16 November 2009

Render Onto Comelec That Which is Comelec's

(COMELEC's Hatchet Man)

I don't even know where to begin about Comelec's decision. So let me begin at the beginning:
"The doctrine of the separation of the Church and State was not enunciated by a king or a president, or by a pope or a bishop, but by our Lord Jesus Himself. While our Lord was still in this world, there were those who wanted to show Him up as a false prophet, so they went to Him and asked whether they should pay the taxes demanded by the Roman government or not. Thereupon Jesus asked them to show Him a coin; upon receiving it, He asked them whose face was it that appeared on the coin and they answered it was Caesar's. Jesus then said: "Render unto Caeser what is Caesar's and unto God what is God's." [Matt 22:15-22, Mark 12:13-17; Luke 20:20-26] (President Manuel L. Quezon at the Luneta, Manila 17 July 1938)
I think fundamentally, the error in judgment from Comelec comes from the hubris that it can determine ecclesiastical law. These are not men of the cloth but of the law. The constitution does not vest Comelec with the ecclesiastical jurisdiction. It is an organ of the government of the Philippine republic. Comelec cannot consider the Bible or the Qu'ran procedurely. What the Bible or Qu'ran says is a question of fact and proper evidence must be received as to what it says, including interpretation by competent authorities.

A government agency however cannot properly determine who is a competent authority in ecclesiastical law. It is beyond the powers of the State. The most a government agency can do is determine that a religious belief is genuinely held. If Comelec developed its own evidence to support its conclusions, it would be put in the same predicament of having to determine which priest(s) or imam(s) are properly interpreting Biblical/Qu'ranical texts. Our constitution commands all government entities:
Art. III, Sec. 5 (1987 Con. R.P.): 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.
It is clear that Comelec is not an organ of ecclesiastical jurisdiction since no organ of the State has conferred upon it ecclesiastical jurisdiction. Let's take a look at Comelec's actual constitutional duties:
Art. IX, Sec. 2(5): Register, after sufficient publication, political parties, organizations, or coalitions which, in addition to other requirements, must present their platform or program of government; and accredit citizens' arms of the Commission on Elections. Religious denominations and sects shall not be registered. Those which seek to achieve their goals through violence or unlawful means, or refuse to uphold and adhere to this Constitution, or which are supported by any foreign government shall likewise be refused registration.
Art. IX, Sec. 6: A free and open party system shall be allowed to evolve according to the free choice of the people, subject to the provisions of this Article.
Yet, by making determinations as to the meaning and significance of various Biblican and Qu'ranic verses, they have usurped the function both of ecclesiastical jurisdiction and promoted the establishment of a particular religion. There appears to be nothing in Article IX of the Constitution that delegates this kind of authority. It is also impossible to allow a free and open party system according to the free choice of the people when Comelec considers matters outside of its jurisdiction in foreclosing such possibilities.

