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?”


Assuming the average price of the 7 vehicles given to the bishops

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

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


  1. “Investments and hypocrisy of the CBCP 101”

    There is a big difference between Savings and Investments. In Savings, one has to store the money in a safe place, leave it, and get it back after a period of time when needed. In Savings, the money is supposed not to grow for profit but banks give interests for incentives. In Investments, the money is used intentionally for profit by owning shares, stocks, equities, commodity options, or other of such. One has ownership from procuring. Profits come in the form of selling the ownership at a mark up price, thus one has capital gains. Profits can also be acquired from interests, and/or from dividends. Another way of making money in Investments is by lending the money with interest in the form of bonds. Risk is always involved in Investments. There is no guarantee in making profits in Investments. One may loose everything, just like gambling.

    It is important to see Investments as a form of business, a far cry from Savings.

    Now, if the Archdioceses are using the parishioner’s money they are collecting every Sunday for Investments, isn’t it unethical and immoral. It is more likely to perceive it as a Mortal Sin. Being a stockholder is part owner of the said companies they are associated with.

    For the rabid CBCP fans, isn’t it that you are taken for a ride by hypocrites.

  2. Filipinos as close to about 100Million

    Now devide that 18 billion.

    It’s not enough.

    SUVs are needed for operations in going to rural areas.

    Their investment in the PSE is good because it helps the economy and they are wise to think long term because they just cannot rely on tithing for continued operation of their Charitable Institutions, employees they pay , etc.

  3. The reason why the CBCP has a lot of money in investments is to sustain their livelihood programs.
    >> P18 Billion x 10% interest per year = 1.8 Billion of PASSIVE INCOME EACH YEAR.

    If CBCP were to donate ALL of their money right now. How will they support their programs the year after?

    This is precisely the kind of thinking that makes Pinoy's poor. Isang kahig isang tuka – hindi marunong mag ipon. Now what you're saying is that it's the fault of the church just because they know how to save, manage and invest their money? All of a sudden financial literacy became a BAD THING (just because it's the church who's doing it…)

  4. Mali pa ang tinitira… 'if the CBCP is the church…" The CBCP is not the Church, the Church is the Catholic Church the CBCP is the conference of bishops, it has administrative oversight of all bishops in the Philippines, it is not the Church! It does not control the money of each diocese. Each diocese controls it's own resources. Those resources as what Tani alleges is not wholly owned by the diocese. Many of those are trust shares and legacy shares specifically conditioned for certain uses. I already dealt with this kind of cr-p before/ While churches, priests and many of the faithful were busy, this is what this idiot is doing, sowing lies! That is why no one bothers with you fellows!

    • //That is why no one bothers with you fellows! //

      And yet you took the time to necro the comments of an article that's over a year old. 😉

  5. The Catholic Church in the Philippines has more than P18B pesos. According to this article (… ), the Church has millions of pesos of stock holdings in BPI, San MIguel Corp, and even in a mining company Philex that the Church is against. These are just investments which make money. The ones used for expenses are still separate. Indeed the Church is rich! They should give more to the poor who they claim to serve.

  6. This is obsolete topic! He he he… nobody saw what the church do? Or what they capable of doing? Do we need to review what the spanish did to us?!!! Are we all morons? Christianity is somekind of ideology used by spain to gain territories. In modern days the kind of idea used by communist to brainwash the mind of the people. The saying that “if you cannot defy them join them”, is true to all the filipinos suffered under spain. After 300 hundred years of spanish cruelty & another hundred years free of spanish rule we still don’t realized what really happened to us!? Well we need to accept the fact that all nations that had been under spanish rule before are corrupt. Fate is an easy money. Just pick all the homeless, the sick and the olds and ask for donations… In the future humanity will realized that the greatest lie of the world are Christianity & other religions. Further more, who invented to worship God? The Jews? Who’s the chosen people of that fate? The Jews? Who invented Islam? The Arabs. Who’s the chosen people of their fate? The Arabs. I sometimes temted to convert to Rizalism to be the God’s chosen race of this planet… We are trained and programed by our community & our parents to afraid to talk against the church and our fate. The priests are accepting donations everday and if things turned upside down how much the church are willing to give in retun for the dedicated believers? He he he… it seemed to me that they are also selling the “grace of the lord”. But despite of this hatred I’m just human. I also doing a sign of cross everytime I go to bed or to take chances… it’s already embedded in my brain “hardware”. He he he, I mean my neurons.

  7. Who has control over how the billions of our archdioceses are spent? And how do you calculate how much goes to the Vatican?

    I think we need to know the process for the sake of transparency.

  8. To paraphrase Epicurus:

    Is the CBCP willing to help the poor, but not able?
    – Then what the hell is that 18 Billion pesos of accumulated donations for?

    Are they able, but not willing?
    – Then they are evil

    Are they both able and willing?
    – Then why are there still starving poor Catholics in the Philippines?

    Are they neither able nor willing?
    – Then why are you still even listening to them?

  9. There are a lot of ways to sustainable help people with 18Billion. education programs that grant loans and easy job placement. Such education or retraining programs for many adults allowing them to quickly shift career to that is more in demand in the forseeable future, will need to allow them to maintain a cost of living. The money can go to training facilities, complete with temporary homes for the adults of a family. A highly regimented training course can output professionals faster than current education system. Creating professionals like IT Lvl1 from scratch (from a typically 5th grade educated person) at about 6-8 month, and the means for IT Lvl 2 onward with additional courses in 2 months of the year while On-the-Job.

    18B need not be spent without getting it back with profit, through proper financing and strategic allocation. It can save many of the poor now.

    Note that outside Beths calculations is the large amounts of religious lands from the friar days, more than 50% of all haciendas went to financing the church in 19th century (source Roots of Dependency by Jonathan Fast). note that the RCC can sell this land and unlike every other land owner they don't get Land taxes 🙁

    So the Church has the capability to provide even LAND to help all these people.

    at a 18B project and all those TAX free "powers" any person with a management or financing background can do hella-alot of good in a span of 6mo. and even produce 10,000 new and relevant professionals in that span of time out of the poor and struggling. I can name a number of people who can min/max those resources to a lot of good and even earn a return which will allow such good to perpetuate. Given enough time for permanent assets to be built, later-in-life professional schools and enhanced basic ed can have a perpetualizing output of 30k professionals a year, and 2M secondary ed meeting world standards in math and science. (Id just plug in Khan Academy Servers on legacy computers or netbooks which has automated math training allowing a teacher to handle their current load of 60students with much greater performance.

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