Margie Juico’s Pajero
A few years ago, a Catholic bishop assigned to a Mindanao diocese resigned from his post for health reasons. The good bishop had a chronic back problem that was exacerbated by the performance of his duties. A bishop has to make what is known as a pastoral visit to all the parishes under his diocese, besides numerous other duties. He has to look after the social action programs being implemented. In Mindanao, most dioceses have a very active program for indigenous peoples. Few people in Manila perhaps have knowledge of the vast Mindanao terrain where the hinterlands can only be traversed on unpaved roads.
As an anthropologist, I myself have to traverse some of these roads. One community I visit regularly is only about 40 kilometers from the main highway in Bukidnon. But it takes me two hours to reach the village over the most mercilessly unpaved roads with humps that can put a camel’s back to shame. There is also another village I regularly visit where no bridge spans the river known for its very unpredictable current. Just the other day, a friend’s Toyota 4×4 vehicle was swept by the strong currents after a downpour.
That bishop had to eventually resign. His work was, literally, back-breaking. Not even a 4×4 vehicle could alleviate the pain he was suffering. His resignation was accepted by the Pope.
Distance and the primitiveness of roads are a reality in Mindanao that Margie Juico of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office surely does not know. I wonder now if she can sleep well at night. She has just committed one of the most serious blunders a public servant can ever do—to accuse and impute malice where there was none.
I have reviewed the video of her media interview several times over. She now says she never mentioned “Pajero.” But she did. And for saying that, she was able to successfully create a media fiesta that vilified innocent people. Face the consequences and pay her debts she now must do. A wrong had been done. The bishops have paid a very dear price. But Margie Juico is scot-free.
There is a serious question that is now raised about media ethics. One blogger said it well: Manila media “have practically made a livelihood of libel and defamation, and nobody gives a hoot. This is a signal to revisit what is right and what is wrong.”
“People yak so much about human rights, forgetting that in natural norms that govern human relations, every person—even a wrongdoer—has a right to a good name; in Civil Law, it is called personal ‘honor’.”
Margie Juico and her husband Philip were once active members of the Ang Ligaya ng Panginoon community. A few years ago, however, the family name surfaced in media when a son who was councilor in Quezon City authored that city’s reproductive health ordinance. What has happened to the catholicity of that family?
It is difficult to believe what she had done was a routine administrative matter. The coincidences are too glaring to ignore. Besides, the Commission on Audit report did not mention anything about a “Pajero.” We know, however, that just a few weeks ago, Bishop Juan de Dios Pueblos made a very scathing criticism against the Noynoy Aquino government. Was it eureka that Margie stumbled upon the PCSO records of the bishop’s letter requests? She must be a lucky person. Bring down Pueblos to his knees. Margie did it successfully for Noynoy Aquino.
A columnist of another paper narrated from a reliable newspaper source that Margie Juico “had dinner with the editorial staff of one anti-Church newspaper a week or so before the propaganda attack on the bishops started. They reportedly agreed to ‘teach the bishops a lesson’ for campaigning vehemently against the reproductive health bill.”
The aim was to stop the switch of support from the pro-RH and undecided camps to the anti-RH camp. And the modus operandi was to bring down the moral standing of the bishops, the columnist narrated. Not long after that, the “Pajero bishops” came into the news. It was then at Juico’s behest that Sen. TG Guingona, ever the Malacañang lackey, decided to investigate the bishops. Guingona reportedly visited Juico at the PCSO prior to the hearings. If true, this is another violation of established ethical norms. Everything appears to have been facilitated, made worse by an inept reading of the Constitution.
Now it appears that the whole fiasco was facilitated by a PR firm, Eon Stakeholder Relations, to the tune of P544,400 which Sen. Jinggoy Estrada uncovered. Juico’s ambivalent denials seem to suggest she was caught off guard. The PCSO had just denounced what their predecessors did. Now they practice what they had denounced. It is a case of “Tama na, sobra na, kami na naman.” And that is President Aquino’s “matuwid na daan” for you.
Margie Juico was Cory Aquino’s most faithful lieutenant. Perhaps she still remembers that Cory was besieged by nine coup attempts. Each time, the Catholic Church came to her rescue. Perhaps she can still vividly recall that it was Cardinal Sin who sounded the call for people to mass at Edsa. I’m sure she remembers that it was Cardinal Sin who would update the Filipinos on the jailed Sen. Ninoy Aquino.
Precisely we elected Noynoy Aquino as president because of the awe and reverence that the country has for Cory Aquino, painted largely in part by the Catholic Church. One writer exclaimed: “Now that Noynoy is the President, he has the gall to shame the bishops. For what? Just to show that he is clean and that the bishops are dirty?”
Margie’s Malacañang operation is a success. They have just gained the whole world.
* * *
Comments to firstname.lastname@example.org
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.