The Philippines is a nation of suckers. Filipinos routinely elevate rabble-rousers to “hero” status, pardon convicted plunderers, allow dictators’ family and offspring to continue living the good life, and tolerate a uniquely-Filipino brand of banal criminality that is embedded deep in the very fibres that weave the social fabric of Philippines society. This quaint aspect of the national character puts a bit of context behind the recent “apology” of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) on behalf of the now infamous Mitsubishops led by Juan “The Pajero” de Dios Pueblo…
[Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO)] chairwoman Margarita Juico earlier revealed that former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo allegedly used PCSO funds to get support from the Church. She said Arroyo, who is now a Pampanga representative, had given 7 Mitsubishi Pajeros to bishops.
A 2009 Commission on Audit report also showed the PCSO gave P1.44 million to the Archdiocese of Cotabato for the purchase of a service vehicle, P1.5 million to the Zamboanga Archdiocesan Social Action Apostolate, P720,000 to Caritas Nueva Segovia, P1.125 million to the Roman Catholic Prelate of Isabela, Basilan and P1.7 million to the Diocese of Butuan.
Not surprisingly, the “apology” seems to be working wonders as far as what seems to be an emerging public relations campaign to repair the crumbling moral highground that the revered Catholic bishops of the Philippines once stood upon. A certain “relgious” group that goes by the presumptuous name “Coalition for Family and Life”, led by former Environment secretary and ex-Manila Mayor Lito Atienza is reportedly soliciting donations from the public to raise more than Php8 million to repay the Filipino taxpayer for the comfort of luxury sport utility with which the Mitsubishops transport themselves these days.
Apparently the esteemed ex-Mayor seems to think that throwing money into the mess will make it go away…
The figure is the estimated amount of the vehicles received by seven bishops from the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) during the Arroyo administration.
“Sa ating paraan, maliit o malaki, ay magbigay tayo ng tulong maresolba lang itong isyung ito. Kung ang issue ay ang salapi, e di isoli na lang natin (sa PCSO). Ang mga lay leaders, alam ko, maraming gustong tumulong dito,” said Atienza.
[Translated: In our own small or big way, let us help resolve this issue. If the issue is about money, then it is a simple matter of returning said money [to the PCSO]. I know many lay leaders would like to help us.]
Interestingly, despite the CBCP’s official “apology” and the wave of sympathy it seems to be generating in predominantly Catholic Philippine society, a “senior prelate” seems to be implying that the mess that the Mitsubishops had caused was something “inflicted” by the Philippine Government.
A senior prelate said the fund mess at state-owned lottery maybe the â€œbiggest woundâ€ inflicted by the government to the Catholic Bishopsâ€™ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP).
In his 45-year experience as a member of the bishopsâ€™ collegial body, retired Archbishop Oscar Cruz said the recent issue has dipped the image and credibility of the Church.
So on one hand, while Filipinos are made to believe that the CBCP “apology” was made in the spirit of taking accountability for the mess it finds itself in, Cruz, on the other, is busy painting the all-too-familiar image of the bleeding martyr — an image that, for centuries, has been a favourite theme in Catholic iconography.
Last I heard, sincere apologies do not involve making pathetic excuses.
This rather subtle hint of the true intent of this much-publicised “apology” begs a closer examination of the words used in said “apology.” For this we defer to the GMA News TV report that broke the news of this statement of “apology” back in the 11th July.
I highlight a few salient points:
(1) The CBCP is “sorry” for the “controversy” but makes no mention of being “wounded” by the actions per se of the Mitsubishops.
In a pastoral statement read by its outgoing president Bishop Nereo Odchimar on Monday, the CBCP said the Church “has been deeply wounded by the controversies in the PCSO.”
(2) Reference is made to Jesus Christ to sweeten the payload of said “apology.”
“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 group said after its 103rd plenary assembly held at the Pope Pius XII Catholic Center in Manila.
(3) The “apology” makes use of the euphemism “inconsistency” instead of a more categorical statement of accountability for downright wrong behaviour.
â€œWe are saddened many of you, especially the youth and the poorâ€”our basic ecclesial communities, have been confused because of the apparent inconsistency of our actions with our pastoral preaching,” it added.
(4) The “apology” leaves the issue of legality open-ended by including a very prominent “IF” in its statement, which in effect renders said apology non-absolute.
â€œIf it would be proven unlawful, anomalous and unconstitutional, we assure you that their action was done without malice. Out of their sincere desire to help their people, they failed to consider the pitfalls to which these grants were possibly done,” the statement read.
(5) Despite issuing a “sincere apology” supposedly aimed “especially [at] the youth and the poor — [the Church’s] basic ecclesial communities”, the CBCP declined to answer questions after reading its statement to the press…
Odchimar refused to answer questions from the media after reading the statement, saying that the bishops involved in the controversy will explain their sides on the issue once they attend the Senate probe on Wednesday.
…perhaps revealing the bishops’ selective regard for the importance of requests for clarification coming from its “ecclesial communities,” the basis of this selectiveness, we might hazard a guess, having something to do with political clout maybe? Apparently, some people have gotten away with hypocrisy for so long that they now find themselves utterly incapable of uttering even one truly sincere sentence much less an entire “statement.”
And so the comedy of errors continues as the Philippines’ venerable men in robes stumble from one communication snafu to another. One begins to wonder just how “in touch” these clerics really are with the people they presume to teach “morality” to.
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