No to Catholic Church Bailout!

The aftermath of last week’s 7.2 magnitude earthquake resulted in unimaginable death and destruction in the Visayas region of the Philippines. Many lives were lost and properties were left in ruins. Amongst the many ruins are centuries-old Catholic churches that have been designated as “national cultural treasures”, “national historic landmarks”, or “heritage sites”. In Bohol alone, seven “heritage” churches have been estimated to need around Php700 million for reconstruction costs (around Php100 million for each church). President Noynoy Aquino said that the government could not fund the heritage churches due to the “separation of Church and State”. However, the Philippines has a law that mandates the government to provide for priority funding for protection, conservation and restoration of cultural properties declared as National Cultural Treasures and national historic landmarks. Whether Aquino’s statement came out from ignorance of the law or merely from just being careful not to commit to the reconstruction of all churches outside of the scope of the National Cultural Heritage Act as Palace Deputy Spokesperson Abigail Valte seems to suggest, is another topic. This article will focus on whether it is a good idea for the government to shoulder the cost of rebuilding and restoring “heritage churches” or not.

bohol_earthquake_2013

The National Cultural Heritage Act defines “cultural property” as:

“all products of human creativity by which a people and a nation reveal their identity, including churches, mosques and other places of religious worship, schools and natural history specimens and sites, whether public or privately-owned, movable or immovable, and tangible or intangible”.

The law provides that a private citizen may still retain ownership of a property (unless the private owner turns over the property to the State) but it is the role of the government to declare the heritage value of the structure and to provide for its protection and preservation. Now here’s a question: Would it be right to force people to pay for the protection and preservation of the SM Mall of Asia Promenade? If it doesn’t make sense for the public to be taxed in order to pay for the private property of someone who gets exclusive profits or benefits out of the private property, why would it make sense for everyone to pay for a church where it is exclusively owned and used by a particular religious group? (e.g. Catholics) If a storm were to destroy the SM Mall of Asia Promenade, we expect the owners of SM to spend for its repair and restoration, why can’t the Catholic Church pay for their damaged Churches?

Aaahh yes… the difference is that these centuries-old churches are part of our culture and the preservation of these churches would ensure that we continue to celebrate our culture. A friend of mine has brought out an interesting point. A lot of these centuries-old churches are part of our history under the Encomienda system and forced labor required upon us by our Spanish (Catholic) conquerors. And we consider these cultural representations as “treasures”? At least malls like the SM Mall of Asia, which by the way, are very much a big part of the modern pop culture, provides free airconditioning and entertainment to everyone regardless of status, race, color, or religious creed!

The way I see it, the government paying for the cost of rebuilding and restoring these “heritage churches” is tantamount to a bailout of the Catholic Church. If these “heritage churches” were State-owned and if the Catholic Church does not have exclusive rights to the use of these churches for its exclusive ceremonies, then it should be fine. But if it is privately owned (i.e. owned by the Catholic Church), then the owners should be the ones primarily responsible for their property’s restoration and maintenance costs. Look, the average poor taxpaying schmuck won’t get a lick of a chance getting bailed out of the cost of restoring a personal property destroyed by an earthquake. Why should the Catholic Church in the Philippines be bailed out despite it’s wealth? And what do taxpayers get out of the hundreds of millions (if not billions) of bailout to the Catholic Church? Would they at least get a decrease in “Our Fathers” and “Hail Marys” they have to recite when they commit a sin? Can we even really expect that all of the taxpayer money allocated for the restoration of the ruined properties will end up in the project and not the pockets of politicians, given the rotten culture of corruption we have in government? I think much like most government bailouts, the taxpayers would again get the shaft.

Sure, one can argue that these “heritage churches” can help create jobs and propel the local economy through tourism. But even if we highlight the importance of tourism, why is it necessary to spend so much money to fully restore these “heritage churches” to promote tourism when we can still attract tourists featuring these properties as ruins of structures of antiquity? You know… kind of like the ruins we have at various tourist sites like the Cagsawa Church in Bicol, the Fort Santiago in Intramuros, or even the Roman Colosseum and the Parthenon and other Acropolis structures in Greece, which despite being damaged by neglect, man-made and natural causes, are still visited by many tourists every year. I think there is value in considering alternative and more cost-effective options if taxpayer money shall be used.

