The Philippines’ Roman Catholic Church should be taxed and its books opened to public scrutiny

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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12 Comments on “The Philippines’ Roman Catholic Church should be taxed and its books opened to public scrutiny”

  1. Devolution and decentralization of leadership leads to a natural regression. The masses will always follow the path of least resistance. The decentralization of leadership leads to the lowest common denominator becoming the de facto leader.

  2. Isnt it the case that churches/mosques/temples (in short: religions) fall under the label of Charitable Institutions/Organizations (like Greenpeace, Amnesty International) and they are all exempted from paying taxes?
    Only if they can be moved from Charity to – lets say – an organization for profit, then you stand a chance.

    (copied from Wikipedia)
    A charitable organization or a charity is a non-profit organization (NPO) whose primary objectives are philanthropy and social well-being (e.g. charitable, educational, religious, or other activities serving the public interest or common good).

  3. How do you tax a governing body (the Catholic Church) that institutionalized Aristocracy and Corruption into the “hearts and mind” of every Filipino? Like “rice,” the influence of the Catholic Church is staple to the Filipinos’ culture, regardless of what they want to believe in. This is like telling your parents that they will have to pay to come live with you when they’re old and frail—it’ll never happen. So this article is “moot” at best and has no practical relevance.

    1. What I think Benign0 is trying to say is that the RCC / CBCP (in PH and elsewhere) stock/pile up much more money than is needed. That excess in money should actually ‘flow’ back to the people but instead is staying inside the church (or Rome) for that matter. So it is actually behaving like a corporate organization (for profit). Although the ‘shareholders’ (the sheep that visits the church every sunday) get nothing. To end all this, it is now time to tax all those churches (Rome).

      That is what I think Benign0 wants to say or is saying.

      1. I understand what BenignO’s saying; and I understand what you think he’s saying; but, do everyone who read BenignO’s article understand–or think they understand–that what he’s saying (or what you think he’s saying) is never going to happen? Just sayin’.

        1. With almost two centuries of Catholicism in this country, I doubt very much any change will happen. Spanish aristocracy and Catholicism are inherent traits of the corrupt
          Philippine culture; and, to take those societal traits away is like depriving Filipinos a big chunk of their cultural identity.

        2. I actually disagree with you. The country I live in was also a religious country. That changed and can now be labeled as a secular (a-religious) country. The best way to show that are the – liberal – laws but also because more and more people do not go to church anymore. Because of that the church/priests and cardinals are powerless in my country. So, all you need to do is stop going to church (maybe even unregister yourself from your local parish) and at the same hoping and wishing that the government will finally do what they should do: provide good – secul;ar – laws.

          Where there is a will, there is a way.

        3. I hope you and I are still alive by the time you realize your hopes for the Catholic religion to release its tight grip over the government and lives of the people, to open its book for public audit, and to be taxed like a regular corporation in the Philippines. That would be a significant part of the Cultural Revolution I have been rallying for to revamp our corrupt society, which will depend mostly on convincing the people to change the antiquated ways they perceived themselves and the church. Now, how would you proposed of doing that?

        4. Aeta,
          I dont expect myself to be alive if and when that happens. I expect myself to be alive for maybe another 30 years or so.

          What I want to say is that the powers are in the hand of the people. When the priests see and realize that their churches are more empty and emptier every sunday, they will become desperate. Preaching in front of an empty church: have you ever witnessed that?

          AND you (every pinoy and pinay) can still stay and remain religious. Just read your bible at home and behave/act accordingly.

        5. Exactly. “Powers are in the hands of the people” to effect a change from the Roman Catholic Church (or any religion) brainwashing the people into blind submission, the political dynasties depriving the masses of their quality of life through thievery, and the Chinese monopolizing the country’s wealth and stability through bribery.

          We Filipinos can realize the dream of a better Philippines if we simply divest ourselves of our senseless arrogance and selfish individualism, admitting to these shortcomings to ourselves and others, and committing ourselves into actions and not just mere words.

  4. I don’t believe in Organized Religion. They are all businesses. People are promised “salvation”, after death. If they go against their teachings, they are burned in “Hell”. If people follow their teachings, they are rewarded with good life in “Heaven”, or “72 virgins” in Paradise.

    Did we ever thought, that every organized religion teaches teachings, contrary to another organized religion ? So, the Roman Catholic, believes that the Protestants, or other organized religion followers will go to “Hell”. The Protestants and others, think otherwise. The Atheists, think that these religious believers are stupid people or nuts. And so on, and so forth….

    Let us tax all organized religions. Open their Account Books, and audit their investments. Including the properties they own. Tax also their properties.

    These organized religions are active politically. They have no business, meddling in our political affairs…There must be a separation of church and state.

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