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MANILA, Philippines – Hiring of priests or religious ministers by a government body is prohibited under the law, the Commission on Audit (COA) reiterated.
In its report, the auditing body reminded the Capiz State University (CapSU) in the Visayas that the hiring of a priest, minister, preacher, pastor or any member of a religious sect for a government entity such as a state university is banned under section 29 (2) of article VI of the 1987 Constitution.
The constitutional provision states: “No public money or property shall be appropriated, applied, paid or employed, directly or indirectly, for the use, benefit, or support of any sect, church, denomination, sectarian institution, or system of religion, or of any priest, preacher, minister, or other religious teacher, or dignitary, as such, except when such priest, preacher, minister, or dignitary is assigned to the armed forces, or to any penal institution, or government orphanage or leprosarium.”
“While we recognize the role of the priests, ministers, preachers, pastors or other religious teachers in the spiritual development of the students, we would like to reiterate the prohibition against appropriation for sectarian benefits as provided in Sec. 29 (2), Article VI of the 1987 Constitution,” the COA added.
According to the records obtained by the COA, the state university hired a priest through a contract of service, with P20,000 compensation a month, which he received between March 16 to December 31, 2022. With this, the state auditors ordered CapSU to refund the wages they paid to their “multi-faith director.”
Aside from this, the COA also recommended to the university’s management to discontinue the hiring of the priest and other religious leaders.
The CapSU management, in its reaction on the COA’s observation, explained that the university has a responsibility to ensure overall development of its students under Republic Act No. 8044 or The Youth in Nation Building Act. The university added that their hiring of the priest was part of their response to the “many cases of suicide” by their students, which were attributed to “depression, emotional, relational, and personal problems including detachment from spirituality.”
However, the auditing body refuted the university’s response, saying that the law cited was about the creation of the National Youth Commission, which is mandated to implement youth-related programs, projects, and activities.
Under the priest’s description, he was tasked in the preparation of annual multi-faith activities, organizing spiritual wellness activities, and celebrate monthly masses, among others. However, the COA said the priest’s duties do not qualify him as a consultant who is expected to provide a learning service or a technical expertise.
In his daily time records, the priest also identified himself as “Rev. Fr.” and a university chaplain – inconsistent with the priest’s contract, the COA noted. The auditing body also flagged the signing of contract: the priest started rendering service on March 16, 2022, but the contract was undated and only notarized on May 31 of the same year. – Rappler.com