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Thursday, July 20, 2017 26° Cloudy

‘Bishop Mulong’ from the frontiers of faith

Published

by John Tria

As he slowly takes over as president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines by December 1, Davao Archbishop Romulo Valles takes over the helm of the shepherd of the country’s almost 90 million Catholics at a time when faith, as a whole faces severe tests.

It is the changing of the guard in more ways than we can imagine. Taking over from the Manila-bred Socrates Villegas, Bishop “Mulong,” as he is fondly referred to, once served as archbishop of Zamboanga, and bears decades of experience as the leader of Mindanao’s flocks engulfed in long-standing conflict, deep in poverty despite relative natural wealth, and away from the peddling and trading of political influence in more cosmopolitan Manila.

As a frontier priest, he brings with him a folksiness honed by years in the “bukid,” and an articulate, pragmatic theological grounding tempered by the compassion for people who do not share the same faith, in a Catholic Church that is not the clear majority, nor has cultural or political sway on the daily lives of the various cultures in his diocese, at least not as much as his Luzon counterparts.

His ways are honed in the need for a grassroots church, where faith is shared and shines in smaller, humbler spaces,  unlike the large cathedrals and affluent and influential constituencies whose sensibilities require constant pleasing.

This is a man unafraid to be his congenial yet at times frank self in front of others. He is equally comfortable with the high-minded and moneyed, and with those with less as well as the lost. His homilies bring theology down to individual hearts, encouraging even the cynical to look through love’s eyes, build a critical conscience, and cultivate an alternative viewpoint. This is all daunting when you consider the how easily our differences.

With this, he enjoys the strong respect of Imams and non-Catholic pastors, and bears the credibility needed to spark important and necessary dialogue to foster the kind of critical unity we need in the time of threats like illegal drugs and ISIS terrorism. His recent visit to Muslim areas of Davao to greet them on the end of Ramadhan illustrate that warmth.

Perhaps in the man we find the kind of prelate we need, to help us discover deeper meaning in today’s confusions, comfort amid strife, and grace behind the pain.

Upon his election as CBCP president, he brings all of these to bear personifies the call of the President in last year’s SONA, ”Let us not hate each other too much.”

***

Finally, better revenue collections, and the Tax Academy.

In the midst of the need to improve our tax collections and the need to continue plugging loopholes and removing unecessary discretion that only tempts corruption, the Department of Finance has announced the creation of the long-overdue tax academy.

It is inspiring that even with current regulations, our revenue collections in the first 10 months of this new administration, reached P2.09 trillion. If this trend continues, the future bodes well for us, since, unlike in the past, government now has a better capacity to collect what is needed to fund our more than P3-trillion annual budget.

Past governments were plagued with underspending and undercollection, and the Henares led BIR was particular about strict collection.

The problem, however, was that our fixed income earners bore the brunt of the tax effort, since these are witheld from their.paychecks. Actual direct progressive tax collection (from the rich) was always a problem, since the bigger portion that could have been earned is often uncollected.

Effective collection lessens the need for additional taxes, and may also lead to the lowering of the VAT. Thus, the need for well-trained BIR personnel that can better meet revenue targets.

Perhaps the DOF can also set up a satellite campus in the Visayas and Mindanao to train our collectors. We just wonder why despite a law creating it, the previous Daang Matuwid government failed to at least implement the Tax Academy. We wonder why.

***

Congrats to the DBP our “Infra Bank.”

Congratulations are in order to our Development Bank of the Philippines  for bagging three international awards on infrastructure during the Asset AAA Asian Infrastructure Awards held in Hong Kong on June 28, 2017.

DBP won the Transport Deal of the Year for the Philippines award and Regional Overall award for the Light Rail Manila Corporation’s P24-billion project loan facility for the Light Rail Transit 1 (LRT1) PPP tendered by the Department of Transportation where the bank, through its Investment Banking Department, acted as co-financial advisor to the government.

Does this mean the DBP will lead in financing our Mindanao Railway? We hope.

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