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Our Mother Church has been deeply wounded by the controversies in the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office that have erupted in the past two weeks. Some members of the Church believe in the innocence of the bishops involved in the issue, while others do 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.
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.
As we express our sadness, we also ask you to be slow in judgment and to conscientiously seek the whole truth behind the controversy. Let us seek the truth always in charity.
We assure you that 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. 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 could possibly lead them. They have also expressed their readiness to do everything that is necessary to heal this wound so that we can all move forward in hope.
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.
We express again our deep sorrow for the pain that the recent events have brought to you our beloved people. The good Lord knows our love for you. The words of the psalmist come to our mind: “My sacrifice, a contrite spirit. A humbled, contrite heart you will not spurn” (Ps.51). As the same Psalmist addresses the Lord, we take his words as our own to encourage and challenge us: “Indeed you love truth in the heart; then in the secret of my heart teach me wisdom.”
For the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines,
+NEREO P. ODCHIMAR, D.D.
Bishop of Tandag
President, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines
July 11, 2011
MANILA, July 11, 2011—The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) apologized Monday as the Church is stung over allegations that some prelates received vehicles from a state-run lottery agency.
In a pastoral statement, the CBCP said the bishops involved in the controversy are willing to be investigated and accept responsibility for their action.
“… We are sorry for the pain and sadness that these events have brought upon you,” read part of the statement read by outgoing CBCP President Nereo Odchimar in a press conference.
“We assure you that 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,” it said.
The Catholic hierarchy has been reeling under heat after the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) accused at least seven prelates of accepting vehicles from the agency.
The PCSO alleged that the vehicles were used by the past administration for political patronage at the time when calls for resignation had been hounding former President Gloria Arroyo.
The CBCP, however, maintained that the seven bishops’ request for vehicles from the PCSO “was done without malice.”
“Out of their sincere desire to help their people, they failed to consider the pitfalls to which these grants could possibly lead them,” Odchimar said.
The bishops also asked the public “to be slow in judgment” and to “conscientiously” seek the truth behind the scandal. “Let us seek the truth always in charity,” said Odchimar.
The pastoral statement titled “A Time of Pain, A Time of Grace,” was made after the CBCP’s three-day 103rd plenary assembly which ended Monday noon.
Among those present in the meeting were Archbishop Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales of Manila, retired Archbishop Ricardo Cardinal Vidal, and former CBCP head Archbishop Angel Lagdameo of Jaro.
Five of the seven bishops involved in the controversy were also present. They were: Cotabato Archbishop Orlando Quevedo, Abra Bishop Leopoldo Jaucian, Basilan Bishop Martin Jumoad, Bontoc-Lagawe Bishop Rodolfo Beltran and Butuan Bishop Juan de Dios Pueblos.
The other accused, Archbishops Romulo Valles of Zamboanga and Ernesto Salgado of Nueva Segovia, did not attend the meeting. Salgado is reportedly in the US for an appointment.
The bishops admitted the issue “deeply wounded” the Church causing confusion among the Catholics “because of the apparent inconsistency of our actions with our pastoral preaching.”
“Some members of the Church believe in the innocence of the bishops involved in the issue, while others do not. There is no doubt that everywhere in the Church there is great sorrow,” they said.
The bishops then vowed it would “re-examine” the manner of their 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 express again our deep sorrow for the pain that the recent events have brought to you our beloved people. The good Lord knows our love for you,” they said. (CBCPNews)
SENATE OFFICE, Manila, July 11, 2011-Senator Edgardo J. Angara, chair of the Senate Committee on Education, Culture and Arts manifested full support in the recent call of Department of Education (DepEd) Secretary Armin Luistro for increased legislative and budgetary support for the education sector, explaining that he is in favour of K+12 of the government as the 1st step in educational reform.
Angara agreed in the statement of Luistro that resource gaps have been the major obstacle in pursuing reforms, particularly in implementing the K+12 Basic Education Plan by 2013.
“I agree in the forms of textbooks, classrooms and school buildings have resulted in for instance, larger class sizes that make learning more challenging for both teachers and students,” Angara said, saying that the officially approved class size in the Philippines is 60 students compared with Malaysia’s 31.7, Thailand’s 22.9, and South Korea’s 34.7.
The Senator said that investing in roads and bridges is vital to our overall development – but so are investments in our human capital, adding that the country has the lowest per head investment in education among our economic peers in Southeast Asia.
