MANILA, Philippines – Requesting an “impartial” investigation into the pork barrel scam, the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) on Saturday, May 24, denounced the use of public office to obstruct the “pursuit of truth.”
In a major statement, the CBCP also urged the perpetrators of the scam – the biggest corruption scandal in recent Philippine history – to “come out and admit their wrongdoings.” (INTERACTIVE: Pork Tales: A story of corruption)
“We invite all those implicated in the pork barrel scam to allow impartial investigation to take place. If they are in public office, they must NOT (emphasis his) use the power of their office to obstruct the pursuit of truth,” the CBCP said in a statement signed by its president, Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas.
Villegas, who is associated with the family of President Benigno Aquino III, signed this statement at the height of reports on the so-called Napoles lists.
The lists – which come in different versions and show inconsistencies – implicate a number of lawmakers in the pork barrel controversy. The lists include allies of the President. (READ: FACT-CHECK: Making sense of the Napoles lists)
The statement also came nearly two weeks after Villegas visited the alleged pork barrel scam mastermind, Janet Lim Napoles, who was confined in the Ospital ng Makati. Villegas told Napoles his blessing will only give healing “if she tells the whole truth without being selective.”
CBCP 'saddened, schocked'
Denouncing a scandal that has robbed people of “peace,” the CBCP also made the following appeals:
We plead with the media to be fair in protecting the good name of people. Let those who have been implicated be given proper forum and proper coverage to explain their actions.
Let the Ombudsman do its task to investigate and prosecute those who are at fault. The judiciary is the proper venue to bring out justice. Justice delayed is justice denied.
Let those who are at fault come out and admit their wrongdoings rather than hurling denials and counter-accusations, thus muddling the issue to the confusion of the people. What is stolen must be returned. The good name destroyed must be repaired.
Let the concern of all be the common good – that people do not lose trust in the institutions of governance and that there may be just restitution of the public money lost.
The CBCP said: “We are much saddened by the pork barrel scandal. We are shocked, together with our people, at the amount of money squandered when there are so many in great need. But we are grateful that in God’s Providence the scam is coming to light. Truth ultimately comes out.”
“This should make public officials careful that they do not abuse the trust given to them. This also invites all of us to be vigilant over our public officials. There should be public accountability over public trust,” the bishops added.
Given the scale of the controversy, Villegas requested Catholics “to pray an extra rosary from May 31, Feast of the Visitation, until August 15, Solemnity of the Assumption, and offer it for the conversion of the culprits in the pork barrel scam, for the courage of the witnesses and the healing of our country.”
He also encouraged the youth “to receive Holy Communion frequently during these days of prayer and offer prayers for the culprits, the witnesses and our government.”
“Let us overcome evil by the power of good,” he said.
In another statement, his first as CBCP president, he also cited the pork barrel scandal in condemning corruption-ridden politics as “perhaps the single-biggest obstacle in our integral development as a nation.”
Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.