Friday, July 31, 2015

The Separation of Church and State in the Philippines and How I View It

These past weeks, we have been bombarded by news regarding the apparent rift within the Iglesia ni Cristo hierarchy. I’m not really familiar with the INC’s past and I was bent on not touching the subject with a twenty foot pole. But when this article popped up on my Facebook news feed, the phrase “separation of church and state” shot through my mind. Then another popped up and here I am. 

To be clear, I still don't care about the internal problems of the INC. 

Now, the phrase "separation of church and state" has been shoved down our collective throats for a few years now. I'm pretty sure the battle to enact or junk the Reproductive Health Bill is still pretty fresh in most Filipino minds. People kept pointing to Article II Section 6 of the constitution. But what does the separation of church and state mean? More importantly, how have I, a layman, been affected by it?

John Locke is thought to be the source of the need for secularization. Locke basically said that the state is a man-made group that was formed because without it, human nature will end man. It is bonded by an external need which is to survive in a pleasant environment. Church on the other hand is concerned with internal struggles. Its main goal is salvation and every individual chooses his own path to it. 

According to him, the state really doesn't have a voice in which path that person takes to heaven. This is still pretty true if you think about it. Summarizing his words, you can torture someone to convert to a religion. And sure, by the end of that torture he may accept baptism or whatever ritual you want him to take. But deep down inside, that person still has the option to believe in something completely different. It's like me. I am a baptized Catholic. But that doesn't mean I believe everything the Church says. 

Now, you may have observed how bad it would be if the state meddled in the church's business. But in the case of the Philippines, some have argued that the church is doing the meddling.

The church has always been a fixture in political discussions in the Philippines. Aside from the RH Bill, the Divorce Bill and the EDSA Revolutions come to mind. The Catholic Church is the not only one present by the way. The INC bloc voting is one of the things that urged me to write this. We saw Eddie Villanueva run for President. In 2010, Apollo Quiboloy's blessing was also sought after by the candidates.

If you think the church is only present in national politics, I am sure your haven't come across this.

Fr. Oscar Cruz wrote that the church can't sit idly by as the state leads the people to a life of poverty where rights are not respected. In a way I agree with him. I mean, priests and nuns or any other leader of a religious group has the right to voice out political matters.

I don't subscribe to the belief that since they don't pay taxes, they should be silent about political matters. The problem with that statement is that the people living in the streets don't pay taxes. But should they not have a say in politics? In any case, both still pay taxes indirectly since they still buy stuff.

The separation of church and state has been blurry in the Philippines. We're not like the Maldives. You can believe your toilet is God if you want and you won't have to worry about the police. But the church definitely has great influence in how we conduct politics. The question is, should this be the case? NO. 

By the way, I'm not a lawyer or constitutional expert so I'm not gonna reference the constitution in defending my answer.

You see, I subscribe to a lot of western political ideals. But aside from politics, there is one branch that I consider whenever I answer this question and that is Public Administration.

Public Administration is basically the study of the government itself as oppose to politics which studies how decisions are made. I am no expert but the Public Administration uses Accountability and Professionalism a lot.

My problem with the church influencing government is there is no professionalism. Politicians deciding to go against the RH bill because it's against their beliefs give no attention to their constituents who don't share their beliefs. That's like a member of a business partnership moving the location without consulting the partner.

Aside from that, how can we be sure that it is God's will? For every transaction with the government, we expect a receipt or any proof of the transaction. This is because the government tries to be professional and accountable. Is there any paperwork with God's signature that if we use condoms, we will go to hell?

Notice that I did not antagonize the church. That's because as citizens, they have the right to voice out their concerns. This doesn't mean that I don't think that voicing these political concerns during homilies is bad. It's just that I can always choose not to believe even if I'm a Catholic. If I get fed up, I can live church altogether. And if the church decides to threaten me, the state will be there to protect me... well they should be there to protect me.

