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Govt shrugs off Church scandal

Bishops who accepted vehicles to appear before Senate inquiry tomorrow

Govt shrugs off Church scandal
Bishop Nereo Odchimar shows a copy of the Bishops' Conference statement on the 'gift scandal' to reporters in Manila today
Lourdes Abelardo and Julian Labores, Manila

July 12, 2011

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A scandal involving bishops who accepted luxury vehicles from the state-owned lottery will not affect Church relations with the government, the presidential palace said today. The Church is a "partner of the government when it comes to charity," said Abigail Valte, President Benigno Aquino’s spokesperson. The government needs "all the help it can get" in helping those in need, she added. The palace had earlier welcomed a Bishops' Conference statement yesterday which said its members are willing to face the consequences if they are found to have acted in an unethical manner. The conference admitted yesterday that some bishops had received gifts from the state-run Charity Sweepstakes Office and apologized "for the pain and sadness" the controversy has brought the faithful. Tomorrow, the bishops embroiled in the scandal will appear before a Senate inquiry set up to look into the case. Senator Panfilo Lacson said the bishops need to appear to prove that they accepted the vehicles without malice. Some bishops, meanwhile, have called on former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to set the record straight. Bishop Juan de Dios Pueblos of Butuan, who admitted that he asked Arroyo for a vehicle, said she can put an end to all the speculation. Retired Bishop Teodoro Bacani of Novaliches said it is proper for Arroyo to speak on the matter because it also involves her. "I think it will be to the benefit of the bishops if she reveals the reason behind [the gift-giving]," Bishop Bacani said.
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