Comelec points to the following provision as the basis for denying Ladlad certification:
Art. II, Sec. 13: The State recognizes the vital role of the youth in nation-building and shall promote and protect their physical, moral, spiritual, intellectual, and social well-being. It shall inculcate in the youth patriotism and nationalism, and encourage their involvement in public and civic affairs.
A political party is a group or organization of voters who seek to coalition for a particular group of values, principles or ideology. Yet, the "youth" aren't allowed to vote. They aren't voters. It is not up to Comelec to consider what effects a political party may or may not have upon non-voters. That's not part of Comelec's jurisdiction. Voters are limited as follows:
Art. V, Sec. 1: Suffrage may be exercised by all citizens of the Philippines not otherwise disqualified by law, who are at least eighteen years of age, and who shall have resided in the Philippines for at least one year, and in the place wherein they propose to vote, for at least six months immediately preceding the election. No literacy, property, or other substantive requirement shall be imposed on the exercise of suffrage.
Comelec might have well based the denial on Art. II, Sec. 16 regarding the environment since Ratzinger said last year that LGBT are a threat to the earth like global-warming. From a legal standpoint, this shows entirely the absurdity of Comelec's decision. It is religious, it is arrogant and it is unconstitutional. While looking for irrelevant provisions of the constitution to base the denial, Comelec ignored an important state policy that bears directly on the purpose of Ladlad:
Art. II, Sec. 11: The State values the dignity of every human person and guarantees full respect for human rights.
Sr. Camilo Osias of La Union, when he was a member of the National Assembly on April 22, 1938 said on the Assembly floor, in a privileged speech:
"Among educators there is a difference and a distinction between morality and religion. Morality is one field, religion another field. To one school of thought at least, morality, has to do with those fundamental relations that exist between man and man, between finite and finite. Religion, on the other hand, deals with those relations between man and his Maker, between the finite and the infinite. The State, according to our Constitution, is not to be made an instrument for the promotion of any religion or sect or denomination, much less to engage in fostering those supernatural, miraculous, mysterious things of the spirit. It should tolerate religion, it should make it possible that religion be taught, but it is not going to be made a tool of any religious group. And I object to our government being made a tool because I believe in nationalism, but I am thoroughly against supra-nationalism. We all sacrificed for independence because we want the center of gravity for our culture and civilization to be right in our midst. We do not want supra-nationalism whether the source of supra-nationalism be Washington or Rome... It is a repudiation of Rizal's writings and the cause for which he gladly suffered and died... It is inimical to public policy because there are advocates ... who deny the principle of separation of Church and State, and perforce reveal themselves as not having imbibed the very essence of genuine religious freedom in our midst."
If the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines really believes in the freedom of religion and its own authority to determine its internal affairs and its doctrines in the long term, it would oppose this superficially agreeable decision by Comelec. If it takes the politically expedient avenue of the short-term and does not oppose Comelec's resolution, it is only sealing its own future.
"It became clear day by day that the abuses of the friars and the weakness of the civil administration, which was joined in an unholy wedlock to the Church, continued unabated and could not be softened by any appeal to reason or to any sense of humanity." (Agoncillo, The Revolt of the Masses 62)
In every time and place in history where the religious institution remains undifferentiated from or merges with the civil institutions, the story always ends with the decline of the religious institution. When the old king dies or is overthrown and a new king is installed, all those cancerous appendages of the old king go to the grave with him.

8 comments:

  1. Philippine government agencies lack the will to assert their position in the "Separation of Church and State" thing. It is disheartening.

    OR

    some government agencies are just using this (e.g. homosexuality as immoral) as an excuse for their homophobic tendencies.

    disheartening really.

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  2. I also think that some politicians / government officers are probably afraid of their religious leaders. That they might be excommunicated or something if they support any law that is against their churches fundamental beliefs.

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  3. @Scheezie: it's one thing to fear one's religious leaders, it's another to cite chapter and verse to the Bible. I have read many jurists throughout the world that regularly fulfill their religious agenda and do it without ever once referring to the Bible.

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  4. Very well said, line of flight. It is so frustrating that, here in the Philippines, people can still be so backward-thinking. There's really no excuse for thinking this way, especially in this age. When I heard this news, my first reaction was to laugh. And then, it hit me -- people, despite their education, can still be stupid.

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  5. It truly is unbelievable that Comelec could come up with such a "stupid and brazen" pronouncement. But it is equally frustrating to know that Comelec is getting away with this.

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  6. @VG:

    "A civilization that proves incapable of solving the problems it creates is a decadent civilization.

    A civilization that chooses to close its eyes to its most crucial problems is a stricken civilization.

    A civilization that uses its principles for trickery and deceit is a dying civilization."

    - Aime Cesaire "Discourse on Colonialism"

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  7. I just found out that Migrante, Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT), and Courage, all progressive parties, have also been rejected by Comelec. WTF.

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