He noted that the first major step we could take towards reform is the K+12 plan, but that is not enough; thus, to equip young Filipino pupils with the skills and overall readiness that will help them get into and stay in school, Angara sponsored the Early Years Act and Kindergarten Education Act.
Angara also supports adding to more years to basic education to decongest a curriculum which tries to cram 12-years worth of learning into 10, as well as bring the country's standards on par with international norms, such as the Washington Accord for engineering professionals and Bologna Accord for European industries.
“Simultaneously, it is imperative that we come up with a better financing system and unburden families from huge education costs especially in higher learning. Compared to our Asian neighbors, almost 85 percent of education costs in the Philippines is shouldered by the parents. In Japan and Korea, families cover less than 20 percent,” Angara said where he is also pushing for the passage of the Congressional Oversight Committee for Education or EDCOM.
“I challenge my colleagues in Congress to be united in working for a comprehensive review of our education system and started to move on towards its genuine reform so that our Filipino graduates will be internationally competitive,” Angara said. (Jason de Asis)
PALAYAN CITY July 11, 2011-Allies of Nueva Ecija Gov. Aurelio Umali yesterday defended him from criticisms over the provincial government’s application for a P1-billion credit facility with a local bank, with one of them saying the province won’t be “swimming in loans.”
Vice Gov. Jose Gay Padiernos told newsmen that the P1-billion Omnibus Credit Facility (OCF) granted the provincial government by the Development Bank of the Philippines will be used to bankroll flagship and big-ticket projects of the provincial government, including a P100-million world-class water sports complex and theme park, sub-station, mango processing plant, and cold storage facility among others.
He said the loan is “no big deal” as there are many other provincial governments which incur even bigger, gargantuan loans, citing Bulacan which applied for a staggering P2.1 billion loan.
Padiernos was reacting to concerns raised regarding the loan package which, some local observers pointed out, could plunge the province into financial problems, on top of a P280-million loan it secured for construction of 325 additional classrooms.
Earlier, the SP passed a resolution granting Umali authority to negotiate and secure a OCF worth P1 billion to finance “various infrastructure and development projects” in the province. The Board of the Directors of the DBP subsequently approved the loan facility which has a maximum 9 percent interest per annum payable for 15 years.
Padiernos said the loan package had undergone thorough scrutiny by the 14-man Sangguniang Panlalawigan. “We don’t just borrow loans. We study it very carefully before we approve it,” he said.
Padiernos said with regards to the P280-million loan, the resolution granted to Umali only ratified the loan agreement the provincial government entered into with the DBP which was not approved during his first term due to differences with the previous SP.
He said the Umali administration is acquiring loans because it has shown its solid credit rating, having even paid P1.1 billion in loans during the previous administration. “To me personally, being a businessman by profession, the mere fact that you are granted loans only means you are bankable,” he said.
Senior Board Member Estrellita Suansing also defended the loan facility, saying with the SP providing the necessary checks and balances, the loans would be judiciously spent. “I can assure you we won’t be swimming in loans. When there are loans, for sure there will be projects,” she said.
Suansing cited as an example the proposed Aulo water sports complex and theme park which, she said, would even be an improved version of the world-famous CamSur water sports complex and a similar tourist facility in Clark. She added that the project will trigger a tourism boom in the province and boost the local economy.
Padiernos added that the provincial government is not solely relying on loans to bankroll its projects. He said the Umali administration was able to secure P200 million worth of grant from the Agencia Espanola de Cooperacion International of the Spanish government for disaster risk reduction projects. (Jason de Asis)
MANILA, July 10, 2011—The Makabayang Koalisyon ng mga Mamamayan (MAKABAYAN) welcomes the parallel investigation that the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) is doing, in connection with the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) ‘intelligence’ fund mess.
In a statement, Dr. Ed Clemente of the MAKABAYAN-Quezon City said that they are expecting transparency and consistency over the probes being conducted by the Philippine senate, the Office of the Ombudsman and by the CBCP, and that the investigations would yield a positive result in terms of resolving the issue of using the PCSO money as payola, in guise of intelligence fund.
“Poor Filipinos who need most of the supposedly charity money [from the PCSO] were the main to suffer because [these] public funds were being corrupted by some government officials,” says Clemente.
