REPRESENTATIVE Bienvenido Abante Jr., Minority Floor Leader of the House of Representatives, has filed House Bill No. 2069, which seeks to make Bible reading mandatory in all elementary and secondary public schools.
“While we have earned the identity of being the only ‘Christian’ nation in Asia, it seems that we have not truly appreciated the relevance, importance, and power of the Bible,” Abante said in his explanatory note.
He argues that “if Biblical discipline, principles, and standards are taught and inculcated in the minds of our children, there would be no much problems on leadership, governance, and peace and order.”
The proposed bill also seeks to make Koran reading mandatory for Muslim pupils.
Under Section 3 of HB 2069, also known as the Mandatory Bible Reading Act of 2019, “the subjects English and Pilipino, in public elementary and high school, shall include the reading of, and discussion and examination on, the Bible: Provided, that in the case of our Muslim pupils and students, such subjects shall included the reading of, discussion and examination on, the Koran.”
However, at the onset, the bill is already problematic. While the intention of the bill is good, it may violate the constitution.
Article 3 Section 5 of the 1987 Constitution of The Republic of the Philippines states that, “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.”
While Christianity and Islam are the two major religions in the country, Congressman Abante has to understand that religion in the Philippines is not limited to the two. Other religions may only form a small portion of the pie of religions in the Philippines but they also have their own following.
Such law also forces beliefs of others to those who have their own set of beliefs. In a sense, should the Mandatory Bible Reading Act of 2019 be enacted into law, it somehow disrespects the other beliefs of other people. What is it with some people forcing their beliefs to other people?
We are not against Bible reading. However, forcing students to read it by implementing a law is too much. As we stated earlier, it may not respect the beliefs of other people. Instead of being viewed as a moral compass, the Bible could be viewed now as just a book. A book they need to read to be able to just get through a subject.
Department of Education Secretary Leonor Briones also said the proposed bill will also raise a lot of questions and be hotly debated when it comes to the separation of the church and state.
“Although in the textbooks, we have stories based on the bible – stories about Solomon, David, Adam and Eve – but making it mandatory might raise a lot of questions and may trigger also a lot of debates because of the constitutional requirements,” she was quoted saying in an October 21 Manila Bulletin report by Merlina Hernando-Malipot.
If Abante is concerned with values of the younger generation, he could come up with a law that strengthens the values education in school. This law could mandate that it is not only taught among elementary students but it could also be taught among college students.
There are good intentions to the Mandatory Bible Reading Act of 2019. However, the author of the proposed bill has to understand that such bill may violate certain provisions of the constitution. Such law may also negatively impact other people practicing their own beliefs on the country.