MANILA, Philippines - The Senate Blue Ribbon committee resumes today its hearing on the alleged misuse of funds of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) with the Catholic bishops expected to attend and explain why they accepted financial assistance from the agency to buy sport utility vehicles (SUVs).
Sen. Teofisto Guingona III, committee chair, said the Senate wants to hear the testimonies of Butuan City Bishop Juan de Dios Pueblos, who received a Mitsubishi Montero, Bontoc-Lagawe Bishop Rodolfo Beltran (Nissan Pathfinder), Abra Bishop Leopoldo Jaucian (Mitsubishi Strada), Cotabato Archbishop Orlando Quevedo (Toyota Grandia Hi-Ace), Basilan Bishop Martin Jumoad (Mitsubishi Strada), Zamboanga Archbishop Romulo Valles (Toyota Grandia Hi-Ace); and Nueva Segovia Archbishop Ernesto Salgado (Isuzu Crosswind).
The Church-run Radio Veritas reported that the bishops, except Salgado, would be attending the Blue Ribbon hearing. Salgado is reportedly out of the country.
Cotabato Auxiliary Bishop Jose Colin Bagaforo said that Quevedo has been designated as the spokesman for the group.
Church sources said that nine other prelates would accompany the six bishops to show their support.
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) had issued a pastoral letter asking apology about the controversy
“I expect them to come and hear their side of the story. What happened and how all these happened,” said Guingona.
Guingona said he expects the bishops to cooperate in the Senate inquiry since the CBCP has expressed the need to seek the truth.
He said the Senate will provide “an atmosphere of openness” in today’s hearings to allow the bishops “to talk and tell their story.”
Aside from the bishops, the Senate also invited Foreign Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs Esteban Conejos Jr., Commission on Audit commissioner Heidi Mendoza, COA Director Jose Rocha; Fidela Tan, supervising auditor for the Home Development Mutual Fund-Cluster A; PCSO chairman Margarita Juico, and PCSO general manager Jose Ferdinand Rojas II.
Also expected to attend are: COA board members Betty Nantes, Maria Aleta Tolentino, Mabel Mamba, Franciso Joaquin III, Eduardo Araullo, and advertisers Ludovico Yuseco and Alexander Quisumbing.
Former PCSO chairman Sergio Valencia, ex-PCSO general manager Rosario Uriarte, board members Manuel Morato, Maria Fatima Valdez, Jose Taruc, and Raymundo Roquero were also invited.
Guingona said former PCSO advertising and promotions manager Manuel Garcia will also be asked to explain the alleged multi-million kickbacks he earned for approving proposals of Yuseco and Quisumbing.
Guingona lashed out at Morato for saying that he was not given a fair share in the past two hearings.
“The people have been watching the hearings and you can see if there is bias and the people are able to give their side. The mere fact that the bishops have chosen to come, this is the first venue wherein the bishops have agreed to come, is that not an indication of the fairness and transparency of the hearings?” Guingona said.
Guingona said the Senate would still discuss whether or not to summon former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to the Senate hearing.
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SOURCE: YOUTUBE, PHILSTAR