A few years ago, a Catholic bishop assigned to a Mindanao diocese resigned from his post for health reasons. The good bishop had a chronic back problem that was exacerbated by the performance of his duties. A bishop has to make what is known as a pastoral visit to all the parishes under his diocese, besides numerous other duties. He has to look after the social action programs being implemented. In Mindanao, most dioceses have a very active program for indigenous peoples. Few people in Manila perhaps have knowledge of the vast Mindanao terrain where the hinterlands can only be traversed on unpaved roads.
That bishop had to eventually resign. His work was, literally, back-breaking. Not even a 4×4 vehicle could alleviate the pain he was suffering. His resignation was accepted by the Pope.The only reason, according to Father Bernas that government money can be appropriated for religious institutions is if the money is to be used for secular purposes. And that rationalizations the bishops kept repeating publicly, that the vehicles they got were used for the poor, and not to promote religion. And here is this man, demolishing the bishops own public rationalizations for getting those vehicles.
Distance and the primitiveness of roads are a reality in Mindanao that Margie Juico of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office surely does not know. I wonder now if she can sleep well at night. She has just committed one of the most serious blunders a public servant can ever do—to accuse and impute malice where there was none.
He probably should have stuck to the new meme the bishop defenders are using, that the PCSO scandal was done to tarnish bishops so they will be less proficient in their opposition to the RH Bill. Never mind that the allegations were true, the bishops did get money from the PCSO and GMA. Never mind that no investigation was ever done whether the vehicles were actually used primarily for secular purposes and not for religious ones. The government and the church does not want any kind of confrontation at this time.
Here is Senator Drilon's explanation on secular purpose
"He said under the Constitution, financial aid from the government cannot be used by a religious organization for religious purposes.
“Pero kung pagbigay ng pera ay for religious purposes, yan po ang bawal. At sa nakalipas na araw na ating tinatalakay ang isyu, eh wala pong ebidensya na ito ay ginamit para sa religious purposes,” he told dzMM’s Tambalang Failon at Webb.
He, however, said that any religious organization can still receive financial aid from the government as long as its purpose is for charity.
“Kung ang pagbigay ng pera sa simbahan ay for charity work, hindi po taliwas yan sa ating Saligang Batas,” he said.
He said in the case of the Catholic prelates, there is no direct evidence proving that they indeed used the vehicles for religious purposes such as going to remote areas to hold mass.
Drilon added that the type of vehicles given to the prelates is also not an issue.
“Hindi [isyu] yung whether it is a Montero or a dilapidated pick-up. Ang isyu eh, eto ba ay ginamit upang tulungan ang simbahang Katoliko,” he said.