I am still grappling with the issue of the Danish Mohammed Cartoons because I think the encompassed issues of press and religious freedom are of transcendental importance. I also think we cannot adequately defend our human rights and freedoms if we do not have a principled understanding of them that can withstand the severest test of moral consistency, where I think most Filipinos fail when it comes to issues and controversies involving the "eternal principles."
PRIVATE HUMAN RIGHTS ARE THE ROOT OF ALL CIVIL RIGHTS The smallest, weakest minority in a Democracy is the individual human citizen. Perhaps that is why the Bill ofRights of the Constitution defines and defends the human rights of the private individuals that actually compose the democratic polity. The Bill of Rights is a series of limitations on the powers of the State. It is a list of prohibitions on the Government which effectively define Freedoms that belong to the individual private citizens which can only be taken away by due processes of the Law. I have come to appreciate the view that all public or civil rights really have their roots in these rights of private citizens.
BILL OF RIGHTS (1987 Philippine Constitution)Sections 1 and 2 above explicitly protect a citizen's life, liberty, property; his equality before the law; the security of his very person, of his abodes, and that of his papers and "effects". and his communications.
Section 1. No person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law, nor shall any person be denied the equal protection of the laws.
Section 2. The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures of whatever nature and for any purpose shall be inviolable, and no search warrant or warrant of arrest shall issue except upon probable cause to be determined personally by the judge after examination under oath or affirmation of the complainant and the witnesses he may produce, and particularly describing the place to be searched and the persons or things to be seized.
Section 3. (1) The privacy of communication and correspondence shall be inviolable except upon lawful order of the court, or when public safety or order requires otherwise, as prescribed by law. (2) Any evidence obtained in violation of this or the preceding section shall be inadmissible for any purpose in any proceeding.
Section 4. No law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances.
Section 5. No law shall be made respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. The free exercise and enjoyment of religious profession and worship, without discrimination or preference, shall forever be allowed. No religious test shall be required for the exercise of civil or political rights.
Section 3 seems to make his very words and thoughts a form of private property and extensions of his "effects" -- by protecting the privacy of his communications as "inviolable" except by Court Order.
Section 4, protects Freedom of Speech and Expression, which seems to me to be an extension of the human person's right to private property -- in this case the right to hold a private opinion and to communicate it (with no guarantee of course that anyone will listen!) Freedom of the press is, in one view, merely the right of many individuals to peaceably assemble, in this case as newspaper organizations, radio or television networks and other forms of organized Media, for the purpose of exercising together, their individual freedoms of speech and expression.
FREEDOM OF RELIGION IS FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION In Section 5, Freedom of Religion may be seen as a derivative of the freedom of individuals to hold private opinions -- in this case beliefs or teachings about supernatural questions, gods, deities, philosophies, credos, cults, questions about ultimate origins and ultimate destinies of human beings and the Universe. It also protects a complete nullity of belief in such things or even a worship of anti-religious symbols such as Satan or Beelzebub or Pazuzu. Atheism is a protected form of religious expression. Freedom of Religion thus comes from the Freedom of Speech. Religious practices and rituals are a form of the democratic Freedom of Expression. Organized Religion is likewise protected as a special form of Freedom of Assembly -- not necessarily to petition the Government for redress of Grievances, but as fervent appeal to a Higher Power for salvation or as sign of worshipful faith. From the point of the view of the Constitution, a Roman Catholic High Mass has equal protection as a peaceful demonstration, a published editorial, a Hollywood movie, or... a Danish cartoon!
ORGANIZED RELIGION IS FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY When an individual human citizen joins a Church or Synagogue or Mosque or any other such religious association, that citizen is practicing the Freedom of Assembly. When a Catholic or a Baptist or a Born-Again Christian expresses some article of faith in a worship service, that citizen enjoys equal protection under the law as a Leftist activist demonstrating againt U.S. Imperialism in front of the U.S. Embassy. Or the right of Comedians to do standup comic shows. Or the right to publish editorials or broadcast the news. No more. No less.
