The Catholic Republic of the Philippines

Buencamino is a fellow of Action for Economic Reforms. This was published in the March 2, 2011 edition of the Business Mirror, page A6.

“Give the church a place in the Constitution, let her touch once more the sword of power, and the priceless fruit of all ages will turn to ashes on the lips of men” – Robert Green Ingersoll

Thank God Muntinglupa City struck down the Barangay Ayala Alabang resolution turning its village into an artificial contraceptives-free zone.

The city council reminded the barangay officials that we live in a secular democratic republic.  It said, “The intention and the spirit behind the barangay ordinance are beyond reproach. The body’s concern, however, remains in your mandate as elected officials of all constituents in your barangay, regardless of faith and creed…we encourage you to continue exalting the benefits of natural family planning methods in various fora, without, however, infringing on the right of other individuals who may hold a different view and on their access to the other family planning methods allowed by law.”

“Are you happy now?” asked my pro-life friend from Alabang.

“Yes,” I replied. “Muntinglupa City did the right thing. The barangay ordinance violated the constitutional rights of Alabang residents, both Catholics and non-Catholics, so it had to be struck down.”

He looked at me like I was the anti-Christ. I told him the Alabang ordinance would be okay if the Philippines were a theocratic state run by the Catholic church.

“What do you have against the Catholic church?” he asked.

“Nothing,” I replied. “As a matter of fact, I respect the church’s right to oppose the RH Bill.”

“But you are critical of the bishops who are organizing protest rallies against the RH Bill.”

“No, protest rallies are okay. We live in a democracy. What I’m against is when bishops threaten to overthrow the president if he signs the RH Bill into law.”

“What do you mean?” he asked.

“I mean like Bishop Teodoro Bacani telling a crowd of protesters, ‘Minsan pa lang nangyari sa kasaysayan ng CBCP sa loob ng 50 nakaraang taon na nagpahayag ang mga obispong Pilipino na unanimous sila. Yun po ay bago mag-EDSA 1, bago mag-people power revolution. We strongly reject the RH bill and we are unanimous…Siguro naman po, mas gugustuhin ni President Aquino na may people power na kakampi niya kaysa kalaban niya’. I think he crossed the line on that one.”

“We are fighting for what we believe,” he replied.

“Okay, suppose the bill becomes law and you call for the ouster of the president and you succeed, then what will stop you from doing it again to another president who signs a bill that is against your religious beliefs?”

“I doubt if we’ll see another president defying the Church,” he said.

“That’s what scares me, the Philippines becoming a theocratic state.”

“Aren’t you overstating things a bit?” he asked.

“No, because the Church, if it succeeds in toppling a government over an issue involving faith, will henceforth have veto power over matters that it finds un-Catholic. It can set the parameters on what subsequent governments can or cannot do.”

“The Church is the guardian of morals,” he replied.

“Only over Catholics,” I pointed out.

“Well, the Philippines is predominantly Catholic,” he said.

“I know. But it is still a secular democratic republic and it will remain that way unless you rewrite the Constitution and turn the Philippines into a nation with a government of Catholics, for Catholics, and by Catholics.”

“You are overextending the issue. Obedient Catholics are only opposing the bill because they are pro-life,” he said.

“The bill does not force anyone to use artificial contraceptives. The freedom to choose a family planning method is not being taken away from anybody so what is your problem?”

“Why don’t you just submit to the wisdom and will of the bishops? They know what is best for all of us,” he said.

“That’s it!” I exclaimed. “That’s what this controversy is all about. What is really at stake here is the moral authority of the Catholic church over everyone, including non-Catholics.”

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