by Jose Alejandrino
The Catholic Church is one of the wealthiest entities in the Philippines. It is exempt from tax under the 1987 Constitution. It has billions invested in corporations like BPI, Philex, San Miguel, Ayala Corporation, Phinma.
The Church has 300 million shares in BPI and is the bank’s 4th largest owner.
As of May 2011 these were valued at more than 17 billion pesos. More than 500 million shares in San Miguel Corporation are owned by three Catholic groups. Much more are invested in companies outside the Philippines, in bonds, time deposits, real estate properties.
The Spanish Catholic Church is exempt by a Concordat with the Vatican from paying property tax. The Spanish government estimated this exemption costs the State a loss in tax revenue amounting to 3 billion euros annually or the equivalent of 150 billion pesos.
The Socialist Party which is now in coalition with the Partido Popular governing Spain wants to scrap this exemption and expand tax payment to all forms of rent of Church properties including services like garbage collection. Eighty percent of Spaniards polled recently favor the Socialist measure.
When my Spanish friends visited the Philippines recently I took them to the beach. There was a group of 14 nuns who were bathing in the sea dressed in their habit. One of my friends, Macario, the police chief of Madrid, observed how lovely our nuns were, giggling and splashing in the water. I said, “Yes, they are indeed lovely. That is why Aquino’s secretary of Justice could not qualify to be a nun.”
When the nuns came out of the water to dry themselves in their wet clothes, I asked if they had anything to eat. They said no. I called the restaurant waiter and asked him to bring some food to the nuns and add it to my bill.
I asked the Mother Superior where their convent was.
She answered in Arayat, my hometown. I asked whether their convent was being subsidized by the Church. She said they had to fend for themselves and grow their own food. I was shocked that the Catholic Church which is one of the richest entities in the country was doing nothing to support its own flock.
My mind went back to what President Duterte had said about the bishops. They were living in splendor in their palaces, interfering in State matters, and neglecting their spiritual duties. Jesus had said, “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.” The CBCP was not even rendering to God the things that are God’s.
It is unfortunate that its president’s first name is Socrates who was a famous Greek philosopher in 400 BC and had influenced great minds like Plato and Aristotle. His parents made a tragic mistake. They should have named him Utakless.