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PCSO funds 'helped build' priests’ retirement home in Cagayan

The construction and operation of a retirement home for priests in Cagayan two years ago were financed by the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO), documents obtained by GMA News showed. In a resolution dated January 22, 2009, the PCSO board of directors that time approved the release of P200,000 from the agency’s public relations fund to buy tickets for a fundraising dinner for “operational expenses" of a clergy retirement home in Solana town. The fundraising dinner, which coincided with the celebration of Tuguegarao Archbishop Diosdado Talamayan’s 25th year as a bishop, was held at the Forbes Park in Makati City in January 2009. The amount was disbursed despite the fact that organizers, in a letter to then PCSO director Ma. Fatima Valdes, only requested for P2,500 for the tickets. In a separate resolution dated November 20, 2009, the PCSO board confirmed the approval of Archbishop Talamayan’s request for funds for “finishing touches of the construction" of the retirement home. The resolution did not specify the amount of money disbursed for retirement home’s “finishing touches." The PCSO board ordered that the money be charged to the agency’s charity fund, despite a provision in the PCSO Charter stating that this fund shall only be used to “make payments or grants for health programs." Section 6 of the PCSO Charter specifically states that the charity fund can only be used for “medical assistance and services and/or charities of national character." Talamayan personally wrote a letter in 2009 informing then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo that the retirement home, which started construction in 2005, needed finishing touches. “Our retirement home, which you helped construct, needs only the finishing touches. And I pray that God give me the graces to adjust smoothly to my new phase in my life," the archbishop, who was about to retire at that time, said in his letter to Arroyo. Talamayan also signed in 2006 a request to former PCSO general manager Rosario Uriarte for a “means of transportation" to be used for charity work from a congregation that he founded called Eucharistic Healers of Mary. It has not yet been determined if the PCSO granted this request.

In a Senate blue ribbon committee probe last week, PCSO chairperson Margie Juico identified Catholic Church officials who received luxury vehicles, including a Montero Sport worth P1.7 million, from PCSO charity funds. One of these prelates, Butuan Bishop Juan De Dios Pueblos, even requested the vehicle from Arroyo for his 66th birthday. The bishop has admitted to receiving the car, but insisted that it was used to serve poor people in his area. The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) on Monday apologized for the action of some of its members, and vowed to “reexamine" the ways its members collaborate with government agencies. The bishops involved in the PCSO controversy attended the Senate inquiry on Wednesday morning, where they promised to return the vehicles to the agency. - KBK, GMA News