The real reason why the PCSO donates to the Catholic church

Six to seven in the evening is usually the hour of the day when I cook dinner. While waiting for the food to cook, I watch a little TV. If I’m cooking a stew which can take up to two hours, I can finish a whole movie. Otherwise, a half-hour program on the Food Network or an episode of Law and Order would suffice.

Six to seven in the evening is also the time when local networks air the evening news. Seriously, I don’t like watching the evening news. In the attempt to grab attention, it’s as though nothing good ever happens. The only “happy” note is when there’s something about Manny Pacquiao but since I don’t care for Pacquiao, there’s really very little in the local news that interests me.

It’s only when there’s nothing interesting on that we tune in to the evening news. And that happened more than once during the past couple of days. Too many replays and we landed on the local networks. The highlight of the news? The SUVS, of course. I mean, even I who don’t read nor watch the news regularly anymore (ahhhh, the luxury concomitant with not writing an op-ed column anymore) know about the SUV scandal — Catholic bishops who requested SUVs from the previous administration and who got what they asked for via “donations” from the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PSCO).

Of course, when I first read about it, I thought it was both makapal and garapal. But when the photocopy of a bishop’s letter-request was shown and read on TV in the course of an ongoing Congressional inquiry, I felt the onslaught of a bad, bad headache. And I’m not even prone to headaches.

In the first place, even outside of the SUV scandal, I don’t understand why it has been a practice for the government to make donations to the Catholic Church. In the case of the national government, it’s mostly via the PSCO. In the case of the local governments, the donations come from local government funds and pork barrels.


You want the official version or the reality bites version? Let’s start with the official version.

According to former PCSO General Manager Rosario Uriarte:

“There has been a long partnership with the Church and the religious sector in the field of medical and charity [work]. In fact, the PCSO [donates] not just to Catholics. There are also NGOs and institutional partners,” Uriarte said.

It might sound innocuous. It might even sound beneficial to the public. But is it?

The PSCO is a government agency. From the PCSO website:

The Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) is the principal government agency for raising and providing funds for health programs, medical assistance and services, and charities of national character.

The PCSO being a government agency, its funds is public money. Self-explanatory.

What does the Constitution say?

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.

That’s crystal clear already as to why the PCSO should not have been giving money to the Catholic church all these years but let’s set aside the legalities. You know how it is. The meaning of any law can be bended to suit the interpreter. The Constitutional provision can be debated ad nauseam. Let’s look at this from the perspective of logic. Let’s go back to Uriarte’s statement that the donations made to the Catholic church is part of a partnership in medical and charity work.

First, in the case of medical work. Is there a reason why PCSO funds geared toward medical projects cannot be channeled directly to government hospitals? Just last week at the height of the downpour that drenched Metro Manila, I saw a video of a public hospital in Valenzuela. The emergency room on the ground floor had to be evacuated because the water was knee deep. And if you’ve been around the country and seen public hospitals, you’d know that the sorry condition of that Valenzuela hospital is echoed across the country. Dilapidated buildings. Outdated medical equipment. Lop-sided ratio of hospital bed to patient. Poorly paid doctors and medical personnel… Aren’t those hospitals and medical professionals more deserving than the Catholic church? Aren’t those hospitals and medical professionals more proper beneficiaries of the PCSO funds?

Second, in the case of charity work. What charity work exactly does the Catholic church do that justifies the PCSO in making donations to it? Programs for street children? Out-of-school skills training programs? There is the Department of Social Welfare and the Department of Education, both of which repeatedly whine over the lack of budget to effectively carry out their programs. And the PSCO is giving to the Catholic church?

Then come the requests of bishops for SUVs. One, Butuan Bishop Juan de Dios Pueblos, in his letter to then President Gloria Arroyo, even said it would be a nice “pa-birthday.” And the requests were granted.

Are all those donations, including the funds to cover the purchase price of the requested SUVs, truly in line with “a long partnership with the Church and the religious sector in the field of medical and charity [work]?”

To answer that question, let us analyze the National People’s Army (NPA) and the Philippine National Police (PNP). For you non-Filipinos, the NPA is the military arm of the Communist Party of the Philippines.

