Tag Archive | "billionaire bishops"

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.

 

Sincerely,

Red Tani

___

Image credits: 1, 2, 3

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Mother Teresa: Blessed Billionaire, Holy Hypocrite


Mother Teresa was not a friend of the poor. She was a friend of poverty. She said that suffering was a gift from God. She spent her life opposing the only known cure for poverty, which is the empowerment of women and the emancipation of them from a livestock version of compulsory reproduction.

– Christopher Hitchens

The Catholic Church is in a position to truly help the poor. If they wanted to, they could feed the 14.2 million hungry Filipinos for more than a month. If they wanted to, they could feed the 1.88 million Filipinos who almost always have nothing to eat for almost a year. If they wanted to, they could send a significant amount to the victims of Sendong — a donation that would exceed even the total of their many second collections — greatly helping the victims recover, rebuild, and prepare themselves for potential disasters.

But it seems like the CBCP doesn’t want to. Whatever their motivation for hoarding wealth, we know that their billions are kept invested in corporations, helping rich businessmen become even richer. And as their wealth continues to grow, the poor and hungry continue to suffer.

Well-meaning Catholics could notice this selfishness and ask: “Why can’t the CBCP be more like Mother Teresa?” Well, they already are. And based on their many similarities, no one else would make a better patron saint for the CBCP.

The CBCP claims that theirs is a Church of the Poor. This is a lie. The Catholic Church is a Church of Poverty. What’s the difference? The former would get the poor out of poverty; the latter would keep them in it. This is best exemplified by a true saint of poverty: Blessed Teresa of Calcutta.

Saint of Suffering

Who should Catholics emulate in serving the poor? Next to Jesus, the top answer Catholics would give is probably “Mother Teresa.” She has been honored by both secular and religious organizations with awards and adoration. Beatified in 2003, she is only one miracle short of canonization. It may come as a surprise to many that she isn’t already a saint, and most Catholics would agree that she deserves to be one.

Billionaires Mother Teresa and Cardinal Sin having a good laugh.

But this is only because what they know of her life is even less than what they know about the Catholic Church. In the same way that many are ignorant of the Church’s past atrocities and present scandals most Catholics remain unaware of Mother Teresa’s unsaintly actions.

These actions are based on what a former member of her order called a flawed “theology of suffering.” In Mother Teresa’s words: “The most beautiful gift for a person is that he can participate in the sufferings of Christ.” Therefore, the Catholic who suffers the most is closest to Christ. When you remove suffering, you remove Christ. Instead of minimizing their suffering, Mother Teresa ensured it. Alleviating suffering, let alone eliminating it, was out of the question. Seen from this perspective, her behavior toward her patients makes sense.

Instead of curing them, Mother Teresa gave the bare minimum of treatment, resulting in suffering for most and death for some. She gave insufficient or outdated medicine, reused old syringes, and gave cold baths to all patients, even those who could find comfort in a warm one. She’d refuse to install elevators for the disabled, even when the city government offered to pay for it. Instead of hiring competent doctors, she’d rely on incompetent volunteers because she believed strongly that ignorance was more valuable than expertise (Livemore 93, 156).

Instead of being true hospitals or hospices, the establishments run by Mother Teresa were more like prisons at best: The patients, if they were well enough to escape, probably would. At worst, they were torture chambers. She’d refuse to give painkillers even to dying patients who were suffering unbearable pain. Instead of using painkillers, she’d comfort patients by saying, “You are suffering, that means Jesus is kissing you.” One poor patient replied, “Then tell your Jesus to stop kissing me.”

Holy Hypocrite

What makes all this worse is the fact that Mother Teresa had the resources to make things better. Estimates of donations reach the millions — even billions — of dollars. Unfortunately, we can never be sure. In the same way that Mother Teresa’s atrocities remain a secret, Missionaries of Charity remains the only charitable organization in India that refuses to reveal how much money they have and how they spend it:

Missionaries doesn’t keep a tab on the financial transactions that take place. No one other than the sisters knows where the money that is donated is spent.

