But here is how the Vatican's Zenit News organization described GMA's audience with Benedict, by reporting purely on what she said to the Pope--
Code: ZE06062608I do not believe that a "majority of Filipinos" actually support the abolition of the death penalty. (Neither did GMA until recently.) But she knows that the Catholic Bishops wanted this abolition. It was to curry their favor that she did it. Naturally, she couldn't tell Benedict that for Zenit to announce it to the world. She says instead that a majority of Filipinos identify with the "Christian values" that the "legislation of the state" supports and gives expression to.
Arroyo Presents Death Penalty Abolition to Pope
VATICAN CITY, JUNE 26, 2006 (Zenit.org).- The president of the Philippines presented Benedict XVI with a new law that abolishes the death penalty in her country.
The Holy Father received Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in audience today, the Holy See press office confirmed in a statement.
"In the course of the cordial meeting the president explained to the Holy Father the new law banning the death penalty, which was signed last Saturday, feast of St. John the Baptist," the note states.
Arroyo also "showed the Pope a plan for reforming the constitution, which aims at a more harmonious development of the country, reserving greater attention to the poorer sectors of the population," the press office confirmed.
The communiqué continued: "During the meeting, reference was also made to the favorable prospects for dialogue with the Muslim inhabitants of the country and to the hope for national pacification."
"Finally the president noted how Christian values, with which the majority of Filipinos identify, also find expression and support in the legislation of the state."
If the Vatican truthfully reported her presentation of accomplishments to the Pope, then Mrs. Arroyo has just admited to a culpable violation of the Constitution, namely, the Separation of Church and State,
1987 Constitution Bill of Rights Art III 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.For the Congress cannot just pass a law, such as the abolition of the death penalty because of specifically "Christian values" supposedly subscribed to by a majority of its citizens. Otherwise, what would that imply about the State's judgment of Muslims, Buddhist's or other non-Christians and their values? If the State claims there is some "majority" that subscribe to certain religious values, there must be a minority that doesn't, by necessary implication. But unless ALL citizens can rightfully identify with some "value" that the State seeks to promote or establish, or base the "legislation of the state" upon, then that policy violates the fundamental Constitutional tenet quoted above, that no religious test be imposed for the exercise of civil and political rights.
In a land full of lawyers and blawgers, it never ceases to amaze me that these fundamental principles religious freedom and constitutonal democracy, do not enjoy a broader public understanding and appreciation, considering that we were once ruled by a Spanish frailocracy that WAS the State.
Most Filipinos don't understand the Principle of Separation of Church and State. I can't blame them. (I didn't either. For the longest time!) Most people actually think, as I once did, that it means that it is unconstitutional for priests and bishops to engage in politics or to "meddle in politics." Yet, what could be clearer and unequivocal than: "...no religious test shall be imposed for the exercise of civil and political rights?"
What I think most people do not get is that the prohibitions of the principle of Separation of Church and State are addressed ENTIRELY to the State as the basic tenet of constitutional neutrality when it comes to Religion: the State may neither promote nor prohibit religious activity. It contains no prohibitions or limitations on what church men like priests and bishops may do in the exercise of civil and political rights that are different for any other citizen, or group of citizens. My reading of the Principle of Separation of Church and State is that priests and bishops can even run for public office -- the ultimate in partisan political activity. If they win public office of course, they "become" part of the State and may not then violate Separation! And of course, God bless their souls, they can file impeachment complaints against immoral Presidents.
NOGRALES' HEAD WOUND So House Majority leader Prospero Nograles gets today's Dunce Cap for making several ignorant statements (via PDI:)
HOUSE Majority Floor Leader Prospero Nograles lashed out at Bishop Deogracias Yñiguez for participating in a "partisan political activity' such as the move to impeach Arroyo. Earlier on Wednesday, Yñiguez filed the third impeachment complaint for this week at the House of Representatives, claiming that this was his “personal stand.”Priests and bishops, like doctors lawyers, farmers, business men and other ordinary citizens are allowed to engage in as much partisan political activity as they want. It is Chief Justices of the Supreme Court, like Hilario Davide, and Chiefs of Staff of the AFP like General Angelo Reyes, that are absolutely barred by Code of Judicial Conduct and the Constitution, respectively from engaging in partisan political activity. Nograles' claim that this is the first time he has seen "partisan political activity" by the Catholic Church can only mean he was born blind.
"I'm just making a personal comment that this is the first time that I've seen a bishop of the Roman Catholic Church engaging in a political process by being a complainant in an impeachment case, which is a purely political process and probably a partisan political activity,"
Nograles said there must be a stricter interpretation of the separation of the church and state to once and for all clarify the issue. "Maybe it's alright to express one’s view as a Filipino citizen but when you start involving yourself in a purely political process, it becomes a partisan political activity," he said.
Mr. Majority Leader, get real, please read the Constitution, and get something for that gaping head wound, would you?
DEPED SUSPENDS SEX EDUCATION Under heavy pressure from the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) the Dept of Education has reportedly decided to suspend teaching a Sex Education module to high school students. In this particular case, the CBCP is perfectly within its rights to lobby their point of view with Deped. But if Deped cancels Sex Education for high school students based on, again "Christian values" that, in my opinion, would be unconstitutional. Here the potential conflict with the religious position would be with scientific truth as contained in biology and common sense. We don't need the Constitution to tell us that.
UPDATES: MLQ3 tackles this same topic from the point of view of the internal Church policies and traditions with respect to Separation. In particular he discusses Benedict's encyclical, Deus Caritas Est. Ricky Carandang blogs on Chacha.
DONG PUNO LIVE last night had Neri Colminares, Leah Navarro, Prospero Nograles and Atty. Alberto Agra of the GMA defense team. The latter is a blockhead that some people are gonna love to hate. He's pushing the "Night of the Living Dead" impeachment theory. There is also a new argument (probably fed to the Palace by Manhattan-and-cocktail-party-bound Hilario Davide) that multiple impeachment proceedings are unconstitutional. Colminares' riposte was sweet and sums up to this: Surely the Constitution does not say the adjudication of one crime by an impeachable official shields her from prosecution on a second, third or further subsequent offense offense--all within that silly one year ban.