On a fair and pragmatic view, I do not think it is a good idea for the government to shoulder the full (or even the majority of the) cost of rebuilding and restoring the ruined “heritage churches”, especially if these are not State-owned properties. If we cannot expect the government to bailout the average contributing taxpayer from financial ruin caused by property destruction due to the recent massive earthquake, why should the government bailout a religious organization that doesn’t even pay any taxes? I think it is time to revise the National Cultural Heritage Act and make it more sensible and fair.

[Photo courtesy International Business Times.]

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Post Author: Hector Gamboa

Calling a spade, a spade...

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25 Comments on "No to Catholic Church Bailout!"

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Jon Limjap
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The way I see it: if the building was deemed historical or declared a National Cultural Treasure by the National Museum, AND are a regular stop for tourists, by all means restore it.

If we bitch about how nice Rome and Paris and London are and how they were “nicely preserved” but too easily balk at shelling out for heritage sites like the churches of Bohol, then even GRP becomes nothing but a shit hole of Pinoy hypocrisy

Ilda
Admin

First of all, one writer’s view on things shouldn’t necessarilly reflect on GRP as a whole. Second, even if all the writers agree with Hector’s view on the restoration of historical churches in Bohol, I fail to see why we should be called hypocrites. Are the churches in Rome maintained by the Italian government?

benign0
Admin

By that argument, then we should also restore all the forests that Pinoys had cut down over the last several decades. At least in the case of those forests, Pinoys are clearly responsible for their destruction. Those churches were destroyed by an act of God. So therefore God should foot the bill for restoring them.

The only hypocrisy I see around here are social media “mavens” waxing poetic about the “sad” destruction of these “heritage” relics on one tweet then on another whine endlessly about how downloading the latest Mac OS is “taking forever”.

Jon Limjap
Guest
I just can’t resolve why it’s okay for Thailand, Cambodia, China, Vietnam or the rest of them Buddhist countries to maintain their pagodas, and temples while for us “it’s the problem of the Catholic Church”. I’m not saying that the Catholic Church has to charge this entirely to the government, they DEFINITELY have to give their share, but for people to take the opposite extreme of “the fuck with it this is a church it’s their problem” is just as asinine And just to be clear I’m not advocating complete restoration either. If someone turns these sites like the ruins… Read more »
Gerry
Guest

Yep. the country seems to lag behind its neighbors yet again.
a seriously screwed up country with limited resources will not ever see the Church of Rome beg it for anything. the country has many times thrown certain institutions out of the country and then when the country is in trouble the first people the country turns to is the very same institutions that the country threw out in the first place. POINT? everyone needs friends, so be nice to those you meet as you never know when you will be in need of their assistance.

Gerry
Guest
YEP, well said. IF IF IF these places have been declared to be ‘Historical Landmarks’ then they should be rebuilt. The cost should also be picked up by the church as well, IF IF IF these same churches are functioning as places of ‘worship’ as they were in the time of their construction. an equal shouldering of the cost would seem appropriate. these churches attract tourists from around the globe who come to marvel at the construction and ‘history’ of these ‘national treasures’. IF IF IF they are really actual ‘National Treasures’ and the gov’t. does not in fact at… Read more »
ILVING TABIOS ZAMORA
Guest
MILITANTLY OPPOSE THE PHILIPPINE GOVERNMENT PLAN TO REBUILD THE COLLAPSED ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCHES! Let them call us “despicable, blasphemous, irreverent, impious, profane, sacrilegious” and whatever dirty words or synonyms of the same words regarding our suggestion. But the published plan of the government to rebuild the collapsed RCC churches under the guise of preserving “iconic religious heritage” (for the sake of visiting tourists?) is blatantly stupid and unconstitutional. It spits at the very core of the “Right to Belief” (along with its twin “Right Not To Believe”) and pukes on the much crowed about “separation of church and state.” What… Read more »
Gerry
Guest
when you refer to the “spirit of the Law” you seem to be saying “your interpretation of the law”, yes? BUT, they are not the same. and the ‘spirit’ of the law is not the law, it just is not. AND you seem to be anti-Catholic church and you have every right to be. BUT BUT BUT, these places are considered ‘National Historical Treasures’ and IF IF IF the gov’t. has deemed them to be as such it is the duty of the state to rebuild them. a show of good will by the Catholic Church would be to share… Read more »
Jerry Lynch
Guest