One such sister is Susan Shields, a former member of Mother Teresa’s order for nine and a half years (emphasis mine):

Our bank account was already the size of a great fortune and increased with every postal service delivery. Around $50 million had collected in one checking account in the Bronx… The donations rolled in and were deposited in the bank, but they had no effect on our ascetic lives or on the lives of the poor we were trying to help… For Mother, it was the spiritual well-being of the poor that mattered most. [Hitchens 31]

That million-dollar bank account in the Bronx was only one of the many bank accounts owned by Mother Teresa around the world. She has admitted to establishing 500 convents in over a hundred countries. So it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that Mother Teresa was running a billion-dollar business.

And while the convents and bank accounts benefit from more donations, her hospices remain unfit even for the poorest of the poor — definitely unfit for a billionaire like Mother Teresa. Instead of using one of her own establishments when she herself got sick, she flew first class on Air India to a clinic in the United States.

This hypocrisy pervades her entire order. Dr. Collette Livemore, once known as Sister Tobit, served as a Missionary of Charity for eleven years. But she was disillusioned by many experiences, such as one that she had in Manila (emphasis mine):

One day, when we were having afternoon tea, there was an urgent knock at the door. The portress reported, “A little boy is having trouble breathing.” I started to get up because I had access to the Tahanan medicines and thought I should go to help.

“Sit down, Tobit [Livemore], there is no hurry. We are not running an emergency hospital,” the superior reminded me. I thought to myself, Is afternoon tea more important than assisting the boy and giving comfort to his parents? Yet I obediently waited until after tea to get some salbutamol to relieve his distress. [Livemore 105]

Order of Obedience

Livemore continued to struggle. “I still did not fully accept that obedience to our superior considered more important than our service to the poor.” But she continued trying to help despite the order’s strict rules. Once, she tried to aid a dying child but was scolded for it because no new admissions were supposed to be made on a Thursday. For actions like these, she was removed from an important position.

You had to keep quiet, you had to suppress your intellect. Mother said that God uses the weak to confound the strong and the unintelligent to confound the knowledgeable, so it was almost lack of faith to try and use your head.

She was replaced by someone who was more obedient and, well, more ignorant:

Some of the superiors in the MCs were thrown into positions of power with little education or preparation, yet they were responsible for hundreds of people and many resources. Because Mother believed that God used the weak to confound the strong and intelligent, the Society acted almost as if preparing someone for a managerial role betrayed a lack of faith. The Society showed the same lack of logic by expecting God to make up for ignorance and lack of training in the medical work.

Despite this, Livemore continued to do her best to help. She believed that “if you see another person suffering, it becomes your business right then and there. You can’t just turn away and pretend that you don’t see.”

Blessed Billionaire

So who should Catholics emulate in serving the poor? I hope you agree: Dr. Collette Livemore would be a far better answer than Mother Teresa. Actually, so would most decent human beings.

Like Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity, the CBCP claims to be on a mission of service to the poor. Both use this claim to collect millions in donations. Both have succeeded. Not in their missions, but in collecting millions.

I encourage all Catholics to ask Mother Teresa to pray for the MC and the CBCP to use their billions in service of the poor. It wouldn’t erase all the evil she committed on Earth, but at least such a miracle would finally make her a saint in Heaven. Unless, of course, the Vatican has an issue with canonizing an atheist.

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CBCP: Church of the Poor or Conference of Pharisees?


Following the way of the Lord, we opt to be a Church of the Poor which demands evangelical poverty of us all, and harness the transformative power of the poor among us towards the justice and love of God in this world.

Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines

I recently wrote an open letter to the CBCP, asking them to donate a billion pesos to the victims of Sendong.

Many agreed with its message, but some protested. The most common response of these CBCP apologists is to challenge me to help the Sendong victims myself — and even drop everything and volunteer in CDO — as if the CBCP would be excused from fulfilling my request if I fail to fulfill theirs.

This kind of argument is a logical fallacy known as tu quoque: “a very common fallacy in which one attempts to defend oneself or another from criticism by turning the critique back against the accuser.”

