Religious liberty might be supposed to mean that everybody is free to discuss religion. In practice it means that hardly anybody is allowed to mention it.
The Philippine Department of Education or DepEd for short, changed their Mission-Vision (M-V) statement in 2013. Someone in Filipino’s For Life (F4L), noticed the change and expressed his dismay that the phrase “God-loving” had been struck out of the DepEd’s revised M-V statement. The issue was further escalated when an article by atheist, pro-choice, pro-gay, pro-whatever and no-to-religion advocate Sylvia Estrada Claudio came out with an article on the fish-wRappler claiming that she and the elitist Filipino Freethinkers, had a hand in that change. This is what she wrote in the article dated August 18, 2014,
The Department of Education did something I had requested of one of the undersecretaries more than a year ago. They revised their vision statement to remove the term “God-loving
I am sure that the change was not made because of my timid request at a forum about some unrelated topic. It may have been made because of the request of the Filipino Freethinkers who wrote a formal but still polite request to the Department of Education . (A pause for ethical disclosure. I am a senior adviser of the Filipino Freethinkers.)
It seems then that a miniscule group of pro-choice, militant atheists who are also avowed anti-Catholics, are behind or have influenced this change in the DepEd’s M-V Statement. This same group were the brains behind the Ban-God Bill that ex-Congressman Raymond Palatino filed two years ago and, to the public’s ire, quickly withdrew. (Representative Palatino apologizes, withdraws anti-God bill)
In an alleged letter to the CBCP, Br. Armin Luistro strongly denies this and claims he has been unjustly demonized in the social networks. He asserts not to have come in direct contact with this atheist group and that they had not influenced this change.
Now, this may be so but I know at least that Br. Armin has heard of this group, given that the very university from where he hails, De La Salle University, harbors atheists and religious syncretists in their philosophy and theology departments, who are supporters of this group. This same group, Filipino Freethinkers (FFt), has given talks in or around the LaSalle campus and I had written about them in the past… no-gods-allowed, sleeping-with-the-enemy-de-la-salle-university-and-the-filipino-free-thinkers, cheap-thinking-by-the-filipino-freethinkers-part-1, cheap-thinking-by-the-filipino-freethinkers-part-2/
While I am still willing to give Br. Armin the benefit of the doubt, it seems that the President of the CBCP and Archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan, Socrates Villegas, isn’t as keen in doing so. Bishop Soc, as he is fondly called, penned a letter, (I am assuming), in response to Br. Armin’s explanation of the change in the MV of the DepEd. Abp Soc writes…
A vision statement is not an empty platitude. It guides the articulation of policy. It orientates plans of action. While maka-Diyos remains one of the Department’s core-values, we maintain that the formation of God-fearing pupils and students is a vision that cannot be surrendered …Our pluralistic society indeed accords respect for the option of some to believe and for others not to. This respect for pluralism does not compel civil society to expunge the name of God from public life, especially when the majority of Filipinos continue to acknowledge God’s sovereignty and to trust in Divine Providence. Furthermore, the attitude of our laws in the Philippines towards religion is characterized as ‘benevolent neutrality’: the accommodation of religion whenever such accommodation does not offend law or public policy
As what Abp Soc said, a M-V statement guides policy, so when a phrase is deleted from it, it only means that there is a change in policy direction and Bro. Armin seems to prove that point in his alleged letter. According to my source, Br. Armin explains that the old M-V statement “does not capture” the spirit of the current administration’s thrust for Philippine education. It makes me wonder what this current thrust is because we know that this administration has a certain “spirit” that has encouraged the revival of the morally repugnant, anti-life bills in congress. The most prominent one being, the railroaded RH/Population control bill, now dubbed Responsible Parenthood Law passed in 2013.
Br. Armin seems to think that there will be no adverse effect in policy after this omission (We beg to disagree sir). In the first place, the old M-V which contains, “developing God-loving Filipinos” and the apparent lack of moral compass in this current administration’s actions are truly at odds with each other. Secondly, the new M-V reads in part, “Filipinos…who passionately love their country…whose values and competencies… realize their full potential…”, no longer makes it necessary to teach and impart morally objective values that show Filipinos as God-loving. There is a shift toward the uplifting of the self through mere nationalism while espousing some vague mention of “values”. If I may ask, could this not have been integrated to the original M-V statement without radically tampering with it?
Br. Armin, the difference between the phrase “God-loving” and “maka-Diyos” (at least they capitalized the word “Diyos”), is in fact huge. The first is an active affirmation and recognition that children should be educated within God’s moral precepts, which are objective and absolute. It is the way, as Bp Soc says, “…Filipinos continue to acknowledge God’s sovereignty and to trust in Divine Providence”. The second phrase, still found in the core values, is merely a passive phrase signifying a mere vague attitude towards God. I cannot in my mind understand how a Lasallian Brother cannot distinguish the difference between the two.
The question is, how then can we reconcile the disparity between Br. Armin’s denial of the DepEd’s M-V being influenced by this group and the claim of Sylvia Estrada Claudio that..
1. she had talked to an Undersecretary of the DepEd requesting for that change…
2. that the FFt, which she is an advisor of, wrote the DepEd formally for this change..
which appears to have resulted in…
3. a substantive (total) change in the M-V, omitting the very phrase that they, Claudio et. al., had wanted changed or omitted?
I think Br. Armin is not telling us all that he knows (or maybe he was caught flatfooted on this one and really does not know). I think he should explain to us or to Bishop Soc, what happened to that letter written by the Freethinkers addressed to the DepEd and he should also make known who that undersecretary was, whom Claudio talked to and refers to in her article and if he or she had anything to do with the change in the M-V.
If it were to be argued that secularism should prevail, I ask the question, why? Why is the mere mention of God offensive to them? Has that previous DepEd M-V statement turned out worse students? Has it harmed society? If someone would bring up the non-establishment clause in the constitution, I answer that it does not apply here because the phrase, “God-loving” does not in any way establish or favor one particular religion, in fact the Preamble of the Constitution reads… “We, the sovereign Filipino people, imploring the aid of the Almighty God,…” surely the constitution cannot be accused of being unconstitutional!
*Addendum: In the same revised M-V statement of the DepEd, we see the phrase, “gender sensitive”. This phrase is a term often used to push the gay agenda and make it acceptable to students. This phrase alone makes the denial, that secular ideologues had nothing to do with the revision, doubtful but this is a topic for another blog.