We’ve all heard stories about how the NPA collects “taxes” especially in rural areas. We’ve also heard stories (in my case, I have even experienced) how members of the PNP try to extort money from ordinary citizens. A traffic cop flags you down for an IMAGINED traffic violation and wouldn’t let you go until you’ve given him lunch money — that kind of thing. For business owners, it’s more than lunch money. In the case of restaurants and bars, it’s more of a regular payment so that cops don’t come raiding the establishment because of some vague violation or complaint.

In short, in both cases, NPA and PNP, it’s protection money. Even the term “protection” is misleading. It’s more of “we will leave you alone” money. It’s payment made so that you’re in their good graces — you’re not disturbed, you don’t get accused, you don’t get raided, you don’t get hurt.

And I’ve come to realize that the PCSO has been donating to the Catholic church following the same principle. Every administration wants its peace with the Catholic church. And I’m not just talking about the national administration but also local governments. This, after all, is a country where priests deliver speeches from the pulpit about whom to vote and not to vote. No mayor, governor or congressman looking for a second or third term wants his name in the “not to vote” list of any bishop or parish priest.

In the case of the national government, the role of now dead Jaime Cardinal Sin in ousting two presidents has not been forgotten. Sin may be dead but the power he wielded as head of the Catholic church is still fresh in the mind of any politician who dreams of becoming president. No incumbent wants the clergy to mobilize the people for another People Power. And the fear might have been greater in the Arroyo administration, being fully aware of just how it came to power.

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28 thoughts on “The real reason why the PCSO donates to the Catholic church

  1. Coney, I am Catholic and I know the church itself is doing its share in humanitarian causes. I wont elaborate for fear this might start a long debate on "who does better" in terms of community service.

    But I share your sentiments on this one. Truth be told, I cringe at the very thought of men of the cloth receiving money from government regardless of the reason, kasi it beholds each party to some of debt of gratitude and from there comes comprises and the fruit of that is conflict of interest.

    Perhaps what is happening right now is grace itself. Although the church preaches the ideals shared by Christ, we cannot escape the truth that it is being administered by men susceptible to things like money and even lust. Going back, I see the senate inquiry as an occasion for the church to re-assess itself and clean its backyard from this issue. And to my mind the best way to do it is by first submitting a liquidation report of the donation or better yet return the said vehicles, and from there make it a collective policy never to receive donations from the politicos, like what Cardinal Rosales is doing here in Manila, hence the Pondo ng Pinoy Program.

    Share ko lang, when I was in Rome, I learned that the church is not tax exempt. They pay their taxes and this gives them the right to demand government assistance. Kaya pala in major parts of Europe, churches and other Catholic administered institutions (orphanages, etc) have government financial support.

    1. Sounds like sleeping with the enemy.

      I mean just this week not far from Butuan, Agusan Catholic priest Fr Raul Cabonce raped a 17 yr old girl who agreed to work at his convent in exchange for the priest's offer to send her to catholic school. To top it all, the priest denied the charges despite that the young girl was solicited by the priest himself to become a working student (turned out to be masseuse and sex toy) and as a rape victim is in the care of Missionary Sisters of Mary -the dear sisters know who is lying. TAKING ADVANTAGE OF A MINOR surely escaped the foggest imagination of the priest when he started attacking the poor girl publicly in his defense.

      Yes, sleeping with the enemy because Butuan Bishop Juan de Dios Pueblos knew how government spend tax money as pork barrel fueling political greed and corruption. And yet choose to embrace the devils hands to do God's work. Oops, something is really weird of the Bishop's justification of Pajero's use, again for God's work. Jesus would have obliterated the Pajero and teach the Bishop a lesson for such display of little faith.

      What has been eating the Catholic hierarchy in Eastern Mindanao that its Tandag Bishop Nerio Odchimar had been the leader of powerful CBCP? From a parish priest who is the lord of his own small turf to the bishop of the larger turf, I am reminded by the most famous pronouncement by Lord Acton (on doctrine of papal infallibility), "All power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely".

  2. Marvin, I won't disagree about members of the clergy who have done more in their lifetime than all the administrations combined. Fr. Shay Cullen, for one, I admire and respect very much.

    But these people with the SUVs… goodness, receiving money from the government is bad enough. Especially since our culture has such a twisted concept of utang na loob that never gets paid ad infinitum. But to ask and in such a way… pa-birthday?

    I think that tax exemption should be scrapped once and for all.

    Pinayhekmi, I consciously stay away from writing about all the BS in government but things like this… it's too maddening.

