MANILA, Philippines (2nd UPDATE) - The Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office on Wednesday identified the type of vehicles received by Catholic bishops as PCSO donations during the Arroyo administration.
Speaking at the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee hearing, PCSO chief Margie Juico said some of the vehicles distributed to prelates include a Mitsubishi Montero, Isuzu Crosswind, Isuzu Alterra and Toyota Grandia.
"The vehicles from PCSO charity fund ay, alinsulod sa sinasabi ng [Commission on Audit], maaaring questionable sapagkat PCSO does not give luxury vehicles or SUVs," she told senators.
She added that no other religious sect received such luxury vehicles from PCSO as of 2009.
Juico said a total of 5 vehicles costing P6.49 million were given to different Catholic prelates and institutions, all of which were charged to the PCSO charity fund.
She said the questioned vehicles include a Mitsubishi Montero that was requested by Butuan Bishop Juan de Dios Pueblos from then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
Juico said the diocese of Abra and the vicariates of Bontoc and Lagawa in Ifugao received still undetermined vehicles on the request of Cotabato Archbishop Orlando Quevedo.
She said Fr. Adriano Ruiz got a Toyota Grandia through Archbishop Romulo Valles, Bishop Martin Jumoad of Basilan received a Mitsubishi Strada, and the Archdiocese of Caritas Nueva Segovia in Ilocos Sur an Isuzu Crosswind.
Archbishop Fernando Capalla also requested an Isuzu Alterra for Fr. Roger Lood of Iligan City, but it was not released, Juico said.
Butuan bishop got Montero as birthday gift
During the hearing, it was revealed that Bishop Pueblos asked former President Gloria Mcapagal Arroyo for a brand new car as the President's "birthday gift" for his 66th birthday.
"At present, I really need a brand new car, possibly a 4x4, which I can use to reach the farflung areas of Caraga. I hope you will not fail to give a brand new car, which will serve as your birthday gift to me," the bishop's letter to Arroyo read.
It added: "Be assured of my constant support and sincerest prayers for your excellency."
A separate letter from the bishop said he wanted a Montero 4x4 SUV which will be used for the diocese's "spiritual and social services to the people."
The special projects department later recommended the grant of P1,704,000 for the purchase of the vehicle for the Diocese of Butuan.
CBCP: Our conscience is clear
Meanwhile, the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines said it is willing to furnish details to the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee on how it spent the PCSO donations to help the poor.
A letter signed by CBCP President and Tandag Bishop Nereo Odchimar said the CBCP understands that what is prohibited in the Constitution is the grant of public money to a religious leader of a religious institution.
He said the bishops who receive PCSO money "do not own the donation but holds it in trust for public use of its diocese."
"Whatever the benefit the Catholic Church may get from the gift is purely incidental...Our conscience is clear," Odchimar said.
P3-B in payables
PCSO general manager Jose Ferdinand Rojas II, meanwhile, said the previous PCSO board left more than P3 billion in payables due to overspending of operating funds and issuance of guarantee letters.
"Nagpatong-patong yung payables. Nagsisingilan yung mga ospital. Ang sabi namin, 'Teka muna. Willing kami magbayad pero dapat tignan muna namin,'" he said.
Under its charter, the PCSO is mandated to set aside 55% percent of its revenues for the prize fund; 30% for its charity fund; and 15% for operating funds.
Juico said she and her board found the PCSO in complete disarray when they took over, with rooms full of roach-eaten computer forms from floor to ceiling, ambulances left to the elements outside the Quezon institute, offices cramped with documents, and unclean restrooms.
"I found out the disarray was not just physical but procedural, structural moral and everywhere," she said.