The Church will continue working with the government in serving the poor despite a brewing conflict between leading clerics and officials within the administration of President Benigno Aquino. Bishop Arturo Bastes of Sorsogon
said today that while some bishops are "very mad" at being dragged into controversies, the Church remains committed to continuing its working relationship with the government. In past weeks, bishops and government officials have clashed over the proposed Reproductive Health Bill
which advocates the use of artificial contraceptives. This week, several bishops were at the center of a controversy after the Charity Sweepstakes Office
revealed they were recipients of vehicle "donations" from the state-run agency. Bishop Bastes said the "only sore point" for many bishops was that certain elements were trying to "make mountains out of molehills" by alleging the prelates were committing irregularities. "There are so many corrupt things associated with the sweepstakes office which [do] not involve bishops... These incidents with the bishops are tiny compared with so many other things," Bishop Bastes said. "I think the faithful support us. They sympathize with [the] bishops,'" he said. The prelate questioned the government's “targeting” of Catholic bishops, adding that an investigation conducted by the Senate on the issue was "overkill." "We were wondering why they were zeroing in on these poor bishops.... And [the senators] repeatedly accused [the bishops] of doing something that is somehow wrong.... I know those bishops did what they did out of their love for their people," Bishop Bastes said. He said the government should instead be "thankful" to the bishops because they are doing things the government has failed to do. "Instead of launching attacks, the government should thank and even support the Church.... Please spare bishops from these indignities," Bishop Bastes said.