Philippines Lottery Chief Describes Luxury Car Gifts to Bishops
VOA Breaking News
July 6, 2011 at 3:45 am
A Senate investigating panel in the Philippines has been told that national lottery officials gave luxury cars to at least five Catholic bishops during the administration of former President Gloria Arroyo.
Lottery officials testified Wednesday that one of the sports utility vehicles went to a bishop who has become a fierce critic of the current president, Benigno Aquino. Officials produced a letter in which the bishop requested the car as a birthday present from the president and pledged her his “constant support.”
The bishop said he wanted the car to reach remote parts of his diocese. A memo attached to the letter, purportedly from Ms. Arroyo to the lottery chairman, said, “for appropriate action, please.”
Church officials did not deny receiving the vehicles but said any gifts from the lottery were used for the conduct of charitable work. The chairman of the Catholic Bishops' Conference said in a letter to the Senate, “Our conscience is clear.”
Ms. Arroyo is traveling out of the country and a spokeswoman declined to comment.
The lottery routinely raises money for health care and social services in poor parts of the country. But its current head, Margie Juico, testified that it is illegal under Philippine law to spend state money for religious purposes.
Juico also said she found the lottery organization in disarray when she took over after last year's election. She described rooms full of cockroach-eaten computer forms and ambulances left in the rain to deteriorate.
Mr. Aquino came to office pledging to clean up alleged corruption under his predecessor.
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