Secular Humanism in the Philippines

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By Emmanuel Ikan Astillero
Oct 17, 2017 7:37 PM (+8 GMT)
Makati, Philippines

Humanist societies, such as HAPI, are atheistic, secular and humanistic. Members do not believe in the existence of a god, are non-religious, and adhere to a program of work where human interests, values, and dignity predominate. It is not an easy situation in the Philippine setting where 80% of the population consider themselves Christians, and another 10% are Muslims. The Philippines is predominantly religious. Atheists are few and seldom publicly heard, seen, or read.

Being an atheist in the Philippines is not the norm. No one wins an election in this country if he says he’s an atheist. And, yet, being the opposite, that is a “theist”, may be said to be counter-productive to social development. For so long, religion has reigned in the Philippines. And for so long, this country remains under-developed… poor. The bulk of religious followers is from the poor. Through their tithes, the poor built churches/mosques, supported parasitic priests, pastors and imams, and in one Christian sect, dutifully pays seven different weekly dues.

A theist is a deluded person. He has become controlled by his church and the priests. He has to obey the dogmas or rules of his religion. Unless he does so, his “soul” (another religious invention) goes to “hell” (still another religious invention). It is a religion of fear. Not knowing what lies beyond, the religion exploits this ignorance.

Separation of Church and State

Which brings us to the concept of “separation of church and state”.

Article II, Section 6 of the Philippine Constitution states that: “The Separation of Church and State are inviolable. The government shall not favor any religion, support them using public funds, or even establish or set up a church. The Church should not get involved in political issues or matters. ESTABLISHMENT OF RELIGION CLAUSE – The State shall have no official religion. The State cannot set up a church. Everyone has the freedom to profess their belief or disbelief in any religion.”

Unfortunately, no enabling law has been adopted by Congress to put this into effect. And the Bureau of Internal Revenue, in a circular, exempts churches and church-owned institution from payment of taxes. This is a willful violation of the Constitution.

It is also largely unknown to Filipino parents that the Constitutional provision on the separation of church and state is carried into public schools against the teaching religion.

“Public school teachers are prohibited from giving religious instruction. This prohibition is embodied in Opinion No. 208, s. 1950 of the Department of Justice, quoting therein the provisions of the Revised Administrative Code as amended, particularly the following:

“SEC. 927. Discussion of religious doctrines to be eschewed. – //No teacher or other persons engaged in any public school whether maintained from (insular) national, provincial, or municipal fund, shall teach or criticize the doctrine of any church, religious sector, or denomination, or shall attempt to influence the pupils for or against any church or religious sect//. If any teacher shall intentionally violate this section he or she shall, after due hearing, be dismissed from the public service.” (DO 108, s. 1987 – Religious…deped.gov.ph)

And, of course, it is a matter of “normal” practice for public offices, schools, and establishments, to be used for religious services, such as the catholic mass, in celebration of a government office anniversary, the arrival of distinguished visitors, etc. This is blatantly a violation of the constitutional provision of separation of church and state.

Still, lately, after the Bohol earthquake in October 2013, government funds were used for some
church restoration – the excuse being that these churches are “historical and heritage” sites.
The list of constitutional violation is long, and they happen almost daily in public offices, schools, and establishments that are funded from public funds.

The Task Ahead

HAPI has a “Humanist Oath”, which, in part, says: “I will protect and defend my country and its constitutional safeguards of individual liberties and separation of church and state with my life
and my vote, so that I may be morally awake to injustice wherever it occurs and foster freedom from religious oppression and intolerance.”

This is, indeed, a very brave and forthright statement of commitment. The key words (for this
article) are “separation of church and state” …; “with …my vote” …; “freedom from religious
oppression and intolerance”.

Given that government will not move unless forced to do so, this “Humanist Oath” must be translated into political action – to affect public policy. Movements, such as HAPI, will have to
consider migrating from an NGO into active politics. A political party becomes a necessity, if the “Humanist Oath” must be translated into action on the ground.

A “HAPI Party!” sounds like a pun, until spelled out: “Humanist Alliance Philippines
International Party”.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Emmanuel Ikan Astillero, an alumnus of the University of the Philippines, is a prolific writer, former banker, local historian, theosophist, urban and regional/environmental planner, and a humanist. Aside from being a member of HAPI, he is also an active member of Partido Luntian which is committed to push policies and programs to benefit various key environmental and sustainable development agenda.

Please check his autobiography HERE