ’round here, right? Whut whut.

The Pajero gets stuck in traffic along Manila Bay. A blind old man in rags being guided by a sprightly street urchin appears by the middle seat window. The urchin taps on the glass. Without looking out the window, Bishop X nonchalantly taps back on the glass to shoo them away. 



Don’t be stressin’, ayt? You and mah peeps be tight. You ain’t got nothing to worry about — we be preachin’ for ya. Oh, and yo, much obliged with the wheels, yo. It’s a dope ride, no doubt. And the LCDs? That be some fly add-ons, Mama Sita. Much obliged. The Man Upstairs be smilin’ on ya. Ayt, ayt. Catch ya lates. Word, word. Peace out.

Bishop X ends the call. The Pajero is still stuck in traffic. He roots around in his cassock, pulls out an iPod and scans his playlists. He chooses the playlist entitled ‘BeAttitudez’ and scrolls through it. The playlist is as follows: 

Stole – Kelly Rowland

Unfaithful – Rihanna

It’s Not Right but It’s Okay – Whitney Houston

Creep – TLC

Confessions Pt. 2 – Usher

It Wasn’t Me – Shaggy

Judas – Lady Gaga

Oops I Did It Again – Britney Spears

Traffic finally loosens up, and the Pajero starts moving down Roxas Boulevard again. Bishop X puts on his earphones, selects the Whitney Houston track, and leans back against his seat. 

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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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