For shame | Inquirer Opinion
There’s The Rub

For shame

WHY SINGLE us out?” ask the bishops.

Let me count the ways.

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One, because there are no others. They are not being singled out, they stand out singly as the ones who received those gratuities from the PCSO during the years 2008-2009. Or so according to the Commission on Audit in its report on that period. It identifies six of them as having received SUVs and cash amounting to P8.3 million, manna not from heaven but from Gloria. No officials of other churches got this, only they. They are no more being singled out for persecution than the Ampatuans are being singled out for prosecution.

Two, because the gratuities were an obvious bribe. Bishop Leopoldo Jaucian says he got P1.129 million from the PCSO in January 2009 but denies it was in payment for support. “It was an honest-to-goodness assistance for the Diocese of Abra, it was a charitable assistance.” The donation was given three years after “Hello, Garci’’.

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Well, this country does not lack for dioceses in extreme poverty who need assistance too, if not far more pressingly. The Prelature of Infanta, held long ago by Bishop Julio Labayen, is one of them. But it has never gotten the kind of honest-to-goodness assistance Arroyo’s favorite bishops have. Hell, the Church itself never promoted Labayen archbishop though he was renowned for having built a “church of the poor” there.

The test of the pudding is in the eating. Archbishop Ramon Arguelles, who was one of the most favored recipients of the honest-to-goodness assistance, found absolutely nothing wrong with Arroyo stealing the presidency. “Everybody cheats anyway,” he famously said.

Archbishop Fernando Capalla, the most favored of those recipients, steered the CBCP, while it was under him, into rejecting any and all calls for Arroyo to resign. He became Arroyo’s staunchest defender, even attending meetings in Malacañang to discuss the role of Church and State in Mindanao.

Of course 2009 is three years away from “Hello, Garci.” That did not make the question of Arroyo’s legitimacy wane, it made it surge. That was when the huge rallies against her arose, particularly in Makati, where Mar Roxas went to in lieu of Cubao to shout, “P—ng ina.”

I have yet to know of anyone, bishop or congressman, who got millions from government agencies who said the money was for him. All of them have said the money went to their flock or constituents, to tend to their desperate needs. The flock or constituents have not become less desperate, the bishop or congressman has only become more prosperous.

Three, because there is such a thing as the separation of Church and State. Jesus Christ said, “Give unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.” He did not say, “Give unto God, or his self-professed representatives, the things that are Caesar’s.” It was Arroyo who said, or might as well have said, “Give unto me the things that are FPJ’s, and I will give to you the things that are not mine.”

Bishop Martin Jumoad says he uses the Mitsubishi Strada he bought with P1.1 million from the PCSO for medical and relief missions and to negotiate with kidnappers. Well, if he didn’t drive around in a Strada to undertake relief missions, he wouldn’t need to deal with kidnappers at all, would he?

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Four, because exposing them is the right thing to do. Bishop Nereo Odchimar asks: “Is it because some of the bishops are critical? Is it because of the bishops’ position on the RH bill?” Archbishop Capalla says, “I don’t know why they take (the donations) against the bishops and make it appear scandalous. This is unfair. I challenge them to show the records—the real records, and not the twisted ones.” Archbishop Arguelles says, “It’s really the intention of the PCSO to destroy the credibility of the bishops.” Bishop Jumoad says they are being persecuted because “the bishops have been very vocal in criticizing when a president is doing nothing for the country.”

Not at all. It’s merely a testament to the quality of their discernment that they are able to see political calculation in P-Noy’s every move and only the best of intentions in Arroyo’s own. No, it has nothing to do with P-Noy advocating contraception, it has to do with them practicing abortion—of their moral duty. Capalla can actually distinguish what is real and what is twisted, what is genuine and what is fake, what is legitimate and what is illegitimate? Why should the PCSO bother to destroy the credibility of the bishops? They’ve already done quite a good job of it themselves. And it’s not true at all that P-Noy is doing nothing for the country, he’s simply doing nothing for them. You get used to thinking you’re the country, encouraged no end by a fake president, you could get very confused too.

Five, because the Church is supposed to be a paragon of virtue and not a repository of vice. Because bishops are supposed to profess the highest standards of excellence and not resort to the lowest claim to innocence.

The point is not for the bishops to show they have a right to be there until someone can prove them guilty, it is for them to show they have no right to be there until they can prove themselves worthy. Their thinking is all of a piece with their defense of Arroyo: She had a right to be president until she could be proven to have stolen the vote. The problem was not merely that it was impossible to do that during her time, it was that it posited the presidency as an office that was fit for unproven criminals rather than for proven sages.

That is what they are positing about themselves, too. The bishopric is an office that is fit for unproven, well, take it from the name, rather than for proven saints. No wonder this country is what it is.

Six, for shame. Assuming they still have it.

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TAGS: bishops, bribery, charity, church, featured columns, opinion, PCSO, Poverty
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