Public funds and the San Pedro rites

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Sunday, December 2, 2012


IF ONE asks how much the Government spent preparing for and helping stage the thanksgiving celebration for San Pedro Calungsod, no state office or agency can tell.

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Police and other law-enforcement forces, bureaucrats and employees, government-owned vehicles, ships, and aircraft, and similar services and facilities were tapped in the run-up to and on celebration day, not to mention the cleanup after the event.

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Nobody was tabulating for a bill to be presented to the Archdiocese of Cebu. No such tab.

Does it not violate precept of separation of church and state and prohibition on using public funds or properties for religious purposes?

It appears that it does, a dyRF talk show called

“Kasingkasing sa Balaod (Heart of the Law)” said Saturday. But there’s no violation, if one relies on Supreme Court decisions, the lawyer-hosts said.

Courts interpret the constitutional ban to mean that “it does not inhibit the use of public property when the religious character of such use is merely incidental to a temporary use, available indiscriminately to the public in general.”

Upset equation

That logic justified in the past the use of a public auditorium by Jehovah’s Witnesses for a three-day convention, holding religious services at Luneta park and grandstand, or mounting a coronation altar and throne at Cebu Capitol entrance.

And that would defend huge spending for Sinulog and Fiesta Senyor or canonization of a Bisaya saint.

Never mind if the equation is upset: a central religious purpose and an incidental boost to tourism and the economy.

[paseares@sunstar.com.ph]

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on December 03, 2012.

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