Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Has GMA Lost the Catholic Church? - Part 2

MERGING from her audience with Pope Benedict XVI, did Gloria feel better or worse about things? We cannot know for sure of course. We only have the various official statements to read in between the lines of. But the extent to which she was just exploiting the Pope is seen in how shamelessly President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo put words in the mouth of the Roman Pontiff -- words to the effect that the Pope approves of how she is running the Philippines.

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: ZE06062608
Date: 2006-06-26
Arroyo Presents Death Penalty Abolition to Pope

VATICAN CITY, JUNE 26, 2006 ( 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."
I 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.

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: " 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.”

"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.

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.

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.


cvj said...

I agree with your reading on what the principle of Separation of Church and State really means, and for me at least, it is serendipitous. I'm currently in the middle of 'The Collapse of the Fact/Value Dichotomy' by Hilary Putnam. Just now on my way to work, i was thinking about its implications if i accepted that there was no such thing as a fact/value dichotomy to this principle of separation of Church and State. It occurred to me that it is there precisely to prevent *any* religious values from seeping into the domain of state law without going through some sort of secularization process, which is there to, as you say above, to protect the minority.

baycas said...

djb & cvj,

on your views on church-state separation, i agree.

just a quick copy-paste from the Catechism on the Church and Politics:

11. What does "separation of Church and State" mean?

Separation of Church and State is strictly defined in the 1987 Philippine Constitution to refer to two points: (1) that no religion may be established as the official religion of the State; and (2) that the State may not favor one religion over others. At the same time, the State shall forever allow the free exercise and enjoyment of religion and shall not require any religious test for the exercise of civil or political rights (see 1987 Philippine Constitution). The first point above is called the "non-establishment" clause.

To be noted is the fact that nowhere does the Constitution prohibit Clergy and Religious from partisan politics. What prohibits them from active involvement in partisan politics is the Church's own laws and traditional wisdom.

22. Why should priests, religious men and women refrain from involvement in partisan politics?

As we have seen, the prohibition is not because of any Philippine constitutional provision. But the Church prohibits Clergy and Religious from involvement in partisan politics because they are considered the symbols of unity in the Church community. For them to take an active part in partisan politics, with its wheeling and dealing, compromises, confrontational and adversarial positions, would be to weaken their teaching authority and destroy the unity they represent and protect. Still, it must be admitted that sometimes even the teaching of moral principles is actually interpreted by some as partisan politics, because of actual circumstances (PCP-II, 343-344). An example was the Bishops' post-election statement in 1986 when they taught that a government that has assumed power by fraud had no moral right to govern. This teaching was considered partisan for the opposition presidential candidate and against the winner proclaimed by a subservient parliament.

baycas said...

link for the above not shown, anyway the two pointers were obtained from

Rizalist said...

Excellent Baycas! thanks for those links.
cvj: am doing a further critique on the Philippine curriculum. It's full of that fact/value dichotomy. Have to work that idea in...

Rizalist said...

btw baycas, I think that MLQ3's post and thread today delves into that internal church position from the point of view of Deus Caritas Est. It's an interesting area, I read it a few months ago after the CBCP statements.

cvj said...

DJB, i highly recommend the book i referred to above. It makes a case that there is no such dichotomy. (It also serves as a primer to economist Amartya Sen's writings. I bought a bunch of Sen's books when i was in India, but did not know what his work was all about until Putnam's book explained it to me.)

Bernardo F. Ronquillo said...

You cannot talk about freedoms and principles with Gloria Macapagal Arroyo because she has long negated them. The conspiracy to oust Erap was done against all principles and freedoms. Even those that were with Gloria then found this out and has dissociated with her. Men and women with principles cannot stay with her for long.

Imagine now a bishop filing a third impeachment complaint against her. And Nograles' response is par for the course as far as he is concerned.
Is impeachment a GAME? Congressman Nograles thinks it is. And yet according to him it is not a game of skill and ability but of numbers. Rather, it is decided by how many more people are on one side. To him it is not a matter of right or wrong but of who’s got the numbers. If this is true, then a Parliamentary System, if they are going to be the players, will also be a numbers game. That is PATHETIC.

Willy B. Prilles, Jr. said...

"am doing a further critique on the Philippine curriculum. It's full of that fact/value dichotomy. Have to work that idea in..."

I'll look forward to it Dean. We had our regular School Board meeting yesterday, and we touched a little on the curriculum, mainly on very little time allotment for IT education (a measly 20 hours for the whole year if I'm not mistaken).

This one of the reasons why we are not getting the bang from the buck we invested in computer labs for all our elem schools. Problem is, you can only add hours, but not reduce what the curriculum prescribes.

Rizalist said...

The deeper I get into PELC and even the core subjects, I see the problem ever more clearly: there's too much stuff that really doesn't belong and too much stuff that should but isn't there at all. If we could only knock some sense into it, billions of pesos would fall out for the real material needs of the students and the teachers. Just think if Ayala were managing the thing, it wouldn't invest huge resources like 150 billion pesos in this insane manner.

I guess my position is hardening that the problem with education is that it is stuck in a socialist mold that must be broken. Else it is hopeless and we are just kidding ourselves and the future generations.

diliman72grad said...

Europeans will laugh their heads off were they to hear that a learned, well-read, independent-thinking intellect of the Philippines stated that the Philippine president committed an impeachable offense because she recently took actions to abolish the death penalty.

Filipinos, too... are laughing their heads off.

Rizalist said...

Welcome DilimanGrad72,
Whether her act is impeachabl eis a thing for the Congress to decide. But what do you think of the proposition that it was a culpable violation of Nonestablishment, which is the real topic, not the death penalty per se. Can the Congress pass a law and the President sign it, bring it to a religious headman, and announce that it has been passed in support of his teachings?

baycas said...

wow! an acceptable proposition you've laid down. somehow, there was a violation of the "nonestablishment" clause (which prohibits the state to pass laws which aid one religion, aid all religions, or prefer one religion over another).

the state's concerted efforts to abolish death penalty (which senator joker arroyo finds to be consistent with the Philippines’ standing as a Christian country) and gloria's ultimate speech on the day of the abolition tell it all:

We have taken a strong hand against the threats to the law and the republic, but at the same time we yield to the high moral imperatives dictated by God to walk away from capital punishment.

...and the coup de grâce of offering a copy of the abolition law as a gift to the Pope may show preference to Christian views on the matter.

how about the non-believers' (of God) views on this? were those actions in conformity with a neutral state?