The only Catholic church in the country that I know is open to tourists free of charge is the Bamboo Organ Church in Las Piñas. The Church can & should rebuild those old buildings with its own money if it wants them restored.

If the country uses tax money to rebuild them the government should own them and make them museums or tourist traps.

alice lopez
Guest

i find the article thought-provoking, and the comments even more so. guys, you give such deep sentiments, and some made me laugh not out of ridicule but out of amusement/respect about how we pinoys think!

congratulations!

barbero
Guest

There’s nothing provoking about it. 1) Those buildings belongs to the Catholic church 2) Religion are tax exempt 3) Separation of the state from religion 4) Catholic church has a lot of source of income namely universities, hospitals, aside from the tights/offerings/donations

Domingo Arong
Guest
The Church can very well take care of itself: CBCP news Oct 17th: “Church relying on people’s help to rebuild damaged churches” http://www.cbcpnews.com/cbcpnews/?p=24576 “Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma said the archdiocese would shoulder the bulk of the costs in rehabilitating the ruined old churches because they are only expecting a minimal help from the government … ‘For us, the people will find a way to rebuild the church. It may take a long time but still the people will find a way,’ Palma added.” CBCP news Oct. 23rd “Quake-damaged churches will be restored, priest says” http://www.cbcpnews.com/cbcpnews/?p=24904 “There is still a possibility… Read more »
Aegis-Judex
Guest

In other words, a bailout by the State is superfluous. Why in the blood-soaked Protestant hell* do you bail out someone who can take care of himself? Doing that makes as much sense as giving prosthetic legs to someone whose own legs (one) can still function, and (two) are still attached to their body. As much as I find the title provocative, it actually does make sense.

Footnotes:

*Hellsing Ultimate Abridged reference.

juujuu
Guest

IMO, government should take the ruins from the church if they are tourist attractions, reinforce them for safety, and take care of them in place of the church. Let the PCC build a new church beside it or somewhere near but let them take care of themselves.

IMO, rebuilding this is both expensive and unsafe, regardless of who foots the bill. Of course, it will be better if the PCC pays for it.

christy
Guest
I have mix feelings on this. Since these are heritage sites, acknowledged by the state, I wouldn’t oppose them of funding for their restoration. Because these are mostly age old relics akin to those ancient worship places like in Bali Indonesia (which many Hindus still go there to worship), I think it would not be bad for the government to do so, FOR AS LONG AS THEY FIRST PRIORITISE THE WELL-BEING OF THE VICTIMS. And that is my main gripe about the government on this one. They can’t prioritise well, and think that money generating from these tourist spots are… Read more »
MidwayHaven
Guest

Personally I wouldn’t want the current Philippine government to be in charge of heritage preservation. Most of the places that the government has declared as national heritage have been transformed into places that prioritize tourism and belittle their historical value.

I suggest that it would be better for private entities to restore these churches. Additionally, since the Philippine Catholic Church is tax exempt, I suppose it could rebuild its own houses of worship with little or no monetary problems.

Juan Perez
Guest

Another kind of forced labor. Governmrnt using peoples’ taxpayers’ money to build churches.

Hyden Toro
Guest

Building churches with taxpayers’ money is another kind of forced labor.

De Broke
Guest

Don’t give money to the Roman Catholic Church. They have already lots of money.

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