BALINTATAW: The Bishops don’t get it…

COTABATO CITY (MindaNews/16 July) — The recent controversy involving the ‘7 SUV bishops’ has struck the nation with great embarrassment. The real issue is not whether the so-called gifts are ‘unlawful or anomalous or unconstitutional’.

The continued defensive actions and claims that followed clearly show how far off the mark the bishops are. They continue to miss the real issue in the controversy. No doubt, the SUVs are not for personal and private use; the PCSO gifts are for the social and charitable ministries of church; and the gifts are legal and constitutional.

The real tragedy in the said controversy is the fact, ‘wala get mo, sila’. Our ‘excellencies’ have remained, in the language of an Inquirer editorial, ‘clueless’.

‘Receiving the fund from the PCSO is NOT the real issue, the crux of the matter is the fact that PCSO donations did not happen within a vacuum, as a happy case of happenstance, with no strings attached and no payback expected.’

Retired Archbishop Oscar Cruz is quoted to have said that it was ‘impossible’ for President Arroyo to accommodate the bishops without some quid pro quo. ‘Kapag humingi ka sa gobyerno, nakatali ang kamay mo.’

The payback required was the silence and cooperation of their ‘excellencies’.

‘When the nation needed the moral strength and clarity of the Church as the Arroyo administration lurched from one outrageous impropriety to the next,’ there was SILENCE! The bishops’ silence was, indeed, deafening and the PCSO gifts of SUVs clearly come into real perspective. It was around this time, also, that the derisive sobriquet: the ‘Malacañang Dioceses’ came to existence.

Now, ‘get mo na’!

There is nothing illegal in the gifts. There is nothing unconstitutional about the gifts. And there is nothing unlawful about the gifts. But mind you, there is a PAYBACK time for the gifts! It is no free ride, Virginia!

Again in another editorial, St. Thomas More’s famous quote against his perjurer was artfully conjured… ‘Ah! What profits a man to gain the whole world… but for SUVs, your Excellencies?’

But in a more worldly scale of power and gold, an SUV gift is, indeed, a real bargain for a price of silence and cooperation of a bishop. PGMA was noted for giving generous gifts and envelopes knowing full well that for each SUV and envelope, there is a payback!

It was a no mean feat that she survived her nine years of presidency notwithstanding the issues of legitimacy of succession; the Hello Garci scandal; NBN and Fertilizer scams; and that is simply to name a few. For 7 SUVs? That is super cheap! ‘Kuha mo?’

The CBCP’s letter is a hodge-podge apology of two strands. The first strand consists of the first five paragraphs revealing that the writers have remained ‘clueless’ about the whole issue of SUVs. These are well-couched paragraphs, on the main, an apologia pro vita sua. The last paragraph is a stand-alone and it reveals that there is a saving grace notwithstanding the attempt to justify.

The last paragraph could have been THE letter: short and ‘pointed’ devoid of any pretense and finally addressing the real issue involved in the SUVs as it quotes Psalm 51: ‘a humbled and contrite heart’ as they stand before the Lord that in the secret of their hearts, they may be taught God’s wisdom.

Finally, ‘KUHA NA!’ (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Balintataw is Fr. Eliseo “Jun” Mercado’s column for the weekly Mindanao Cross in Cotabato City)