Counterproposal: Don’t tax quality schools



HOUSE Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez apparently wants the government to tax the income that Catholic schools are generating from tuition and other fees(“Speaker wants income of Catholic schools taxed,” Philippine Star, March 7, 2017). In so doing, he has asked the Bureau of Internal Revenue to study how the government can collect taxes from schools run by religious institutions.

Apparently, the Speaker has been irked by the position of certain schools against a proposed bill.

But Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III told lawmakers that charitable institutions such as religious schools are exempt from paying taxes. He quoted Article VI, Section 28 of the Constitution:

“Charitable institutions, churches and convents, mosques, non-profit cemeteries, and all lands, buildings, improvements actually, directly and exclusively used for religious, charitable or educational purposes shall be exempt from taxation.” We thank Finance Secretary Dominguez for pointing this out.

The Constitution is in fact more explicit for non-stock, non-profit schools.

“All revenues and assets of non-stock, non-profit educational institutions used actually, directly, and exclusively for educational purposes shall be exempt from taxes and duties” (Art. XIV, Sec 3). The provision is self-executory.

The same article further states: “Subject to conditions prescribed by law, all grants, endowments, donations, or contribution used actually, directly and exclusively for educational purposes shall be exempt from tax” (Art. XIV, Sec. 4).

Revenues of non-stock non-profit schools, as all 1,500 member schools of the Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines (CEAP) are, do not go to the pockets of individual investors, but are plowed back to improve the educational operation of the school. The quality of these Catholic schools, among the best in the country, is supported by the private students and patrons of the schools.

In the recent Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) Survey, eight Philippine universities made it to the top 350 in Asia. Of these, one was a state university, another was Protestant-Christian, and six were Catholic universities.

I think it is time to stop bad-mouthing private and Catholic schools for the contribution they are making to Philippine education. Long before the public schools were instituted in the Philippines, respectable Catholic schools were operating. Among these were the University of Santo Tomas (1611), the Ateneo de Manila University (1859) and the Universidad de Sta. Isabel (1867). They operate first and foremost to provide quality Catholic education to their students.

They have operated primarily on the basis of private funds and private support, even though their contribution to quality education for the country is a common good that government ought to fund more.

This is the basis for their tax exemption.

As our Constitution mandates: “The State shall protect and promote the right of all citizens to quality education at all levels and shall take appropriate steps to make such education accessible to all” (Art. XIV, Sec. 1).

“The State shall (1) establish, maintain and support a complete, adequate, and integrated system of education relevant to the needs of the people and society” (Art. XIV, Sec. 2[1]).

Finally, “The State recognizes the complementary roles of public and private institutions in the educational system…”

The non-stock, non-profit Catholic schools are contributing to the Philippine system of quality education for all for which the State is ultimately responsible.

The rationale for their tax exemption is not that they are serving the poor, even though the majority of CEAP’s schools serve the poor directly, but because they are contributing to a Philippine educational system of quality for which the State has ultimate responsibility.

The rationale for the tax exemption is not because higher education supports every position that the national leadership may propose, but to support communities of competent thinkers who can take positions critically and contribute to articulating the imperatives of the common good.

Were the non-stock, non-profit Catholic schools not to operate, the direct educational costs for the State would increase dramatically. Indeed, were the for-profit schools not to operate, the educational costs for the State would increase accordingly.

Rather than tax non-stock, non-profit schools, prohibited by the Constitution, remove taxes on all quality schools, even for-profit schools.

For this is not simply a matter of cost. It is a matter of supporting the Philippine educational system in such manner that the output is of quality. Essential to quality is critical thought. We want our educational communities—public and private—to take their reflected positions on the death penalty, the war on drugs, the peace processes, historical revisionism, the environment, corruption, and on the demands of right and wrong. Otherwise, we do not want education.

I ask the good Speaker to support quality education.

The author is the president of the Ateneo de Davao University and the Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines (CEAP), and the chair of the Coordinating Council of Private Education Educational Associations (COCOPEA).



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  1. diego solises on

    Catholic schools are there for a long time and enjoying their perks so they can charge a lot more to the students (willing parents to outlay large amount of tuition fees).
    If they are really good and they have quality of education, why is our country still in a rot?
    I dont really think these schools contribute to nation building.
    They are more of a hindrance in promoting our country with quality graduates.
    Have you ever applied for a job and the company ask you whether you graduated from any of those catholic colleges and universities?
    Lets change the constitution and start charging taxes. Lets stop them from growing and growing at the expense of the whole country.

