MANILA, Philippines - House Minority Leader Edcel Lagman on Thursday blasted the Senate's reverential treatment of Catholic bishops who received service vehicles under the Arroyo government.
In a statement, Lagman said the contrite demeanor of the concerned bishops, capped by an irrevocable offer to return the controversial vehicles, "mollified the Senators and the prelates got away with nary a parking ticket."
He said that while it is not surprising that the Catholic Church would get equities, he said the senators conveniently overlooked several facts and issues during the inquiry.
He said the Catholic Church is admittedly rich and "can well afford to finance its charity works without getting financial assistance from the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) whose exclusive beneficiaries are the poor and marginalized."
He also said the solicitation or acceptance of PCSO donations by bishops is "hypocritical because the Church is supposed to be against any and all forms of gambling," while PCSO funds come from legalized gambling.
Lagman also noted that the constitutional injunction against the appropriation, payment or application, directly or indirectly, of public money or property “for the use, benefit or support of any sect, church, denomination, sectarian institution, or system of religion, or any priest, preacher, minister, or other religious teacher, or dignitary” is not lifted or excused just because the government assistance is to promote the Church’s or minister’s charity activities.
He said the ban allows a limited and specific exception when the appropriation or property outlaid or donated is for a priest, preacher, minister, or dignitary “who is assigned to the armed forces or to any penal institution, or government orphanage or leprosarium.”
"Since the subject bishops do not fall under the exception, they are necessarily included in the prohibition of the general rule. Unfortunately, there is no implementing statute imposing sanctions for violations of the doctrine of separation of the Church and the State," he said.