Brothers and sisters, the Catholic social teachings said that the duty of achieving the so-called common good isn’t only borne on our shoulders. This must be expected in our current State because common good is the focus of political authority. In other words, the welfare of all—not the interest of some—must be prioritized by our leaders in every step they take.
We wish to think that our government truly focuses on the good of all Filipinos whenever they borrow additional funds to bolster our resources in addressing the needs of the public. Did you know that in June this year, the Philippines’ debt has reached over P9 trillion? If we are to write this down, the number ‘9’ is followed by twelve zeroes. Astonishing, isn’t it? This amount of debt includes the loans made by previous administrations, but a large portion of this debt—or P6.2 trillion—came from domestic investors. With this amount, P1.1 trillion was lent within the first six months of 2020, during the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. The remaining debt of P2.9 trillion were from foreign lenders, and it’s good that the value of the peso is strong that the amount of our debt didn’t further inflate. We also have debts in the pipeline from the Asian Development Bank and World Bank, amounting to P216.3 billion.
Out of the P9 trillion debt, P2.5 trillion was borrowed by the Duterte administration. And like what is expected, our loans have increased because of our need to address the challenges brought about by the pandemic, like providing financial allowances for poor families, purchasing the well-needed equipment and supplies for hospitals, and implementing programs with the aim to stop the spread of the deadly disease. The temporary or indefinite closing of many businesses did not help because of the reduced collection of taxes. Nevertheless, those who track government loans like Moody’s, S&P, and Fitch Ratings are confident that our country will be able to pay its debts. This is good news, and hopefully our government can help maintain the strength of our economy amid the crisis being endured by the whole world.
However, as citizens who pay our taxes, we need to know where our loans go, especially during this pandemic. With the enormous amount of loans our government has made to respond to this pandemic, why haven’t we conducted mass testing and aggressive contact tracing that we need to reduce the spread of Covid-19? Why are there hospitals still lacking protective equipment for their frontliners? Did the government buy overpriced protective gear with the money? Why did locally stranded individuals squeeze themselves in a sports stadium? And why hasn’t the provision of allowances for those affected by the dwindling economy continued? How much was spent to have a fast Internet connection for the students this coming school year?
Brothers and sisters, we are reminded in the book of the Romans 13:7 to “Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.” This is part of our responsibility in achieving the common good. Our government, which collects and manages our taxes, must also be transparent in informing us on how they are using the nation’s funds, including what we borrowed in the name of the people.
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