Clemente also said that President Benigno C. Aquino III should act swiftly, in prosecuting and incarcerating government officials involved in the money laundering in the PCSO, particularly former President and now Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who, according to former PCSO General Manager Rosario “Rose” Uriarte, is the one who signed the papers to immediately disburse the P325 million to be used as ‘intelligence funds.’
“We don't want to hear broken promises again. PNoy must be decisive enough to act and start breaking his silence over issues of corruption by the past administration,” Clemente stressed.
Clemente also said that he wonders why the Palace keeps on “doing nothing” in prosecuting the former chief executive and her cohorts, as the PCSO mess is just an “addendum to the corruption issues being attributed to the past administration.”
During the Senate investigation, it was revealed that the intelligence funds were released in tranche, with P75 million, P90 million, and P160 million in the years 2008, 2009 and 2010 respectively.
Senate Blue Ribbon Committee Teofisto “TG” Guingona III was ‘amazed’ with the big increase in the intelligence fund released in 2010, the year when the former president vied for a congressional seat.
“Bakit napakalaki [ng itinaas ng intelligence fund] at bakit ginawa noong panahon ng eleksiyon [ang paglalabas ng pondo]?” the senator said in a statement.
The senator also said that Mrs. Arroyo should explain her involvement with the mess.
Meanwhile, MAKABAYAN said that they will be watching over the developments of the ongoing parallel investigations on this issue and other cases of corruption and human rights violations allegedly committed by the past regime. (Noel Sales Barcelona)
MANILA, July 10, 2011—After two years, Tandag Bishop Nereo Odchimar has decided to vacate the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) highest post in December.
Filling his shoes is 61-year old Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma, the current vice president of the bishops’ collegial body.
In electing Palma as the CBCP president, the bishops broke a long-time practice in the Catholic hierarchy.
By tradition, Odchimar is supposed to assume the presidency for two terms or a cumulative of four years.
Before the CBCP election on Monday, however, Odchimar expressed to the body his desire not to be nominated anymore.
The reason? Poor health.
More than being an administrative position, the post has required Odchimar to make travels to represent the CBCP in both local and international meetings.
From Tandag in Surigao del Sur, Odchimar had to take a ‘difficult travel’ to Davao City for four hours to take an airplane to Manila where the physical office of the CBCP President is.
“Bishop Odchimar asked not to be nominated anymore for health reasons and (because of) the difficulty of travelling from Tandag to Manila for necessary trips,” said Msgr. Juanito Figura, outgoing CBCP secretary general.
During the election at the Pope Pius XII Catholic Center in Manila on Saturday, the CBCP also named Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop SocratesVillegas as its vice president.
Dumaguete Bishop John Du was named treasurer; while Msgr. Joselito Asis, who is currently the CBCP assistant secretary general, will take Figura’s post.
Like Odchimar, Figura also decided to step down from the post. He is leaving the CBCP after completing eight years of service.
On Sunday, the prelates also elected the regional representatives for the CBCP Permanent Council.
Elected were Archbishop Sergio Utleg, Bishops Virgilio David, Arturo Bastes, Francisco de Leon, Reynaldo Evangelista for Luzon; Bishops Leonardo Medroso and Patricio Buzon for Visayas; and Bishops Antonieto Cabajog and Guillermo Afable for Mindanao. (CBCPNews)
MANILA, July 10, 2011—A seminar on the issue of divorce will be held this month to educate the public on the repercussions of creating a culture of divorce in the country.
Organized by Pro-life Philippines Foundation, Inc. the half-day forum is titled “Let No Man Put Asunder: Uncovering the Culture of Divorce.”
Resource speaker is Atty. Aurea “Jo” Imbong, a pro-life lawyer and legal counsel of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines.
Imbong will speak on the history of divorce, its conflict with human and divine laws, and its possible consequences to the status of the Filipino family.
After divorce has become legal in Malta, a Catholic nation in the Mediterranean, women advocates renewed the call to pass a law on divorce in the Philippines. The Committee on Revision of Laws in the House of Representatives has revived the discussion on the issue aimed on making divorce become legal in the country.
The seminar is scheduled on July 16, from 8:00 am to 12:00 noon at the St. Joseph Retreat House Conference Room in Sampaloc, Manila.
The forum has a registration fee of P300.00 that covers one snack, one seminar kit, and a certificate of participation signed by the organizers.
Interested participants may call in for reservations or more information at 733-7027; at telefax 734-9425; or text 0919-2337783; or email at email@example.com. (CBCPNews)