..CATHOLIC church officials expressed objections to the bill that requires government offices to follow the constitutional provision on the freedom of religion.
The Dilaab Foundation, a church-based group, described the bill as “short-sighted, discriminatory and un-Filipino.”
Fr. Carmelo Diola of Dilaab said House Bill 6330 or the Religious Freedom in Government Offices Act, filed by Kabataan Party-list Rep. Raymond Palatino, “seeks to relegate religion and the church into the purely private sphere, making them irrelevant in public life.”
Cebu Archbishop Emeritus Ricardo Cardinal urged congressmen to consult the people before making laws, especially those concerning religion.
Archbishop Emeritus Oscar Cruz criticized Palatino for filing the bill while many Filipinos live in poverty.
“It’s a good advertisement if you really want to run for higher office. People will talk about you and, before you know it, you’ll become better known. In that regard, I admire him. I think it is a very good strategy,” he said.
In the bill, Palatino cited Section 5 of the Philippine Constitution’s Bill of Rights, which states that “the free exercise and enjoyment of religious profession and worship, without discrimination or preference, shall forever be allowed.”
He said the State should not be seen to favor one religion over the other, which is why the bill seeks to ban religious rites and the display of religious symbols in government offices and public property.
Members of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines oppose the bill, saying 80 percent of the country’s population belongs to the Catholic church.
Vidal said Cebuanos, in particular, are sensitive to matters concerning the Sto. Niño.
“Everybody should know that the devotion to Sto. Niño has entered the culture of Cebuanos. If you touch that, you will be touching the culture of Cebuanos,” Vidal said.
He recalled then PNP 7 Chief Jose Andaya who met strong opposition when he ordered the removal of Sto. Niño images from all police stations in the early 1990s.
“Majority of our employers and employees are Catholics. The small crucifix and a short prayer will remind them to be good, honest and just employers and employees. It has many positive and advantageous results. I hope our legislators will be more discreet,” Jaro Archbishop Angel Lagdameo said.
Cubao Bishop Honesto Ongtioco said that since majority of Filipinos are Catholics, “they should be respected in expressing their belief.”
Diola said religion is a positive influence in society and very much part of the Filipino culture.
“It is part of who we are. Religion provides ultimate values from which the state derives ethical and spiritual boundaries. Without it, the state becomes a free for all,” Diola said.
“We call on all Christians and Muslims to resist this move,” he added.
In Cebu, many government offices have religious images and many gatherings, such as seminars and meetings, begin with a prayer.
Businessman Bobby Joseph, also consul general for Latvia, said the bill is unpopular because religion is part of the Filipino culture. (Sunnex)