Violating the Constitution or just joking?
A LAW EACH DAY (KEEPS TROUBLE AWAY) - Jose C. Sison (The Philippine Star) - January 18, 2019 - 12:00am

The unfolding events and ensuing developments in our country now undoubtedly confirm the sad state of our nation. This is the first time in our country’s history indeed when we, the people of the Philippines, are under the kind of President who is now running our government and ruling our country. Instead of being the leader of the people, for the people and by the people trying to promote and achieve unity and cooperation for the common good, the President we supposedly elected three years ago has spread and sown disunity and division among us. This is really so sad.

More unfortunate in this connection is that he has attacked and antagonized Catholicism which is the religion of 80 percent of our population. Since the start of his regime he has already attacked, insulted,   threatened, intimidated and hurled invectives and profanities against the bishops and priests, even to the extent of asking the “tambays” of our streets and alleys, to “steal from rich bishops and kill them” because they are “useless and better off dead.” Such remarks prompted another prelate to challenge Duterte to walk the streets and alleys of our land without any bodyguard, like they do. But Malacanang simply dismissed such challenge as “absurd” and contrary to government protocol requiring security for the President.  Then he also assailed and ridiculed prelates who have sexually abused children even if one of them had already died and could no longer defend himself.

Worse here is that he has not confined his tirades and criticisms against the bishops and priests. Aside from his initial and repugnant outburst ridiculing the Pope, he went to the extent of calling God “stupid” And he has not confined himself to the people running the church. He has also started talking about the Catholic religion and questioning and making uncomplimentary remarks about its doctrines and dogmas. Recently he even ventured into saying something about the doctrine of the Holy Trinity and called it “silly.” This latest remark has elicited a reaction from Monsignor Teodoro Bacani, the Bishop Emeritus of the Diocese of Novaliches who said: “For him to speak about the doctrine of Trinity and call it silly, which Christianity has upheld from its very beginning, he is a silly man to say that. That is wrong and to say that is an insult. This man is not worth listening to when it comes to religion because he has no expertise. He is not a religious man at all.”

Duterte’s continuing attack against the bishops and priests of the Catholic Church and his latest remarks on its doctrines and beliefs,  may be violating the Constitution again as he has done so many times before without anybody noticing them or worrying about them. They may constitute a violation of the principle of “separation of Church and State which is inviolable” under our Constitution (Section 6, Article II). This principle is further elaborated and explained in Article III Section 5 which provides in part as follows: “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”

One of the principal parts of this principle of Church and State separation is the guarantee of the free exercise of religion or freedom of religion. As held in the case of Iglesia ni Kristo vs. Gironella, (106, SCRA, 104, cited in Bernas, The Philippine Constitution, a Reviewer and Primer), “Freedom of religion implies respect for every creed. No one, much less a public officer is privileged to characterize the actuations of its adherents in a derogatory sense.” As earlier held in the case of American Bible vs. City of Manila, 101 Phil. 398, “The Constitutional guarantee of the free exercise and enjoyment of religious profession and worship carries with it the right to disseminate religious information. Any restraint of such right can only be justified like other restraints of freedom of expression on the grounds that there is a clear and present danger of any substantive evil which the State has the right to prevent.”

The realities of belief and creed is infinite and limitless bounded only by one’s imagination and thought. So is the freedom of belief including religious belief, limitless and without bounds. One may believe in most anything, however strange, bizarre and unreasonable the same may appear to others, even heretical when weighed in the scales of orthodoxy or doctrinal standards” (Gerona vs. Secretary of Education 106, Phil 2)

In the Philippines, as in the Unuted States then, it is not within the competence of the government to inquire into the truth or validity of a religious doctrine. US vs Ballard (322 US 78) is a American  case in point .. Freedom of thought, which includes freedom of religious belief is base in a society of free men…. It embraces the right to maintain the theories of life and death and of the hereafter... Many may believe what they cannot prove. They may not be put to the proof of their religious doctrine or beliefs. Religious experience which are as real as life to some may be incomprehensible to others…. Man’s relation to God was made no concern of the State. He was granted the right to worship as he pleased and to answer to no man for the verity of his religious views”. (Gerona Ibid).

Hence, following these constitutional principles as explained and clarified in the various cases above cited, Duterte should be more circumspect about his pronouncements and tirades against the Catholic Church, its prelate and its doctrines. Or he can again claim that he is just joking.

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