PCSO fund controversy: Be slow in judging us, bishops ask flock

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/12 July) — Visibly hurting from the controversy in the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office in which seven bishops received funds for the purchase of luxury cars and other vehicles, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines on Monday issued a public apology for the “apparent inconsistency of our actions with our pastoral preaching”.

In a pastoral statement, the CBCP asked its flock “to be slow in judgment and to conscientiously seek the whole truth behind the controversy” and to “seek the truth always in charity”.

PCSO officials named Abra Bishop Leonardo Jaucian, Basilan Bishop Martin Jumoad, Bontoc Bishop Rodolfo Beltran, Nueva Segovia Archbishop Ernesto Antolin Salgado, Butuan Bishop Juan de Dios Pueblos, Zamboanga Archbishop Romulo Valles, and Cotabato Archbishop Orlando Quevedo as the recipients of the controversial donations.

The bishops explained the vehicles have been used for social programs like health and not for personal purposes. They also said they would be willing to return the vehicles.

Titled “A time of pain, a time of grace,” the statement, read by CBCP president and Tandag bishop Nereo P. Odchimar, said the Church has been “deeply wounded” by the PCSO controversy that has erupted in the past two weeks.

It noted that Church members were divided on the issue of whether the bishops involved were innocent or 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,” the statement said.

“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,” it added.

The CBCP assured 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” and that their action was done without malice.

The statement said the bishops were just being sincere in their desire to help their people, and “failed to consider the pitfalls to which these grants could possibly lead them”.

“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,” it added.

The bishops involved in the controversy are expected to face the Senate blue ribbon committee on Wednesday. (MindaNews)