Consider the vastness of the money-making machine that the Philippine Roman Catholic Church is. None of its activities including those that are financially profitable are currently taxed by the Philippine government. Catholic education alone, for example, is an expensive premium service that even the wealthiest of Filipinos clamber over one another to partake of. Yet none of the Philippines’ Catholic schools are taxed. One wonders how much of the profits the Church earns from its education services get remitted to Rome.
This is actually a disturbing thought. Catholic schools (and God knows whatever other profitable businesses the Church runs) take money from wealthy Filipinos and then have a chunk of that remitted to a foreign government. The Church, indeed, has it good. It can make truckloads of money off the Philippine economy tax free, consume public infrastructure and services paid for by other industries and the ordinary Filipino taxpayer, and be exempt from any kind of regulatory oversight. They don’t call them the Italian Mob for nothin’.
It is likely that the Philippine government has the right to impose taxes on the Catholic Church. It just chooses not to, which is not surpising considering that the Church is an active player in Philippine politics. But the fact is, there is nothing in the Constitution that prevents the government from taxing the profitable activities of the Church. The only exemptions from taxation explicitly stated in the Constitution are “properties devoted exclusively to religious purposes.”
It is widely-known that the Philippines’ Roman Catholic Church has billions invested in a diverse portfolio of of private businesses. Are these investment activities subject to scrutiny? Perhaps it would be wise to examine exactly how the Church is structured as a business entity for the purpose of holding and managing these investments.
An interesting question to ask is what sort of corporate entity the Catholic Church is. If the Philippine Roman Catholic Church takes orders from Rome, shouldn’t it be considered a foreign corporation? If so, does it have investments in Philippine businesses that are restricted by law from foreign ownership? It is against the law, for example, for foreign entities to own and control media businesses in the Philippines. There are, however, many radio stations and publications that reach wide audiences and readerships that are directly administered by the Church. Perhaps one can argue that these are employed for religious purposes. But, really, considering how involved the Church is in politics, can we be really sure that all the content being pumped through these media channels is all purely religious?
If we think about it this way and consider just how influential the Catholic Church is in Philippine society, one could almost think of the Philippines as a de facto vassal state of the Vatican City and the Pope himself its overlord!
Perhaps it is high time Filipinos consider forcing the Catholic Church to open itself to public scrutiny — most importantly including its financial affairs. Filipino “activists” make so much noise about the spectres of imperialism, authoritarianism, and absolute corrupted power taking hold in the Philippines. Yet they seem to ignore the elephant in the room practically begging that it be scrutinised. The Philippines’ Roman Catholic Church is all of what these “activists” rail against in their street rallies and then some. It is effectively a foreign-controlled agent that is closed to public scrutiny, upholds and exercises absolute rule, and seemingly operates above Philippine law with impunity. It does not pay taxes yet very likely remits vast sums of money to Rome. That is one big elephant trampling everything Filipino liberals and communists hold dear.
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