CEBU CITY -- The mayors of two of Cebu’s cities believe there’s no need to remove or ban religious symbols and ceremonies from government offices.
Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama is against the proposal raised by a party-list lawmaker, who also wants religious ceremonies kept out of state offices.
Lapu-Lapu City Mayor Paz Radaza said the presence of religious symbols and the conduct of religious activities in City Hall do not affect the performance of workers.
Kabataan party-list Representative Raymond Palatino has filed House Bill 6330 or the Religious Freedom in Government Offices Act, which seeks to prohibit religious ceremonies and the display of religious symbols “within the premises and perimeter” of government offices, including public spaces and corridors.
Palatino cited the provisions on freedom of religion, particularly Section 5 of the 1987 Constitution’s Bill of Rights.
In Lapu-Lapu, an image of the Virgin of the Rule can be found in the lobby of City Hall. The icon has been displayed in the lobby even before the term of former mayor and now congressman Arturo Radaza, the mayor pointed out.
City Hall sometimes holds a mass before proceeding with activities, in the belief that doing so will prevent untoward incidents.
Radaza said the City respects all religions, and has been supportive of the city’s Muslim community.
Rama, for his part, said it’s an old practice in the Cebu City Hall to have a religious ceremony or a mass in every activity and it shouldn’t be taken away.
“Mura man na ug pangaway nang iyang gihimo sa relihiyon, ngano gud tawon nang hilabtan nga dugay na man na? (It seems he’s trying to fight religion. Why would he want to mess with tradition?)” Rama said.
Rama said he found the bill divisive and wished that the House wouldn’t take it up at all.
Palatino, in his bill, said the state cannot be seen to favor one religion over the other, in allowing religious ceremonies and symbols in public offices and property.
He said the practice is done despite the clear provisions and jurisprudence on the non-establishment and non-sponsorship by the state of any religion.
The relevant constitutional provision, Section 5 of Article 3, states: “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.”
Mayor Rama, however, said the Philippines is predominantly Catholic and it can’t be denied that believers want to put God in every activity.
Msgr. Esteban Binghay, the Archdiocese of Cebu’s episcopal vicar, said the church will definitely oppose the proposal.
“Nganong did-an man nila ang Ginoo nga musulod sa bisan asa nga lugar nga siya man ang tag-iya sa tanang butang sa kalibutan? (Why should people want to keep God out of some places, when all of creation belongs to him?),” Binghay asked.
Binghay said the church understands the state won’t favor any religion, but not to the extent of prohibiting God or religious ceremonies in government establishments.
He doesn’t believe the bill will make it past Congress. (ETB/With RSB/Sun.Star Cebu)