Tag Archive | "PCSO"

A Most Unworthy Cause


Apparently Willie Revillame is giving away P100,000. That’s a lot of money, and in the right hands it could do a lot of good, but instead it’s joining almost 1.5 million pesos put together by Senators, other personalities and lay people for, of all things, cars. Cars for bishops.

Macalintal and former Manila Mayor Lito Atienza are leading the fund raising drive in support of seven bishops who bought utility vehicles from the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office donations in 2009…

Macalintal said they are looking at seeking donations from Catholic parishioners to raise P8.2 million, the amount that the prelates received from the state-run lottery.

So let me get this straight:

  1. They ask for money.
  2. They receive money they know they shouldn’t have.
  3. They buy cars.
  4. They get called out on their hypocrisy.
  5. They return the cars.
  6. They get money?

God damn I chose the wrong line of work!

Now I’ve seen a fair share of envelopes passed around the office or classroom – for a classmate whose father died, for a colleague who lost everything he owned to Ondoy, for a friend who had cancer – and none of them were for a reason as shallow as “because I had to return my car.” There are a lot of people who need real help, a lot of severely underfunded charities, a lot of dilapidated public schools and hospitals, and compared to them – hell, compared to anything – buying a half dozen SUV’s for some bishops just doesn’t seem like a worthy cause at all.

Of course, if people like Willie Revillame and other personalities want to donate their own money to this fund, it’s entirely their choice. They are private citizens, and as long as there is no violation of church/state separation going on they are free to do with their money as they please. I just hope that before handing them the money, Willie makes the bishops do a little dance first.

(Image taken from Single Father at Work)

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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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The CBCP Formal Apology Form



Via the bureau of communications

There CBCP, I fixed your non-apology apology for you.

Cause you know, separation of church and state? Fuck that shit, it’s not important at all! Please CBCP, do feel free to run roughshod over the constitution and turn the Philippines into your own theocratic state.

Apology NOT accepted.

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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.


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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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If Catholicism is true, then the PCSO scandal really is trivial


By far, the most entertaining part of the PCSO debacle is watching Catholic bishops perform the most skillful mental gymnastics in order to justify their possession of luxury SUVs at the expense of the State. Well, more so than their usual fare of theological ass-pulling. From crying persecution and pointing the finger at other bribed religious groups (no other sects are known to have been bribed) to the latest non-apology of “we are sorry for the pain and sadness that these events have brought upon you”, the CBCP will stop at nothing to prove to the world that having God on your side rarely ever means you have the facts on your side.

While the bishops promise to return the SUVs, as if that would solve everything, Fr. Joaquin Bernas of the Society of Jesus has argued in the Philippine Daily Inquirer that the illegality of the “gift” vehicles depended on “the purpose and uses” of the cars. The rationalization is that churches provide a service to society that the State cannot. Thus, the government can legally provide money to religious organizations (as with other not-for-profit agencies) for this end, most significantly in the form of tax exemptions.

Atty. Raul Pangalangan, former dean of the University of the Philippines College of Law, questions this reasoning, saying that it doesn’t matter that public money was supposedly used for charitable causes. The Establishment clause, which states that “no law shall be made respecting an establishment of religion…” is not the one trampled on by the PCSO gifts to the bishops, according to Pangalangan. It is a different section in the Constitution which states that “No public money or property shall be appropriated… for the use, benefit, or support of any church….” This, he explains, is specific and prohibitory language denying clerics from entangling their private vows of poverty with public money.

Despite a ringing endorsement from Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago, the expectation that it’s perfectly fine, even desirable, to fund sectarian charities for as long as they avoid proselytization has been the cause of much grief and it is fundamentally unfair, especially to the religious groups themselves. Christianity, and other religions to some extent, received a mandate from God himself to spread the faith. Asking churches to “take our money but, please, don’t spend it on religious knickknacks” is naive. Insinuated in every publicly-funded recollection, religious idol, invocation is the blessing from the State for the belief that beyond our material world, there is an immaterial one, of which a special few have knowledge.

There can never truly be a separation between the sacred and the profane. If it is indeed true that the God of Abraham pervades all things, then social conservatives all over the nation are perfectly in the right when they protest against the RH Bill, divorce laws, and equal rights for LGBTs. These advocacies are undeniably against Catholic teaching and could lead to eternal supernatural torture even after death. Even starving to death is nothing when compared to the hell of the Christians.

Though the Catholic Church abuses the principle of the separation of Church and State to protect itself from penalties while meddling in public affairs, the doctrine itself enshrines doubt. Doubt in the truth of any religion. It says that religious claims are inferior to other kinds of truth claims. For, if any belief about the nature of reality, so long as it is couched in religious terms, is valid in public discourse, then the wall of separation implicitly declares that religious truths aren’t really true. Contrast this with FDA policy on the medical aspirations of alternative medicine that have to be apologized for with the blanket statement, “no approved therapeutic claims.” Despite the lack of empirical evidence, there is no such legally mandated disclaimer for Fr. Suarez’s faith healing masses in Trinoma.

If prayers worked, no thinking atheist could ever argue against state sponsorship of a provably effective process that could save lives and provide resources literally out of thin air. That is why the separation of Church and State reveals the lack of confidence of a society in religion. And when the Church enjoys secularism’s benefits, they unwittingly support skepticism in their own religious claims. It is unimaginable for a nation to adopt the separation of science and State. But, if religious truths are really true, why is it acceptable to separate religion and government?

If the CBCP is right about Catholicism, then it cannot be denied by anyone that the best use of our time is to surrender to their demands, given that eternal life hangs in the balance. There is no in-between. It is either we subject their pretensions to moral and metaphysical authority to the same standards we apply to other truth claims or we reject all notion of objective truth.

This whole SUV situation is “a drop in the bucket” when you take into consideration from whom the Catholic Church receives its marching orders. For the service of guiding souls towards everlasting paradise, it is impossible to exaggerate how important their service is. That is, if the Roman Catholic Church is indeed the One True Faith™ among thousands of false ones. If they are not, then their service is beyond useless and priests are nothing more than state-subsidized professional liars.

Without questioning the Church’s religious beliefs, it is pointless to criticize the Church on its purported moral authority.

(Image taken from Sharing Our Spaces)

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


EXT. CBCP HEADQUARTERS GARAGE – DAY
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.

BISHOP X

(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. 

BISHOP X

(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. 

INT./EXT. BISHOP X’S PAJERO – DAY [DRIVING]

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

BISHOP X

(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. 

BISHOP X

(continued)

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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