Another logical fallacy these apologists commit is the straw man — attempting to refute my argument by attacking a position I never had in the first place. In my open letter — and in the follow-up post criticizing second collections held by billionaires — I don’t simply say that the CBCP should donate a billion to Sendong victims just because they could do so.

My position is that the CBCP should do so because if they don’t, they will be inconsistent with their self-identification as a Church of the Poor. In other words, they’ll be hypocrites.

I won’t dignify their straw man – tu quoque combo by telling you how much I’ve donated or how I’ve helped the Sendong victims. But I can assure you that (1) I’ve never claimed to represent God, (2) I am not guided by a mission statement that mandates service to the poor, and (3) I don’t have 18 billion pesos in investments.

The CBCP, on the other hand, claims to represent an all-good God, claims to be a Church of the Poor, and has 18 billion pesos they could use to prove both claims.

And not only are they failing to do what they could and should, they’re asking others to sacrifice — skimping on parties, skipping on fireworks — when they clearly can’t do the same (at least not with their billions).

Good Samaritans or Modern-day Pharisees?

The hypocrisy of the CBCP reminds me of a group of religious leaders in the New Testament known as the Pharisees (emphasis mine):

1 Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: 2 “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. 3 So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. 4 They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.

5 “Everything they do is done for people to see: They make their phylacteries[a] wide and the tassels on their garments long; 6 they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; 7 they love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and to be called ‘Rabbi’ by others.

8 “But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers. 9 And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. 10 Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one Instructor, the Messiah. 11 The greatest among you will be your servant. 12 For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.

Jesus denounced the Pharisees for not practicing what they preach. Don’t the bishops commit the same when they ask Catholics to share their wealth while these bishops hoard theirs?

Jesus denounced the Pharisees for acting like kings with their fancy clothes and important titles such as “Rabbi” and “Father.” How many times have you seen a Catholic kneel before an extravagantly dressed archbishop, respectfully address him as “your excellency” or “the most reverend” or “father,” and kiss the expensive gold ring on his finger?

The billionaires of the CBCP may have failed to follow Jesus’ teaching about selling their riches and serving the poor, but they’re doing an excellent job spreading Jesus’ teaching about the hypocrisy of religious leaders. As they say, the best way to teach is by example.

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Billionaire Archbishop Holds Second Collection for Sendong Victims


Last night, Archbishop Luis Tagle ordered all priests, rectors, and chaplains in Manila to hold a second collection for the victims of Sendong:

“In the spirit of Christian solidarity, I request that a second collection be made at all Masses in all parishes, shrines, and communities in the Archdiocese of Manila from today until Christmas Day,” he said.

This is good news. But when you consider the fact that Manila is the richest archdiocese in the Philippines with P17.26 billion invested in stocks, you have to ask: Shouldn’t they be doing more?

The Billions of Bishop Tagle

For starters, they can sell a fraction of their shares and send money directly to the Archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro and the Diocese of Iligan. As far as I know, these churches aren’t as fortunate to have stock investments of their own.

Anything short of this would cast doubt on Tagle’s statement that the calamity “saddens us and breaks our hearts.” Tagle would also be a hypocrite. How can someone encourage people to have simple Christmas parties or remember “Jesus who became poor” while he has P17 billion he could share?

If he truly wants to “make our Christmas this year more meaningful by our solidarity with each other,” Archbishop Tagle should answer my open letter and donate to the Sendong victims.

I urge all Catholics to remind the clergy of their vow of poverty and mission of charity. Before holding even more second collections, Catholics should demand a first collection from their bishops first.

***

Before giving to that second (and first) collection, please consider visiting these pages to learn how you can really help Sendong victims:

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Open Letter to CBCP: Donate One Billion to the Victims of Sendong


Dear CBCP,

Yesterday, your Pope prayed “for the people without homes and for the many missing,” assuring the victims of his “closeness” to them. I don’t know what he prayed for, but surely he didn’t just ask God for more people to pray for the victims. In addition to spiritual assistance, the Pope probably asked God for people to give material assistance, too.

