MANILA, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / July 14, 2011) - After accusing Catholic leaders of receiving funding from government gambling operations,Manila on Thursday said the Church is a partner in promoting the welfare of the Filipinos as it looked forward to work together with the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) under the leadership of its new president Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma.
During a press briefing in Malacanang, Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda described the relations between the Aquino government and the Catholic Church as “good.”
“The Catholic Church is a fellow stakeholder in promoting the welfare of the Filipino people,” Lacierda said following the election of Palma as the new CBCP president during the 103rd Plenary Assembly at the Pope Pius XII Catholic Center in Manila last July 9.
Lacierda expressed the belief that with the election of Palma and other new officers of the CBCP will enable for the government “to renew its cordial relation with the Church.”
“We in fact would like to extend a hand of friendship to the Church. We are both after the welfare of the Filipino people and we should work together for transparency,” Lacierda.
According to the CBCP Statutes, Palma will assume his position as CBCP president on December 1, 2011. He will succeed Tandag Bishop Nereo P. Odchimar, who did not seek reelection.
The CBCP website posted that the new CBCP President comes from the Archdiocese of Jaro in Iloilo.
Palma was ordained to the priesthood on August 21, 1976 and named Auxiliary Bishop of Cebu on November 28, 1997. At age 47, he was ordained to the episcopacy and named bishop of the Diocese of Calbayog on January 13, 1999. He became Archbishop of Palo on March 18, 2006 and later appointed Archbishop of Cebu on October 15, 2010.
Elected new CBCP Vice President is Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas.
Dumaguete Bishop John Du was elected Treasurer succeeding Cubao Bishop Honesto F. Ongtioco.
The assembly also elected Msgr. Joselito Asis, then assistant secretary general and assistant treasurer, as Secretary General succeeding Msgr. Juanito Figura who will now return to the Archdiocese of Jaro.
Just this week, seven bishops were told to attend a senate hearing to answer allegations they used donations from the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office to buy cars and pick-up trucks instead of using the funds for health and medical programs.
The bishops returned the vehicles and apologized for receiving the donations and used the money to purchase them. They said the vehicles were used in various humanitarian programs of the Catholic Church. One bishop bought a luxury Montero sports vehicle.
The Catholic Church has repeatedly criticized the government for promoting gambling. (Mindanao Examiner)