DEMOCRACY SAVES RELIGIONS FROM EACH OTHER. In history, men have annihilated men and nations have warred on nations over differences of religious belief A careful reading of Section 5 (and years of thinking and discussing it with others!) reveals what a careful tightrope act Democracy walks when it comes to Religion: a complete neutrality, a steadfast prohibition against BOTH promoting or prohibiting Religion. But this careful distinction and balancing act, sometimes embodied in the Principle of the Separation of the Church and the State is not fundamentally different from something one might call the Principle of the Separation of the Press and the State, in that theoretically the State has no business either promoting or prohibiting Mass Media. The government shouldn't be meddling in the activities of journalists and broadcasters any more than it ought to be intruding on priests and mullahs. Or promoting some particular set of religious beliefs and teachings. The latter would of course be disastrous for any government to do, the tyranny of Theocracy. I think this is the proper light in which to consider the issues and arguments that have issued from the Mohammed Cartoons published by Jyllands Postens in Denmark and that have spawned a global controversy and violent demonstrations. Even in the City of Makati, we actually saw signs calling for the BEHEADING of journalists who insult Islam. A Pakistani cleric has even offered as bounty a brand new Mercedes Benz and cash for anyone who KILLS the Danish cartoonists reponsible for "blasphemy against Islam."
NO TO THEOCRACY But all this Constitutional vouchsafing of certain inviolable rights, both religious and civil, does not imply a principle like the Separation of Church and Press The protected character of the Free Speech called Religion is not any more protected than any other form of Free Speech, such as the publication of cartoons which may have the effect of offending members of that religion. But the State is PROHIBITED from protecting one religious belief that may be completely contradictory to that of other religious beliefs. For example, in the case of the Danish Mohammed cartoons, at the heart of Muslim rage is the Islamic taboo on idolatry, which is considered blasphemous. Being a democracy however, Denmark clearly cannot uphold such a teaching of Islam, no matter how keenly it is felt or how violent is the reaction. That would be giving in to theocracy -- even if it doesn't lead to the actual establishment of a full blown Islamic Caliphate of Denmark. Or simply put. It would be unconstitutional, both here and in Denmark.
THE ARGUMENT FROM DISRESPECT Many people in the Philippine Main Stream Media and the blogosphere have presented the argument that publishing the Mohammed Cartoons was wrong because they represent a fundamental disrespect for the religious beliefs of about one billion human beings on the planet. But it is too easy to ignore the actual reasons that Jylannds Postens originally published the Mohammed Cartoons -- it was certainly not to insult Islam or disrespect its adherents. As Flemming Rose, publisher of Jyllands Postens explains it, they were trying to prove a point about political correctness in Danish Media by not being obsequious in avoiding criticizing Islam and its forced association with terrorism, chauvinism and religious intolerance. However, radical Danish imams latched onto the editorial cartoons and disseminated them in the Arab world to provoke precisely the reaction that they got. Strange how it was blasphemy for Jyllands Postens to publish the cartoons but not for the Danish imams to show them around at Islamic conferences in Egypt and Saudi Arabia. It was truly despicable too that two cartoons that were never published were nevertheless misrepresented as part of the series. Thus, it is pretty clear that there was no intent to disrespect Islam on the part of Jyllands Postens. But even as lampoons of Islam, these works are protected free speech and we cannot ban or apologize for them without giving up fundamental democratic principles. This does not mean I would publish such material myself, but I don't disrespect Islam, even as I defend the rights of the cartoonists to publish them. It's no different than defending the rights of the Daily Tribune and Ninez Cacho Olivarez. One may not agree with the Tribune because it's pretty obvious they don't RESPECT Mrs. Arroyo, though they would certainly be right to argue they still respect the Presidency itself. I think it is morally and logically inconsistent to defend the Daily Tribune but not Jyllands Postens.