  2. Luzy Canilao on

    Competent thinkers ba Father ang pino produce ng mga mamahalin ninyong schools? E mga burgis lang naman ang produkto ninyo. Mga graduates na preferred ng mag oligarchs sa kanilang mga kompanya. Mga graduates na malayo ang puso sa masa, mga corrupt. Mga eskwelahan ninyo Father mga burgis na, mga ipokrito pa.Tapos libre pa kayo sa buwis? Ang swerte ninyo talaga? Is that the way you live out the goodnews of Jesus? Mga salot kayo sa gobierno. Dina nga kayo nakakatulong e obstructionists pa kayo. Ni katiting di ninyo naiintindihan ang magpatakbo ng gobierno e pakialemero pa kayo. Nagdudunungdunungan e puro puna lang ang alam; mahiya kayo at di naman Diyos ang nirerepresent ninyo sa lupa kundi ang mga mapang api. Kayo yun! Kahit sa harap ninyo e sasabihin ko ito sa iyo, kasi bulag kayo. Akala ninyo kayo lang ang may karapatan sa dunong, sa kabutihan at sa kabanalan. Mapanghusga kayo, dun kayo magaling, kaya kayo sarado ang isipan at mga bulag. Gusto lang ninyo ay kabig ng kabig pagdating sa hirap ng pagbabayad ng buwis dami ninyong justifications. Unfair kayo! Sobra!

  3. Amnata Pundit on

    What do you expect from a churchman if not a self serving suggestion such as this? Puro kabig, walang tulak. Kung may tulak man, holy water lang at spiritual salvation kuno. After 500 years, its clear to anybody with half a brain that this Church is a total failure in moral guidance which is just another term for spiritual salvation. Where the Church is spectacularly successful is in acquiring immense wealth and power. To be rich and powerful is the real goal, and salvation is only the cover. These parasites deserve the all-time Nobel Prize for their 2000year old business model. God, how long do we have to endure these Luciferian Hypocrites?

  4. Actually, the Catholic Church should also be taxed since you meddle in political affairs so there is no separation of church and state. Plus, I know that each parochial church send money to the Vatican and that is the reason why this small city which has become a country in itself and autonomous is rich. It is like an OFW remitting money to his/her native land. All Catholic churches worldwide remit to the Vatican. It is better that you remit to the Philippine government since the money came from Filipino citizens. Anyway, it is because of Catholicism that we have so many poor children to feed. So tax the Catholic Church and use that money to pay for programs to feed poor children since the Catholic Church and Catholic mayors block the implementation of the RH Law.

  5. Ramon Gloria on

    Of course the Cory constitution supports the Catholic schools! Cory Aquino handpicked the people who wrote the constitution and a prominent member of that group was a priest from Ateneo. Cory’s family also owns a big private university (FEU). They made sure to protect their own interests at our expense! Education is a BIG business and exclusive schools charge the highest fees in the country. These Catholic schools have been supporting destabilization acts against a duly elected government so that they can keep protecting and promoting their selfish interests. The next constitution should ensure fair taxation for all, especially these filthy rich university owners. Justice is not served when the millions of ordinary Filipino employees get taxed for the little that they earn while the rich university owners are tax exempt.

    • Agree, these so wealthy catholic schools of the rich are always there when the yellows need destabilization crowd (using students).

    • Tama! At kung alam niyo lang saan galing salitang “switik” o “heswitik” sa Jeswita at prayle na sobrang gulang, lalo na mga Atenista S.J. na iniba-iba ang RP konstitusyon pabor sa pansariling interest. Pilit na pilit na kasama sila sa palakad ng gobyerno-politika, pati sa pagiba-iba ng konstitisyon representante sila.

      Kaya kung susundin ang “No taxation with representation,” dapat din

      “No representation without taxation” sa mga negosyong Simbahan na panay pamumulitika din.

  6. it is about time that you folks are taxed, just like all the other businesses. private, non-religious schools are non-tax-exempt, why should you be? your schools mostly serve the rich and the powerful. they have more than enough money to give to you (money which you use to perpetuate your power more than better the educational system). the taxes collected from you can then be used to fund the poor public school system, where money is most needed.

    you always try to separate yourselves from the rest. you are not gods – enough is enough.