The newly elected head of the bishops’ conference has urged the clergy and the Catholic faithful not to solicit funds from politicians.In a pastoral statement, Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan said soliciting money from politicians contributes to the “culture of corruption” in the country. He said Church people contribute to corruption “by grabbing a piece of the pie through our solicitations from government officials – from candles to basketball uniforms to bags of cement to government bulldozers.” .. “Every time we ask our politicians for monetary help, we tempt them to dig into the ‘pork barrel’ coffers or jueteng [illegal numbers racket] chests to accommodate our request,” the prelate said. Pork barrel is a phrase that is frequently used in Philippine politics. Legislators are allocated large sums of the annual national budget – 200 million pesos for each senator and 70 million for each representative – in a program called the Priority Development Assistance Fund, or more commonly the ‘pork barrel.’

In his statement, Villegas criticized politicians for using the pork barrel to enrich themselves or grab credit for projects they did not initiate.”It is not uncommon to refer to projects from the pork barrel fund as ‘projects of Congressman X,’ giving the impression that this is personal money and not public funds,” Villegas said. “Public governance is stewardship,” he added. “But the pork barrel has made public governance a system of patronage.”

Villegas said fund raising projects of Church groups should be transparent, adding that the clergy and Church leaders should “prepare our accounting reports” to ensure that the principle of accountability is observed. He issued the statement amid reports that six senators and at least 28 members of the House of Representatives are involved in a US$230 million pork-barrel scam.

(from Ucanews)