Philippine bishops apologize in cars-for-support scandal
Jul 11, 2011, 7:06 GMT
Manila - Seven Philippine Catholic bishops on Monday apologized for accepting donated vehicles from the state-owned lottery allegedly in exchange for support for former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
The sports utility vehicles and vans, worth more than 1 million pesos (23,255 dollars) each, were given to seven senior bishops in 2009 and 2010.
The gifts were widely perceived to be Arroyo's reward for the bishops' continued support amid calls for her to resign over allegations of electoral fraud and corruption.
Bishop Nereo Odchimar, outgoing president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, urged people not to pass judgment on the bishops and stressed the vehicles, and any money that also changed hands, were used for the public good.
'We are sorry for the pain and sadness that these events have brought upon you,' he said at the end of the organization's annual meeting.
'We are saddened that many of you, especially the poor, the youth ... have been confused by the apparent inconsistency of our actions with our pastoral preaching.'
Odchimar said the bishops involved would appear before a senate inquiry on Wednesday, and were 'ready to accept the responsibility for their actions.'
The bishops maintained that the vehicles given by the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office were used to deliver basic services to the poor and conduct medical missions in far-flung areas.
'We assure you that their action was done without malice,' Odchimar said.
A senate committee has been investigating how ottery funds were used during the last days of the Arroyo administration, including the unexplained disbursement of 138 million pesos (3.2 million dollars) in so-called 'intelligence funds' between January and July 2010.