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Ex-PCSO chair Manoling Morato defends vehicle donations to bishops

July 4, 2011 1:55pm

Tags: PCSO
There is nothing wrong with giving vehicles to Church officials if the vehicles will be used for charity work, former Philippine Charity and Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) chairman Manoling Morato said on Monday.

“We don't see anything wrong with that... not at all," said Manuel “Manoling" Morato, also a former PCSO board member, in an interview aired over GMA News TV’s “News To Go."

He issued the statement after reports quoted incumbent PCSO chairperson Margarita Juico as saying that former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo had allegedly given Pajeros — through the PCSO — to six or seven bishops before she stepped down from office in 2010.

In a separate interview on Monday, PCSO director Atty. Aleta Tolentino said that P6.9 million of the charity’s funds were allocated for the purchase of five to six utility vehicles, which were supposedly given to the Archdiocese of Cotabato, Zamboanga, Caritas Nueva Segovia, Basilan, and Butuan from February to July 2009.

Morato, however, explained that there were only four Church officials involved — one priest, one monsignor, and two bishops. He said that the four requested assistance for utility vehicles needed for their charity work in hard-to-reach communities.

“It’s for their mercy missions you see... [for their] constituents in the different provinces," he said, adding that the PCSO can partner with the Church, rotary clubs, and other non-government organizations as long as charity is involved.

“The idea there is to help, it’s charity," Morato said.

He likewise said that the vehicle donations went through the evaluation of PCSO’s special project department, and that the prelates were required to regularly report how they are using the vehicles.

He said that other religions are also allowed to request the same type of assistance, but could not name any non-Catholic religious organizations or leaders who received similar donations from the PCSO.

Morato added that the PCSO has been assisting the Church since the time of former President Ferdinand Marcos.

Practice must stop

Tolentino, however, said that the agency cannot continue with such a practice just because it has been done in the past. “Hindi lahat ng ginagawa at nakagawian na gawain ay tama at legal (Not all traditions and practices are right and legal)," she said.

She cited a provision in the Constitution that states, “No public money or property shall be appropriated, applied, paid, or employed, directly or indirectly, for the use, benefit, or support of any sect, church, denomination, sectarian institution, or system of religion, or of any priest, preacher, minister, or other religious teacher, or dignitary as such, except when such priest, preacher, minister, or dignitary is assigned to the armed forces, or to any penal institution, or government orphanage or leprosarium."

“You cannot give funds to the Church but you can have a joint project where you support the poor," Tolentino said.

PCSO giving PNoy more problems?

Morato, however, said that Juico and other incumbent PCSO officials are probably “giving meaning" to the vehicle donations because they want to stay in power.

“Under the GOCC (Government-Owned and -Controlled Corporations) Act of 2011, they only have one year in office... unless they have done something great," he said.

He explained that this is the reason why Juico went to the media with her supposed expose. He also said Juico, who worked as director when he was chairman during the Ramos administration, should not be working at the PCSO because she does not have a “heart for the poor."

Hindi maawain sa tao yan (She does not have any pity for people). You ask the employees there," he said, adding that Juico had previously signed resolutions approving the purchase of overpriced medical equipment.

Moreover, Morato said that this alleged exposé by Juico will only pull Aquino away from the Church, which is already at odds with the President over the controversial Reproductive Health bill.

“She should have not added more fire into this," Morato said.

He said that Juico should have just quietly fixed PCSO’s problems, including its alleged P4-billion debt, like what he supposedly did when he used to head the agency so that the public would not lose faith in it.

“I would like to appeal to President Aquino to please study your people in the PCSO. Kaya bumagsak ang rating ninyo sa dami ng pinatay ng mga tao ninyo sa PCSO (Your ratings dropped because so many people have died because of your people at the PCSO)," he said.

Tolentino, however, said they did not intend to blow up the issue. He explained that the media spotted the Commission on Audit report on the COA website and that they just confirmed the data in the report.

“We cannot lie, but we did not call for a press conference. If anybody would like to see them (report), they’re there (online)," she said.

She likewise said that they are not attacking the Catholic Church, adding that they know prelates just want the best for their constituents.

The Senate blue ribbon committee is expected to begin its inquiry into the issue. - KBK/HS, GMA News
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Tags: PCSO

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