Filipino bishops against government proposal to tax religious schools

The government lacks the means to provide an adequate education to the population. The Church fills the gap. Kalookan Bishop Pablo David asks, " Should they not treat us as their partners and allies rather than as adversaries?” For political analysts, the proposal by the Duterte administration is in retaliation against the Church’s criticism of government policies.

Manila (AsiaNews/CBCP) – Filipino bishops have come out against the Duterte administration, which announced on Monday plans to tax religious schools.

House of Representatives Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, who once described the bishops as “a bunch of hypocrites”, yesterday said church-owned schools should be taxed to improve the government’s revenue collection.

At the hearing on the Duterte administration’s tax reform bill, he called for a revisit of the government’s income tax policy, claiming that some schools cater to students from higher-income families and hike tuition.

Swiftly responding to Alvarez’s claims, Bishop Pablo David of Kalookan said that the Church would probably not be running schools if the government “adequately” provided quality education, especially at the primary and secondary levels.

“The fact is, it cannot,” David said. “We always thought that we in the Church were doing the government a favour by making quality education available wherever the state is unable to do it adequately.”

This failure, the prelate noted, is visible in cramped public schools as well as in the huge backlog in classroom construction and in teacher shortages.

In his view, government resources are still not enough to provide a decent education to the population.

“We do not even rely on public funds to run our schools,” the prelate explained. “Should they not treat us as their partners and allies rather than as adversaries?” he asked.

For many political analysts, the tax plan represents an act of retaliation by the authorities against the bishops.

For months, the Church has lent its critical voice against Duterte’s war on drug and extra-judicial killings and has been fierce opponent to the reintroduction of the death penalty.