The separation of church and state is on the state. It should be professional enough to make sound unpopular decisions and take into account every stakeholder no matter the religious belief. But then again, it's hard to imagine the Philippines having that kind of government. I mean big brother isn't setting a good example.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Why We Should Tolerate the Left

Well, Noynoy Aquino's final State of the Nation Address just happened and he touched on a lot of topics. Of course, a few topics were absent but I find it rather fruitless to dissect SONA's since it is simply a chance for the president to grandstand. Sure, some accomplishments are noteworthy. But at the end of the day, SONA's can never paint a complete picture of what is happening. What is noticeable with President Aquino's SONA's these past couple of years though is the abundance of drama involving the left.

For our friends who are not familiar with the term, the left comprises of individuals who believe in redistribution of wealth and heavy government regulations. It is way deeper than that but that's basically the gist of it.

It's pretty normal for political rallies to end up with a few bruises and wet t-shirts courtesy of the firemen. It's almost a tradition and members of the parties embrace it. Chalking these actions up to ignorance of the real world is easy for people looking from the outside since a lot of these rally-goers are college students. Some may see these groups as mere nuisances. But some actions from the groups may compel most to see them as disrespecting hooligans just looking to mess things up. It certainly doesn’t help their case that they’ve been on the streets regardless of who is at MalacaƱang.

In this year’s edition of the SONA, we saw on the TV how the militants started rushing the cops and the barriers in an attempt to get closer to Batasan Hills. Early in the day, two cops were battered by a mob for taking pictures of the rally-goers. Elected representatives from these militant groups rose up not to give the president a standing ovation, but rather give him a piece of their minds as they held signs saying “palpak na serbisyo”, “mapang-aping asendero” and a few more I missed. 

For a 20th century person taught to play nice, it is easy to dismiss these guys and the ideals they uphold. But sometimes, the easy thing is not really worth doing.

I’ve always looked at the left as carefully as I can. I don’t really subscribe to a lot of their virtues and ways of going about economics. But unlike a lot of groups here in the Philippines, at least they have clear cut ideals that are not the generic platforms of generic politicians. Their take on issues are pretty clear cut. Though it usually involves a lot of making things public in the economic side with some wanting command economies, at least you know. Civil and political liberties also held with great passion. Even though I believe there is such a thing as excessive civil and political rights, at least I know where they stand. 

Politicians nowadays are afraid to step on people’s toes. We see them changing political parties all the time. They market themselves as the way to prosperity. On the other hand, leftists in the Philippines market their IDEOLOGY as the way to prosperity.

 I was once invited by a communist for a chat. From my experience MOST leftists are pretty open to conversation. I ended up talking to a bunch of young guys with big ambitions for the country. I sometimes lean to the left in certain political and economical issues but there are certain markets that I believe needs to remain free of regulation. I defended my beliefs and they defended theirs. But one thing I noticed was that I didn’t have to defend myself. I didn’t have to defend a politician I supported. This is when I realized that even though they burn effigies of the president, it’s not necessarily the president they were against. It is the system of governance that ticks them off. This explains why they are in the streets regardless of who’s in power.

It’s crazy right? How can someone not belonging to the any militant group lend his support to them? Especially considering how crazy their antics are? But let’s think. How crazy are they really? How different are these people from the generic politician?

Whenever there are reporters on the field asking normal rally-goers about the issues they are rallying about, most say they don’t have a clue. Putting the pieces together, wouldn’t this mean that the left are simply brainwashing people to participate? But then, looking at the generic politician, isn’t he doing the same thing whenever he sings jingles during elections or releasing statements like the whole country shouldn’t be paying for the MRT since NCR is the beneficiary knowing that people from Manila are paying for national projects in the provinces?

Both the generic politician and the militants are taking advantage our ignorance. But the difference is this: the politician does it so we vote for him again or that we give him the benefit of the doubt during plunder cases while the militants do it because of what they perceive as our road to prosperity.

Noynoy Aquino just delivered his last SONA. Most will talk about the absence of the FOI bill, how underperforming allies were still praised, call for an Anti-Dynasty Law, the ever-present GMA bashing and any other thing I left out. The left will go home and we will remember them for the rally, the shoving match with the cops and container vans and what some may say disrespect aimed at Aquino and Drilon.

All that said, why should tolerate the left? Clear and honest perspective