I wish to reiterate my declaration that I have never requested or received from PCSO any vehicle for my personal use, whether a Pajero or SUV or any other vehicle. This declaration refers to the PCSO allegation that 7 Bishops received Pajeros from PCSO for their personal use.
Yesterday the attack on Bishops changed course: from 7 Pajeros for personal use to vehicles for other purposes. The PCSO revealed that some Bishops, myself included, received SUVs for purposes related to the social action apostolate. In 2008 I, indeed, wrote a request to the PCSO for a vehicle to be used by our Social Action program, especially for our Community Based Health Program. We also wanted to use the vehicle for our training team to give seminars for community organizing at the grassroots, capacity building, training of Indigenous Peoples' leaders, as well as to bring sick people to hospitals when necessary. The request was granted.
This practice of asking for PCSO assistance for social action is not unusual. Since the time of President Cory Aquino up to the present, hundreds of church-related organizations have been granted assistance by PCSO to do social service, human development, poverty alleviation in line with the objectives both of the PCSO and also of social action in general. It is well known that such assistance crossed religious barriers and differences and was not limited to organizations within the Catholic Church. Dioceses, church-related educational institutions, religious congregations of men and women did not hesitate to ask for help to do medical missions, initiate livelihood projects, form and promote cooperatives, do capacity building of people at the grassroots. Cardinal Sin himself in defense of PCSO assistance given to him for his projects for the poor reportedly stated that he would even accept money from the devil in order to help the poor. I myself would not hesitate to ask for PCSO assistance for a very poor individual who needs a costly medical operation but cannot afford it.
Some ten years ago the Bishops in plenary assembly made a collective decision not to solicit or accept donations from legal and illegal gambling. Such a decision was not universally followed. The needs of the poor in the minds of many people in the Church, Bishops included, simply transcended such a decision. After all, the Bishops also knew that gambling is not immoral per se. It becomes immoral because of circumstances. This is why no Episcopal Conference outside the Philippines has addressed the issue of gambling as a pastoral problem in the way Philippine Bishops did. One of the reasons that Philippine Bishops cited regarding the immorality of gambling arose out of the cultural situation. To solicit and accept donations from legal and illegal gambling would be tantamount to promoting a cultural tendency to gamble.
Therefore, in the light of the above situation, to selectively bash the Bishops for soliciting and accepting donations from the PCSO for activities designed to help the poor is clearly unfair and unjust. From the time of President Cory Aquino to that of President Macapagal Arroyo PCSO has approved donations for social action for hundreds of church groups as consonant with PCSO objectives as well as a necessity to help meet the enormous needs of the poor.
+Orlando B. Quevedo, O.M.I.
Archbishop of Cotabato
July 1, 2011