Freedom of religion
BREAKTHROUGH - Elfren S. Cruz (The Philippine Star) - September 2, 2015 - 10:00am

It is possible that the highly emotional reaction of the INC leadership in calling their supporters to go to the streets is because the charges filed against members of the INC governing council by Isaias Samson was Illegal Detention. This is the same charge that Ben hur Luy filed against the Pork Barrel Queen Janet Lim Napoles and  is non-bailable, similar to plunder charges.

The more serious issue was the accusation that the DOJ’s investigation of the charges was a violation of the freedom of religion. One presidential candidate was reported to have said that the INC was  ”defending their religion.” Another possible presidential contender was supposed to have said that the INC was “defending their faith.”

Freedom of religion or freedom of worship is a basic human right  that an individual or community has the right to manifest  religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance. The Philippine Constitution states in Article 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.”

History has been full of periods of religious persecution and every major religion has been guilty of this sin. There have been zealots and extremists in every religion including Christian churches.  Jose Rizal, in his books, exposed the abuses of the friars which led to the Philippine Revolution.

More recently Catholic bishops and priests have been accused of child abuse and other charges of immorality. There have been priests and bishops that have been accused of corruption and accepting cars as gifts from Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. Pope Francis himself has acknowledged that there have been cases when there was a cover up of these abuses.

However, I never imagined that accusing a Catholic prelate of abuses was the same as attacking the Catholic Church. I would never tolerate the belief that accusing a Catholic priest or bishop of a crime would be tantamount to attacking the Catholic faith. I certainly would never accept the thesis that freedom of religion meant that Catholic clergy were exempt from the rule of law.

I have used the Catholic Church as an example because that is my religion  I do not want to be accused of any bias against other religions.  But surely the same principles apply to all religions.

In many countries of the world, there is no freedom of worship. In some Islamic countries, Christian churches are not allowed. In China, a news report said that almost fifteen hundred crosses publicly displayed have been forcibly taken down by the authorities. Communist countries banned all types of religion.

Many politicians were quick to make public statements that implied freedom of religion was being violated in the Philippines. But, fortunately there were a few that tried to put these events in proper perspective.

Senator Koko Pimentel, Senate Committee Chair on Justice and Human Rights pointed out that “ this is not case against a church but against persons.” He reiterated that the Department of Justice has to accept any complaint and “look at the basic facts whether this volates the Revised Penal Code...So you need a formal investigation.”

The other issue raised was the separation of Church and State.  This is an issue which sounds complex but is absurdly simple. In the case of the filing of the case of illegal detention by Isaias Samson against members of the INC governing council, there has to be due process.  The question seems to be the proper venue for the investigation and possible trial of the case. If the Department of Justice and the courts are not the venue, then who will investigate and conduct the trial?

Does separation of church and state mean that religious leaders and members can only be investigated and tried by their church affiliated judicial system? If this is true, then every religion – Catholic, Islam, Protestant, Buddhist – will now have the right to demand that they be allowed to set up their own judicial system.

Freedom of religion is a fundamental human right. It should not be used as a political football by politicians simply seeking votes.. Surely, there must be less destructive ways of winning an election.

China economy and the Philippines

There is an ongoing debate as to the real figures of China’s GDP growth rate. There are few  experts who believe that the 7% GDP growth rate is really true. There are those who believe that the actual growth is 2-3% while the most optimistic projection is 6% rate.

The figures are immaterial because clearly China’s growth rate is decelerating. Now there are two sides to this  “economic coin”. One side says China is headed for a hard landing; and, the other side predicts a recession is imminent.

The International Monetary Fund has recently called the Philippines the “rising star of Asia” because this country will be the least affected by China’s economic slowdown. According to certain geopolitical experts, continuing economic weakness will necessitate deploying limited financial resources to sustain domestic growth. The Communist Party’s rule depends on its economic performance. If Xi Jing Ping is forced to choose between his “superpower dream” and survival of the Party’s rule, his choice seems clear.

If China’s economic maladies continue, Beijing may find it impossible to continue its aggressive policies in the West Philippine Sea. The Philippines may, after all, be the biggest beneficiary of China’s economic woes.

Where the Write Things Are’s  Classes for Kids and Teens

Young Writers’ Hangout on  September 5 (11am-12:30pm) at Fully Booked Bonifacio High Street.  Classes are every first Saturday of the month. 

Write Away! Weekend: Getting started on your comic book on September 26 (1-4pm) with popular cartoonist and writer Manix Abrera at the Canadian American School Alphaland Makati Place.

For registration and fee details contact 0917-6240196


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