When provinces speak-A A +A
Saturday, June 23, 2012
THE bill to ban religious icons was doomed from the start not only because it contradicted popular practice but also the opposition to it came from all over the country.
Even before national organizations like the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines could issue its opposition to House Bill 6330, the outcry already started in the provinces.
The bill, authored by Kabataan Partylist Rep. Raymond Palatino in the House of Representatives, sought to ban all religious ceremonies and symbols in government offices in order not to favor one religion over the other.
Titled as the “Religious Freedom in Government Offices Act,” the bill wanted to prohibit mass, prayers, Christmas parties, thanksgivings, vigils, and blessings, and sought the removal of religious symbols like the cross, Holy Bible, and Koran. The bill was first reported in media last June 16.
Among the first to voice their sentiments against the measure were officials from Cebu City and Davao City in the central and southern parts, respectively, of the country.
Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama and Lapu-Lapu City Mayor Paz Radaza opposed the measure. Rama said the bill messes with tradition and he will not stop the practice of holding a mass in every important City Hall event. Radaza said the image of the Virgin of the Rule at the City Hall lobby would remain there because the presence of religious symbols and the conduct of masses in City Hall do not affect the performance of workers.
In Davao City, Mayor Sara Z. Duterte-Carpio said religious images in her offices are there simply to remind people of their Catholic faith, and City Hall did not spend a centavo on them. She said Palatino should instead focus on legislation to address more important issues such as poverty alleviation. “That should be their focus so that our nation will prosper rather than they meddle with these images that cannot even move or talk," she said.
Constituents echoed their mayors’ sentiments in their social network accounts on Facebook and Twitter and lambasted the priorities of Palatino and the Kabataan party-list.
Palatino, in withdrawing his bill from consideration, recognized the widespread opposition to it and said he never intended the measure to “ban God.” He added that he hoped the discussion on the need to respect different beliefs will continue.
It was observed in the past that voices from the provinces would not be heard immediately and clearly by decision-makers based in Manila because of their distance from the nation’s capital. Thus, the “Imperial Manila” tag.
The withdrawal by Palatino of his bill is proof that the country has gotten smaller and with those outside of Metro Manila having an equal chance at being heard. It could also be that social media played a role in giving a venue to their sentiments ranging from opposition to castigation of the bill’s proponents. This time, the voices in the provinces were heard.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on June 24, 2012.