  3. I just hope that the senate inquiry on the PCSO violation of constitution will not end up just prosecuting the erring PCSO officials but the most important is, changing the PCSO charter so that the majority funds will be designated for education which is a huge burden for the country with young population. The past presidents of this country has been playing with the loophole afforded by PCSO charter.

  4. On a slightly different note.
    I hate how the Church likes to lecture people on the evils of gambling, and then turns around and have raffles & bingos (games of chance) of their own. How many parents have been forced to buy "presumed sold" raffle tickets in the primarily Catholic schools of their children?

    At the end of the day, whats the difference? Isn't it also gambling?

  5. grabe, kaya ayoko din nanonood ng news, sumasakit lang ulo ko. Napapagod lang utak ko sa kaka-analyze sa mga nangyayari. At napapagod na rin ako sa walang katapusan na paglilipat lipat ng sisi. Sometimes, natatawa na lang ako sa mga excuses nila eh, para bang "really? sa tingin mo kapani-paniwala ka?" haaayy.

    Better stop na, allergic ako sa stress.

  6. curiousgirl, tama sakit nga ng ulo pag nanood ka ng news. madami sanang pondo ang pwedeng magamit lalo na para sa social services na kulang na kulang talaga para sa pinoy. ang masakit, tayo ay bayad ng bayad sa tax tapos napupunta pala sa SUCs, pabaon sa mga generals at trip to abroad ng mga kun sino sino…

    haaay buhay pinoy…

    1. actually, isa pa un sa nakakasakit ng damdamin eh noh? anlaki na nawawala satin dahil sa tax tapos di naman natin napapakinabangan. (di nga ganon kalaki, kung cocompare mo sa ibang bansa).
      Kaya nakakainis (or nakakalungkot ba?) pag mga bata sinasabihan ng mga magulang na tumakbo kasi malaki pera sa politiko. GRRR. same level siya sa pagpush nila na maghanap ng matandang foreigner or mayaman na mapapangasawa.. Off topic na ata. sori!

      1. "same level siya sa pagpush nila na maghanap ng matandang foreigner or mayaman na mapapangasawa"

        Naku, don't get me started on that! LOL Mainit dugo ko sa mga ganyan.

  7. Oh Ms Connie! I've been waiting for your post about this! Sickening, disgusting, illegal, immoral are the kindest words to describe the whole thing.

  8. Actually, I'm also uncomfortable with these current "Pajero" and Church interference with state affairs issues. Uncomfortable because there are lots of mischaracterizations being hurled around.

    Let us hear the Church's opinions.

    On bishops interfering with the state’s affair according to my “favorite” Bishop Oscar V. Cruz opinion:

    Filipinos who become priests and bishops are churchmen but they are certainly not lesser Filipinos. That is why their rights and obligations are the same as those appertaining to other ordinary Filipinos according to the Philippine Constitution they too are subject to the civil and criminal laws of the Philippines. They are furthermore bound by the ordinances of the place where they are. Also bound to observe traffic laws under the usual penalties if they violate any of them.

    They have the right to vote for the government officials they want to exercise governance over them. And theirs too is the right to speak and act in the event that they are convinced that a certain government official is either not duly elected or does not meet the ethical standards to govern. Only foreigners, churchmen or not, are not allowed to get directly involved in the internal affairs of the country.”

    On government’s donation according to Father Bernas:

    “In essence, these decisions prescribe a three-part test for determining constitutionality.

    First, does the grant of aid have a primary “secular legislative purpose”?
    Second, will the aid have principal effects which neither advance nor inhibit religion?
    Third, will the aid foster "an excessive government entanglement with religion."

    How can we determine if the donation of Pajeros can pass these three-part tests?

    We can only determine these by looking at the terms of the donation. We can find these from the records of the PCSO. The records will show whether the donations were for a secular purpose and whether they limited the uses to those which do not have the principal effect of advancing or inhibiting religion, and whether the needed supervision, if any, could involve excessive government entanglement with religion.”

    My opinion:

    If they requested a donation, is it mandatory for the state to comply?

    Since time immemorial, various government agencies are donating to various religious groups for charitable purposes. Even foreign donations are coursed to the church.

    I can't help but to think that why is it only now this donation to the Church becomes an issue.

    The durable 4 wheel drive power vehicle which we call 4 X 4 SUV is very effective as utility vehicle for rough roads and hilly ranges that are not normally inaccessible to regular vehicles. We call it "Pajero" or by their other brand names if it will be used for one's ego-lifting or for status symbol.

