Oil and water

THE relationship between government and religion has always been a complicated matter in the Philippines, one that is both a desensitized and hardly discussed issue. As a predominantly Catholic nation, where 86 percent of its population is Roman Catholic, it has become a Filipino’s moral obligation to live by the Church’s teachings—or at least respect them—no matter how dated some of them may be.

Because the Philippine government rules in an established democracy, a line that separates the state from the Church exists. Article II Section 6 of the 1987 Constitution states that the “separation of Church and State shall be inviolable.” In this way, the government may not force a certain religion on its people, the same way the Church cannot mandate doctrines as laws.

On Sunday, Feb. 5, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), rallied the faithful to join the Church in objecting the killings of drug suspects without due process in courts. More than 7,000 drug suspects have been killed by police and unknown assailants since President Rodrigo Duterte launched his bloody campaign after taking office in June last year.

In a strongly worded pastoral letter, the CBCP denounced the killings of drug suspects during police operations and by supposed vigilante groups, which they branded as “evil.”

“The life of every person comes from God. It is He who gives it, and it is He alone who can take it back. Not even the government has a right to kill life because it is only God’s steward and not the owner of life,” read the statement signed by CBCP president and Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas.

“We in the Church will continue to speak against evil even as we acknowledge and repent of our own shortcomings. We will do this even if it will bring persecution upon us because we are all brothers and sisters responsible for each other,” the bishops stressed.

The CBCP statement also lamented that killings of drug suspects take away their rights and opportunities to defend themselves in trial and for reformation in penitentiary once convicted.

Following his statement, Villegas is encouraging the faithful to voice out similar objections to the government by joining a grand procession on February 18. Dubbed the “Walk for Life,” the procession aims to oppose drug-related killings, the death penalty, and other measures labeled by the Catholic Church as “anti-life.”

“Let us fill our streets not with blood, not with dead bodies, but with prayer, with courage, to walk, to stand up for life,” Villegas said.

The Church’s ethical stance on the sanctity of life is absolute. This rule has no exception, making sensitive issues such as abortion, euthanasia, contraception, and capital punishment as non-debatable. The Constitution also guarantees the same, as warranted by Article III Section 6, which states that “no person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law, nor shall any person be denied the equal protection of the laws.” (AJPress)

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