One of your priests, Fr. Anton Pascual, executive director of Caritas Manila, was more explicit in his request for material assistance:

“In the spirit of Christmas, I am appealing to our countrymen that if they have excess money, they just give it to our countrymen who were affected by the typhoon.”

So in the spirit of Christmas, I humbly ask that you answer the Pope’s prayer and Fr. Pascual’s request by donating to the Sendong victims one billion Pesos.

This should be easy. According to Philippine Stock Exchange records, you have at least 18 billion Pesos invested in various corporations as of July 2011. What is one billion when you’ll have 17 billion left?

Your former president, Oscar Cruz, said in an interview that the 18 billion has been there since the time of the Spanish occupation. If it’s been sitting there unused for so long, every peso invested is just the kind of excess money Fr. Pascual is requesting. Cruz also said that you can’t simply do what you please with the money, implying that donations such as what I’m asking for won’t be that easy.

But recently, former archbishop Rosales allegedly sold more than a million shares of Philex Mining Corporation (PX) in April and May this year to Manny Pangilinan.

Regardless of whether you really did sell stocks to Mr. Pangilinan, it shows us that it’s possible to acquire (and therefore sell) more than a million shares in the span of a couple of months.

With the extent of the damage done by Sendong, recovery will surely take more than a few months — even more than a year — and rebuilding will take millions of pesos. This should give you enough time to sell enough shares to make the one billion peso donation.

Your Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, said: “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven (Matthew 19:21).” Is it so hard to imagine Him telling you to sell some of your stock and give to the victims of Sendong?

He also said that you cannot serve both God and Money (Matthew 6:24). Bishops of CBCP, show us once and for all which is your master. Donate one billion to the Sendong victims and prove that you are truly a Church of the Poor.

Sincerely,
Red Tani

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Blessed are the Poor, said the Billionaire Bishops


Every night, millions of poor Filipinos pray that when they wake up, they’d no longer be poor. Answering these prayers would take nothing short of a miracle. And a miracle, by definition, is highly improbable; just witnessing one is considered a blessing by many.

But a miracle might just be what Romulo Macalintal has performed. Together with Lito Atienza, Macalintal led a campaign to replace the vehicles returned by Catholic bishops in the wake of the recent PCSO scandal. In less than two weeks of fundraising, donations exceeded a million pesos.

But it’s not the amount of donations that I consider miraculous. Nor is it the fact that they were collected in less than half a month. The fact that Macalintal managed to convince so many that the bishops needed money — now that’s a miracle.

Because as friend and fellow RH advocate Elizabeth Angsioco pointed out, the bishops are filthy rich:

Based on Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE) 7 July 2011 records, their holdings in these corporations are now worth a whopping P18,040,238,371.80.

There are a few more minor holdings that are not included here and many more corporations can be examined. Even without touching the RCC’s real estate properties (which are surely worth many billions), and its highly profitable businesses like schools and hospitals, it is quite clear that the RCC as a church, as well as its various entities are FILTHY RICH.

What 18 billion can buy

18 billion Pesos. That’s 18 thousand pesos multiplied by a million. Or 18 million pesos multiplied by a thousand. No matter how I put it, few Filipinos can fathom what it means to have such a huge amount. Maybe it will be easier to understand in terms of what the bishops can buy with all that money.

Consider the Araneta Coliseum. It can hold 15 to 16 thousand people. Picture every seat in every row occupied by a person, from ringside to general admission. With 18 billion pesos, the Catholic bishops can afford to give every person in a packed Araneta Coliseum their own SUV[1]. To be exact, the bishops can buy 15,272 SUVs[2].

If the bishops can afford this much, why did they have to ask PCSO for SUVs? Whatever the reason, it wouldn’t be the only time a bishop asked for something he could have paid for himself.