    This 4 X 4 SUV was the one that requested by Bishop Juan de Dios Pueblos from then President Arroyo. As his reason in his letter of request "for use to reach the far-flung areas of Caraga" and as his detractors are insisting " the Pajero is for his personal use". (Short of them saying " si Bishop naman, at your age, pajaforms ka pa rin". That's the one they want to subtly imply.)

    As for PCSO's appropriateness of the donation to the Church, according to lawyer Aleta Tolentino, the incumbent PCSO director, she noted that "if someone said he was requesting a vehicle so he could go to the poor, the poor in this case were just incidental. If someone said, ‘provide us with medicine,’ that’s a different story. That’s OK because the Church in this case is just incidental. The main purpose here is to give the medicine to the poor,”


    1. Thankfully the CBCP found a temporary relief at Fr. Bernas defense in 3 tests shifting the focus to the government. The tests are not easy to digest for the layman. In practical terms, Fr Bernas and the religious organization would like all big donors to give them the decision on donation. They wish. The largest Catholic charity with head office in Vatican City – Caritas, imposed a restrictive charity (solely for a purpose), big or small. When it provided funding to a particular bishop during the 80's social unrest in Samar due to military campaign, the use of funds were audited by independent firm and a report were sent back to Caritas International. It is the same principle when Japanese government or World Bank extends an aid, those aids are defined and uses are verified. In practice, large donations by their size are restrictive. Fr Bernas doesn't like to mention that.

      The Philippine government in PCSO case choose to deviate from its own practice of restrictive charity like Phil Health cards to the poor. This time a Pajero for a bishop is not a small charity. Much worse, the lack of intent or purpose is readable. If the now suggested purpose is to distribute medicine and supplies or provide access to the poor community, six units of L300 van can deliver a better job than one Pajero.

      The lack of purpose is by design foremost as personal gift (pa-birthday) to the bishop for political expediency as the saying goes, "You scratch my back and I will scratch yours". CARAGA is one of the poorest region next to ARMM but the CBCP being chaired from CARAGA is one of the best defender of the government. It is not hard to say that Pajero works.

  9. maybe because majority of the people who play the LOTTO are Catholics, the Church feels they are entitled to PCSO's funds. (joke)

    SUVs…far from the donkey used to travel to the manger huh.

  10. Whatever happened to their vows? Whatever happened to their lectures? Whatever happened to the scriptures? Oh. My. Goodness.

    1. @Adrian

      We are not in a perfect world. I am also a critic of the Church clergies. You may find them in these blog. My “favorite” one is Bishop Oscar Cruz.

      Eve and Adam succumbed to temptation and so with Judas. Church clergies are no exception. They will be tempted and some would succumb. To criticize the Church as a whole which I think what you have commented is ok from my standpoint.

      There are more than 400,000 clergies around the world. If there would be a 1%, yes, just 1%, of them erring, that will be a 4,000 in numbers. Jesus has 12 apostles and one erred which is 1/12 = 8.3%. I’m not claiming it’s acceptable. My stand is, again, we are not in a perfect world.

      But there are others who would pick a controversial issue against the clergy and make it as their fodder to continuously vilify the Church as a whole. Astonishingly, up to now, their favorite issue is the ad hominem Noli Me Tangre’s Father Damaso if there could not find any other handy issues around.

      I would cite again a quotation from my “favorite” Bishop Cruz:

      “While the present government represents the state, it is definitely not the state itself that is why while government came but some years ago and will surely be gone in due time, the state of the Philippines stays. The same is true for the incumbent CBCP that represents the church in the Philippines. Its members too come and go, but the church remains.”

      Why not just vilify what the Bible is teaching? Or just do an Eli Soriano of Dating Daan. Criticizing people that interpret the Bible other than his interpretation.

      1. Eve and Adam… you mean, they are historical persons? And that their "weakness" is a standard and justification for the Padre Damasos in the church hierarchy?

        Re: quote from Bishop Cruz. He is correct. What he glosses over is that the corrupt "give and take" relationship between state and church goes beyond the present government and CBCP leadership. My goodness, politicians have been donating to the church and individual members of the clergy before and after the Arroyo administration. To be more precise, parishes have been accepting donations that come from illegal gambling operations run/supported by corrupt politicians.

