Sunday, February 12, 2012

Palace ties with Iglesia Ni Kristo strained?

Malacanang has just denied what was spreading about in buzz circles for a week now. Buzz says that President Aquino sent his most trusted man, Budget secretary Florencio "Butch" Abad to see Ka Eduardo Manalo, the Spiritual Executive Minister of the 8-million strong religious organisation. Manalo, it was told, politely told Abad that he does not want to see Noynoy's emissary. After that humiliation, Noynoy reportedly ordered BIR chief Henares to investigate alleged "tax liabilities" of the INC as well as put under investigation, officials and members of the largest Philippine-based religious group.

There are several things wrong in this tale. First, how can the BIR investigate the Iglesia Ni Kristo about "tax liabilities" when it does not pay tax to government. It is said in the Constitution that religious groups are exempted from payment of taxes. Article 6 of the 1987 Constitution reads:

Section 28. (1) The rule of taxation shall be uniform and equitable. The Congress shall evolve a progressive system of taxation.
(2) The Congress may, by law, authorize the President to fix within specified limits, and subject to such limitations and restrictions as it may impose, tariff rates, import and export quotas, tonnage and wharfage dues, and other duties or imposts within the framework of the national development program of the Government.
(3) Charitable institutions, churches and parsonages or convents appurtenant thereto, mosques, non- profit cemeteries, and all lands, buildings, and improvements, actually, directly, and exclusively used for religious, charitable, or educational purposes shall be exempt from taxation.
(4) No law granting any tax exemption shall be passed without the concurrence of a majority of all the Members of the Congress.

Notice that what is exempted from payment of taxes are real property taxes owned by the religious institution, not the institution itself. Hence, members of the church are still asked to pay their income taxes to the government. 

Rentals accrued for example by the religious institution and deemed part of their "profit", is also submit to taxes.

I don't believe however, that this humongous religious group has tax liabilities. The INC is a billion dollar religious organisation. Besides, its members are law-abiding citizens of this country. There is no way that its members or the church leadership would actually encourage the non-payment of government obligations.

Now, on the news that INC officials are now under surveillance, let me say, for the record, that this "practice" has been part of politics since time immemorial. This is not as "shocking" as what others believe or what others intend to establish.

Every single religious leader or group in this country has been surveilled already by political groups. This is for the purposes of elections. 

WHAT I'M CERTAIN IS--There is really a strain in the relationship of the Church with that of the Aquino administration for reasons other than this Corona impeachment trial. I am definitely sure that the Church leadership would actually risk its good relationship with the administration before just because of Corona. Corona is a non-factor.

Now, what are these issues about---I'll tell you some other time.