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Opinion

President Quezon’s inaugural speech on the inauguration of the Cebu Provincial Capitol (June 14, 1938) - Part 4

CEBUPEDIA - Clarence Paul Oaminal - The Freeman

“Now, I am going to touch on a few points of a rather ticklish public question. I will speak on religious instruction in the public schools for two reasons: first, because the members of the National Assembly from Cebu were practically unanimous in supporting the bill, and second, because His Grace, the Archbishop of Cebu, is with us here. I want to say to you that at first, I was inclined to favor the bill. I was even hoping that the National Assembly would pass a bill that is constitutional. I wanted to approve the bill, because I firmly believe that it is not only for the best interest of the individual but also for the best interest of the State, that the children be instructed in the principles of their respective religions.

“Religion is a great force for good. But after I had studied the law as it was passed, and after I had gone over the fountain of that legislation when it had been first enacted, I came to the conclusion that, much to my regret, I had to veto the bill, because I found it unconstitutional. However, I did not stop there; I went further and studied the question of whether the Constitution should be amended or not. My honest conviction—and it is a conviction that I have not only as a public official but also as a Catholic—that we better not touch the Constitution at all.

“That I believe in religious instruction, I have demonstrated by sending my own children to colleges where they receive religious instruction. But it is one thing to teach religion as a part of the curriculum in a religious college and it is another thing to teach it in the public schools. If we are going to amend the Constitution with reference to religious instruction in order that the work that has been accomplished so far may not be wasted, and for that amendment to amount to something, religious instruction should be made a part of the curriculum in the public schools, otherwise we will be doing nothing more than what we are doing now.

“In a country like the Philippines, where we have so many religions, and where every religion is entitled to an equal recognition by the Government, to make religious instruction a part of the curriculum will be to bring chaos to the school. In the first place, it is true that when it comes to religion the people are not very tolerant whether in the Philippines or anywhere else. This is especially true in the Philippines, for the reason that we are a new nation. We have only thirty-five or forty years behind us on this question of religious tolerance. Well, imagine five different ministers teaching five different religions at the same time under the same building. If that would be the case, everybody would devote himself only to the teaching of his religion; nobody would interfere with the other’s religion. That is all right only in theory, but not in practice.” (To be continued)

GRACE
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