In Cagayan, the Archdiocese of Tuguegarao asked PCSO for money to pay for the operational expenses of a retirement home for priests. The PCSO gave them P200,000 plus an unknown amount for “finishing touches” on the renovation of the said retirement home. Forget about the fact that this is a clear violation of our Constitution and PCSO’s charter and consider this: Although P200,000 is no small amount, it’s nothing compared to the more than P100 million pesos the Bishop of Tuguegarao has invested in San Miguel and Ayala. With that P100+ million, the bishop could pay for the operation of 500 retirement homes, and he’d still have several million left.

Anyone can use a calculator and plug in the values, but I think there’s something wrong with Atienza’s arithmetic:

“We can do this quickly. If 8,000 Catholics donate P1,000, we could have the P8 million. If 16,000 give P500 or 32,000 donate P250, we could also reach that amount,” said Atienza

Atienza, who helped launch the Piso Para sa Obispo campaign in Cebu, can do the Math. But there’s something wrong when you divide the burden of raising P8 million among poorer people, especially when the beneficiary can afford to give P8 million each to 2,250 people (18B/8M).

The sin of obscene wealth

Surely if there’s anyone that should be doing the donating, it’s the Catholic bishops. Instead, they keep their billions invested where all it does is make the bishops even more rich. Angsioco discovered that from May to July of this year, the value of the bishops’ investments appreciated by P567 million. When Atienza said you can be sure that what you give to the church comes back to you (“Kapag nagbigay ka naman kasi sa simbahan, alam mong babalik din sa iyo”), he might have been referring to the stock market.

And while the billionaire bishops become even richer, millions remain poor and hungry. An organization that claims moral ascendancy should find something wrong with this picture, especially one that calls itself pro poor. Apparently it’s not only wrong — it’s a mortal sin:

The Vatican has revised the traditional Catholic “Seven Deadly Sins” with new ones, including “being obscenely wealthy.” Monsignor Gianfranco Girotti, head of the Apostolic Penitentiary, announced the new sins in an interview published on March 10, 2008, in LOsservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper… Bishop Girotti explained that the sin of obscene wealth consists of “the excessive accumulation of wealth by a few.”

Are the billionaire bishops guilty of “excessive accumulation of wealth by a few”? When a few people have enough money to give SUVs to 15,272 people, the answer is obvious. And the bishops owe society a lot. Obviously, I’m not suggesting that the bishops start giving away Pajeros. All I’m saying is that if you’re really pro-poor, you should be the ones giving to the poor, not the other way around. The question is, Have the bishops accumulated wealth so that they could be pro-poor? Or have they pretended to be pro-poor so that they could accumulate wealth?

The problem of evil

Anyway, let’s correct Atienza’s Mathematical mistake and see how much we can divide the bishops’ P18 billion among the people who really need it. According to a recent Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey, 15.1 percent of Filipinos (14.2 million) are hungry and 2 percent of Filipinos (around 1.88 million) are severely hungry, having nothing to eat often or always. The billionaire bishops can feed all hungry Filipinos for more than a month. If they chose to help only the 1.88 million who are severely hungry, the bishops can provide food for more than nine months [3].

The billionaire bishops are in a position to perform a real miracle in the Philippines. For more than a month, they can end hunger; for almost one year, they can put an end to severe hunger. The bishops are able. But as Epicurus asked in his early formulation of the problem of evil, “Are the bishops able but not willing?”

***

[1]
Assuming the average price of the 7 vehicles given to the bishops

[2]
P18B = value of stocks owned by CBCP and other Catholic organizations
Cost of 7 SUVs (Sacred Utility Vehicle) given to bishops = P8.25M
P18B / P8.25M x 7 = 15272.72727

[3]
Population of the Philippines = 94M
94M x .151 = 14.2M = hungry Filipinos
94M x .02 = 1.88M = severely hungry Filipinos
P974 = how much a Filipino needed in 2009 to meet his/her monthly food needs according to the National Statistical Coordination Board
P974 x 1.88M = P1.83B = amount needed to feed severely hungry Filipinos for a month
P18B / P1.83B/mth = 9.83 months = months the bishops can afford to feed severely hungry Filipinos
P974 x 14.2M  = P13.83B = amount needed to feed hungry Filipinos

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