Bishops' vehicles may be auctioned off

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 13 2011 04:42 PM | Updated as of Jul 14 2011 12:42 AM

MANILA, Philippines - Want to own a slightly used Mitsubishi Montero previously owned by a Catholic bishop?

According to the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO), the agency may auction off 7 vehicles donated to Catholic bishops during the Arroyo administration and set to be returned by the recipients.

The vehicles include 2 Mitsubishi Stradas previously used by Abra Bishop Leopoldo Jaucian and Basilan Bishop Martin Jumoad, 2 Toyota Grandia Hi-Acea used by Zamboanga Archbishop Romulo Valles and Cotabato Archbishop Orlando Quevedo, an Isuzu Crosswind used by Nueva Segovia Archbishop Ernesto Salgado, a Nissan Pathfinder used by Bontoc-Lagawe Bishop Rodolfo Beltran and a Mitsubishi Montero used by Bishop Juan de Dios Pueblos.

The vehicle donations have caused controversy after they were allegedly used by President Arroyo to win political patronage from the bishops.

On Wednesday, the 7 bishops said they would return the vehicles to the PCSO.

PCSO director Ma. Aleta Tolentino said a dialogue is needed between the agency and Catholic bishops to clarify miscommunication that put the Church in the middle of a scandal.

"A dialogue is welcome. I don’t know how they will return the vehicles. We advised them to talk to our general manager on how this will be done," she said.

Senators and no less than the PCSO have advised the bishops to keep the vehicles they received from the agency. In her prepared statement, Senator Miriam Santiago defended the bishops for being merely at the receiving end of the fund mess.

Nonetheless, the seven Catholic bishops who appeared before the Blue Ribbon Committee this morning insist on returning the vehicles.

Cotabato Archbishop Orlando Quevedo said “we think we can do our jobs without political [encumbrances] that has given shame to the whole conference.”

PCSO chair Margarita Juico was also twitted for initially claiming that the bishops received the more expensive Mitsubishi Pajero even if they did not.

In the same interview with ANC, Tolentino said “Right after the first news on the Pajero came out, we already corrected this…Probably, it’s just that the tag never left them, maybe it’s for their convenience.”

She claimed she does not know who gave out the information. “I did not hear chair Juico say it.”

Nonetheless, if the bishops insist on returning the vehicles, “that’s fine…but we really don’t have any use for the cars.”

She said PCSO may bid out the vehicles and use the funds for special projects in the dioceses affected. “We can use the fund to have special projects in areas where the vehicles were given.”