Categorized | Politics, Religion, Society

Dear CBCP: Take Corona’s Challenge First (An Open Letter)

Dear CBCP,

Some of your bishops have challenged Corona’s accusers to sign his waiver. Bishop Pabillo said that “there is really something wrong when they want a person to disclose his dollar accounts but his accusers refuse to do the same or don’t want to be transparent.” Your former president, Oscar Cruz, clarified that your message was to let people “know who have no sin and [let them] throw the first stone.”

You are saying that only those who are blameless can challenge others or throw blame. Since you have challenged Corona’s accusers, you must think that you yourselves are blameless. In the terms of Corona’s waiver, this means you think you have no ill-gotten wealth to hide. But you are mistaken.

No one knows ill-gotten wealth like you do, because you have founded your Church on ill-gotten wealth. Literally. Your organization wouldn’t be where it is today if it weren’t for the billions your predecessors stole from the Philippine government.

In case you’ve forgotten, I’ll remind you. When your former colleagues, the Spaniards, colonized us, they stole lands that belonged to Filipinos and gave it to your friars. These friar lands allowed you to control everything: business, education, politics, etc. So aside from money and property, you also gained power. You used this power to further amass wealth that went beyond the original value of the lands that were stolen.

When the first Philippine Congress was established, one of their first plans was to take back what was rightfully ours — to confiscate the land that was stolen and then redistribute it among Filipinos. But unfortunately, their plans were thwarted by another colonizer: the Americans. They would eventually give us back our freedom, but they didn’t give us back our property — well, not really. Instead, they did what capitalists do best: sell it to us.

Malolos Congress in Barasoain Church

Before they could do that, they had to take it back from you. But instead of just taking it away — something they could have done without much difficulty — they again did what capitalists do best: buy it from you. William Howard Taft, the first head of the Philippine Commission, went to Rome to ask your infallible leader for permission to buy the friar lands so that it could be given (i.e. sold) back to us. Your Pope agreed, and in 1903, the friar lands, some 166,000 hectares were bought for $7,239,784.66.

You may have lost your lands, but you got a ton of money in return. Add that to the profit you’d already made on those properties — and the power you consolidated through it — and it’s clear how you’ve become one of the richest and most powerful organizations in the Philippines today.

It’s difficult to put a price on your ill-gotten political power, but the money is another story. For starters, we can calculate how much you got for the sale of the friar lands. According to one CPI inflation calculator, the purchase price of $7,239,784.66 would now be worth $168,259,177.12 (PHP7,235,144,616.16) — if it was purchased in 1913, which is as far back as the calculator goes. Surely it would be more if we could calculate based on the 1903 amount.

Next we can check your investments in publicly registered companies. This has already been done, and conservative estimates put your investments at over P18 billion. We don’t even know how much you’ve invested in private companies, and if Corona has taught us one thing, there’s another way you could’ve hidden enormous sums of money: dollar accounts.

By the time the Americans introduced their currency in our country, you already had considerable wealth, and it’s not unlikely that you’d think like he did: you invested in US dollars. There weren’t big corporations to invest in back then, so you probably converted a considerable amount. And considering how you have nothing against the financial institution — you have PHP18 billion invested in it after all — your dollars are likely deposited safely in dollar accounts: the same accounts you’re challenging congressmen to publicize.

Rep. Faye Ferriol takes Corona's challenge

Of course, I don’t have to speculate so much if you’d just sign Corona’s waiver. Now that I think about it, you could take the moral high ground and create a waiver of your own, disclosing not only your dollar accounts but also your public and private investments, business affiliations, everything.

Because as far as I’m concerned, most of your wealth is ill-gotten. Your wealth was built on money that was stolen from the Philippine government by two foreign ones. The theft may be centuries old, but it doesn’t change the fact that a crime is a crime, or in religious terms, a sin is a sin. Even your God does not unconditionally forgive a sin simply because it was done long ago (e.g. Original Sin). So I’m sure you’ll understand that although many have forgotten, you don’t deserve to be forgiven. Not by God, and certainly not by the Filipino people.

You may try you hardest to hide this fact by casting the blame — and the spotlight — on someone else. You’ve long been very active in pushing for agrarian reform. You’ve been preaching the idea that the lands should be taken from illegitimate owners and redistributed among its rightful owners. This is a worthy cause, and I commend you for understanding the idea of rightful ownership.

But why can’t you understand that every single peso of your billions is a peso that belongs to the Filipino people? Not only should you publicize your ill-gotten wealth, you should do the “Christian” thing and give it back as I’m sure Jesus would want you to. Otherwise, you’ll be contradicting your calls for transparency and fairness — not to mention your vow of poverty. You may lose much, but only by doing so can you rightly call yourselves a Church of the Poor.



Red Tani


Image credits: 1, 2, 3

DISCLAIMER: The opinions in this post do not necessarily represent the position of the Filipino Freethinkers.