  11. The PCSO should just stop donating to the Catholic Church or any other religious denomination. Period. Instead, the funds should go to where it is most needed, public schools, public hospitals and barangay health centers.

    Had the government did this years ago, then they wouldn't be at the mercy of clergy come election time.

    By the way, NPA stands for New People's Army, not National People's Army. ;)

  12. And now there's this Bishop who says Juico should resign for maligning the Catholic church. The gall of some people! As if they haven't embarrassed themselves enough already. Again, what gall!!

    1. Oh, they think they're being righteous and holy by returning the vehicles. They so conveniently gloss over the fact that they should not have asked nor received those vehicles (and other donations too) in the first place. They playing the effing victims now!

  13. On being righteous, the CBCP as a body was quick to separate themselves from the seven bishops when CBCP leader Tandag Bishop Nerio Odchimar expressed remorse in July 11 pastoral statement but declined earlier the return of the vehicles, "It would not be the body that would decide…since it (vehicles) was not given to the body in the first place".

    Like following a script, 4 vehicles were returned on July 13 during the Senate hearing and 3 others were promised to be returned at local PCSO in Mindanao. And then the biggest recipient of the 8.3 million PCSO money, Butuan Bishop Juan de Dios Pueblos (1.7) admitted lapse in judgment for his personal letter to then President Arroyo.

    The degree of separation and one count of admission of judmental error is thick as onion skin. Butuan City as the largest Catholic diocese in Mindanao is home to the CBCP leader. Also, Bishop Pueblos has been Arroyo's personal friend as appointed in 2 commissions plus Arroyo flew and attended the bishop's birthday party 3 times. The PCSO gifts were made at the height when Arroyo was facing impeachment due to corruptions and 2004 presidential election cheating.

    Now the bishops playing victim are asking GMA to spell out her motives. Yeah, right knowing GMA will just keep her mouth shut that demons are pointing to the devil. Zaldy Ampatuan was leading the way.

  14. @d0d0ng

    Knowing the way you comment, you are in misinformation mood again.

    "On being righteous, the CBCP as a body was quick to separate themselves from the seven bishops when CBCP leader Tandag Bishop Nerio Odchimar expressed remorse in July 11 pastoral statement…"

    (Did they make a claim to be righteous when they expressed their pastoral statement? What remorse are you talking about? Could it be for the pains and sorrows that it has caused to the flocks?)

    I'm a little bit confused so I googled this phrase –

    “It would not be the body that would decide…since it (vehicles) was not given to the body in the first place”.

    (Nothing came out. Care to provide the link.)

    "Like following a script, 4 vehicles were returned on July 13 during the Senate hearing and 3 others were promised to be returned at local PCSO in Mindanao"

    ( And you were the one who made the script? )

    "And then the biggest recipient of the 8.3 million PCSO money, Butuan Bishop Juan de Dios Pueblos (1.7) admitted lapse in judgment for his personal letter to then President Arroyo."

    (And you intentionally forgot to mention that the Bishop did not spend the whole amount for it's intended use. Maybe you would spin it as used it in some other suspicious expenses.)

    "Also, Bishop Pueblos has been Arroyo’s personal friend as appointed in 2 commissions plus Arroyo flew and attended the bishop’s birthday party 3 times. The PCSO gifts were made at the height when Arroyo was facing impeachment due to corruptions and 2004 presidential election cheating."

    ( I'm aware that your head always explode just by the mention of the word "Catholic". What's wrong with those items?)

    "Now the bishops playing victim are asking GMA to spell out her motives"

    (Care to provide the link. Since when those bishops, whoever they are, have said that they're just victims? Victims of what?)

    “Yeah, right knowing GMA will just keep her mouth shut that demons are pointing to the devil.”

    (He he he, as always, you can read somebody’s mind, heh.)

    “Zaldy Ampatuan was leading the way.”

    (Are you telling me you believe this guy? The guy who is selling his father to the highest bidder? /sarc)

  15. They've returned the controversial vehicles already…walang Pajero.
    I wonder where the label "Pajero 7" originated?
    If the intention was to deflect the attention of the public, they certainly succeeded.

  16. Im not philippino but my wife is pitogo kasan ( sorry if the spelling is wrong LOL) anyway I hear and follow Philippine politics and ironicly we live in Chicago where our politics are the mirror image of yours and until the people get sick and tired of being sick and tired nothing will change. politics and religion make great bedfellows they are two sides of the same coin.

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