BY ASKING the bishops to take back the vehicles they were returning, the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) admitted that there was nothing wrong when the prelates got them in 2009. “We really want the bishops to keep the vehicles but if they really insist (on returning them), then the PCSO has no choice but to accept them,” Jose Ferdinand Rojas II, PCSO general manager, said. No less than the Senate leadership asked the bishops to reconsider their decision to return the vehicles, admitting that they had indeed been used for charity and social work and did not violate the Constitution as earlier alleged by the PCSO and the Commission on Audit.

But to no avail. The seven bishops, heads of dioceses in Mindanao and the Cordilleras, insisted on returning the vehicles. “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,” Cotabato Archbishop Orlando Quevedo, reading the pastoral letter earlier issued by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) on the issue, said.

The bishops have reason to be mortified. What was a perfectly innocent acceptance of assistance from government to purchase mainly second-hand vehicles for their use in humanitarian work in their dioceses—that covered very remote regions where there was hardly any government presence—would be used in a demolition job against the CBCP and the Roman Catholic Church.

Oh, but Bishop Juan de Dios Pueblos of Butuan had written Arroyo asking for a vehicle for his birthday. OK. But the media did not say he had been asking for the donation to replace the old vehicle he and his priests had been using for years for their humanitarian missions. In fact, the purported letter was the second he had written. And the media suddenly forgot that Bishop Pueblos was in the forefront of relief and rescue operations during the flooding in Caraga earlier this year and is a logging ban advocate in Mindanao.

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Ditto with Quevedo. Just last June, media reports showed him leading the disaster relief operations in Western Mindanao. Now he has become the press’s whipping boy.

Oh, but Bishop Pueblos had the gall to ask for President Aquino’s resignation last June. But he had disowned that statement, but the media have conveniently ignored his denial, just as it has conveniently pilloried the bishops for allegedly threatening to excommunicate the President when no threat has been made.

But Bishop Pueblos himself has admitted he committed a lapse in judgment when he asked for the vehicle and has apologized for it. He’s man enough to own his mistake.

But the PCSO and the President aren’t man enough to apologize to the bishops. They would not do that because it would be tantamount to admitting that they had in fact perpetrated a demolition job against the Church for opposing the Reproductive Health bill, which has apparently become the poverty amelioration centerpiece of an administration that’s bereft of any economic vision, as was evident when Aquino delivered his vacuous second State of the Nation address last July 25.

Even if Malacañang has not certified the RH bill, it has become the priority bill of Congress, no doubt goaded by a deceitful President who has unwittingly spilled the beans that his budget secretary would leak to the press details about his “romantic” status whenever his popularity ratings are down, and who has boasted he would risk excommunication to have the bill passed even when the bishops have made no such threat.

Arrogance of the press

Central to the RH debate is the opposition of the bishops who have been accused of violating the separation of church and state. This was the constitutional principle they had purportedly violated when they received the donations of the vehicles from the PCSO upon endorsement of the former Arroyo administration.

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PCSO Chair Margarita Juico was social secretary under Corazon Aquino; she herself received requests addressed to the late president for assistance from religious leaders. Juico should know that there’s no violation of the Constitution when the PCSO grants assistance to religious group in the latter’s humanitarian and social work. But Juico seems suddenly to have been possessed with amnesia.

It was Juico and the PCSO that leaked to the media details about the COA report of the former PCSO and the “luxury vehicles” that the bishops had allegedly received. One news organization claimed that the vehicles were “Pajeros” and promptly tagged the seven bishops who got them “The Pajero 7,” a takeoff from the western, “Magnificent 7.”

But is the Pajero a luxury vehicle?

Up to now when the episode is closed, one news organization continues to lambaste the bishops for their “greed” and “luxurious taste” even if it has never called the second-hand Porsche that the President had acquired earlier this year for more than P4 million as a luxury vehicle.

Granted that the Pajero were a luxury vehicle, where were the bishops’ Pajeros?

Alas, there was no Pajero!

Juico denied she had made the claim. Other PCSO officials said it was obviously an inaccuracy committed by the press, enraging Sen. Jinggoy Estrada who said the bishops had been maligned. Some senators apologized to the bishops for the error, but one news organization blasted the senators, claiming the bishops were treated with kid gloves and obviously “favored.”

But the news organization was playing coy because it was the one really “favored” by the PCSO and the senators because they did not reveal, obviously for fear of the power of the press, that it was the same agency that went to town with tall story about “The Pajero 7.”

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Without making the proper disclosure that it was treated to a delicious dinner by PCSO execs right in its own newsroom, the news organization started running stories with sensational headlines such as “PCSO Checking Reports 7 Bishops Got Pajeros” (June 28, 2011) and “Pajero Bishops Mum” (June 30, 2011).

The last report was quite funny because it had the news organization’s corps of provincial correspondents casing the bishops around the country, checking if they were going around in a Pajero. Of course, they found nothing.

But if the news organization had just bothered to check the COA records while its editors and writers were breaking expensive bread with the PCSO officialdom, it would have found out there was no Pajero.

Despite guilty of sloppy reporting, despite breaching media ethics and failing to make the proper disclosure of its dinner with the PCSO, despite unwittingly showing that Catholic bishops go around their dioceses in modest vehicles, the news organization, like the rest of the liberal capitalist metropolitan media, continues to undertake for the administration the demolition job on the bishops, insisting that the vehicles the bishops got from PCSO—mainly second-hand SUV’s and a pick-up—were luxury vehicles.

What is worse than the fictionist masquerading as a journalist? It’s the journalist-fictionist who starts to believe in his own fictions.

The whole episode shows that the lazy, vindictive, deceitful presidency would stop at nothing, to demolish the one morally ascendant institution that stands in the way of its nefarious, immoral design to pass the RH bill, a totalitarian, social-engineering measure. We call on all Thomasians and Filipinos to fight fascism with a slobber’s face.

1 COMMENT

  1. After googling the news stories, this editorial was referring to the Inquirer who was partly behind the demolition job on the bishops.

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