MANILA, July 17, 2011 â€” Speculation is growing that the recent media storm regarding donations given by the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) to Catholic bishops was orchestrated in order to weaken the Churchâ€™s influence in the debate over the Reproductive Health (RH) bill.
Renowned journalist and political analyst Belinda Olivares-Cunanan, in an article published July 13 in her website â€œPolitical Tidbits,â€ was the latest to connect the current controversy with the opposition of the Catholic Bishopsâ€™ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) to the RH bill.
Cunanan, borrowing an expression from Emil Jurado of Manila Standard Today, called the bishops â€œâ€˜collateral damageâ€™ in the controversy,â€ and added that â€œthe PCSO had aimed to weaken them in the fight over the RH bill.â€
Cunananâ€™s article came shortly after the Senate hearings on the PCSO scandal had cleared the so-called â€œPajero bishopsâ€ of breaking any laws.
Before the hearing, the bishops returned four of the vehicles that they had bought using PCSO funds. None of the vehicles were Pajeros, leading the Senators to grill PCSO chair Margie Juico on how the prelates got tagged as â€œPajero bishopsâ€ in the mass media.
Prior to the hearing itself, Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago had asserted that a well-placed PR man may have been behind the tag.
Cunanan, however, was not the first to point out the connection. Philippine Daily Inquirer, in an article published last week, quoted former PCSO Chairman Manuel Morato as saying about the bishops that â€œitâ€™s like theyâ€™ve been made the target of a â€˜projectâ€™ to tie their hands on the RH issue.â€
Although Malacanang has denied that the PCSO expose has anything to do with the RH bill, the billâ€™s supporters have been among the most vocal in exploiting the scandal to diminish the bishopsâ€™ credibility. (Carlos Antonio Palad)