There has been recent controversy regarding the new peso bills the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (Central Bank of the Philippines or BSP) will be releasing. Various factual errors have been brought up such as the rare blue-naped parrot on the new P500 bill having a yellow beak and green tail feathers, instead of red and yellow, respectively. On a map found on the P1000 bill, the Tubbataha reef was misplaced.1
Regarding these errors, Fe dela Cruz, a spokesperson for the BSP has said that, “In choosing the design… we are always guided by our commitment to enrich the appreciation and knowledge of the Filipinos we honor on our banknotes…”1
On Radyo Inquirer, dela Cruz also said that the BSP will be evaluating the criticisms regarding the errors on the new bills saying, “pwede namang palitan (it can be changed).”2
While it is laudable that these mistakes are going to be attended to, there is one gross oversight that has yet to be addressed. New bills will be containing this direct quotation from the Christian Bible: “Pinagpala ang bayan na ang Diyos ay ang Panginoon (Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord),”3,4 which comes from Psalm 33:12. This statement can be found above the seal of the Republic of the Philippines.
This is a flagrant transgression of the non-establishment clause of the Philippine Constitution, which states that, “No law shall be made respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Clearly, this is a situation where the government is endorsing a particular religious tradition. While there is an undeniable Catholic majority in the Philippines, our nation also has citizens who are Buddhist, Hindu, Sikh, Pagan, and non-religious. The emblazoning of this Biblical verse on Philippine currency is an affront to the religious diversity of our country and the separation of Church and State guaranteed by our Constitution.
In its decision against the COMELEC’s order to bar Ang Ladlad from running as a party-list during this past year’s national elections, the Supreme Court said that, “it was grave violation of the non-establishment clause for the COMELEC to utilize the Bible and the Koran to justify the exclusion of Ang Ladlad.“5 We see in this overtly Christian statement on the new Philippine peso bills another example in a long-running trend of religious bias on the part of certain sectors in our government.
The quotation from the Christian Old Testament and its placing on legal tender is a manifest violation of the Constitution and the right to religious freedom of the country’s citizens as it forces even non-Christians to participate in the distribution of explicitly Judeo-Christian material. As a body that represents all of its citizens, Christian or not, the Philippine government must be a secular one; it cannot champion the religious beliefs of any particular faith.
We hereby call upon the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas to remove the quotation from the Bible from all legal Philippine tender.
1 Agence France-Presse. Philippines in uproar over error-filled peso bills, <http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/breakingnews/nation/view/20101219-309872/Philippines-in-uproar-over-error-filled-peso-bills> (2010).
2 Zamora, F. Twitter / @ fe zamora: BSP to evaluate criticisms …, <http://twitter.com/amfezam/status/16681407044657152> (2010).
3 Bauzon, B. C. V. New peso bills feature younger-looking faces, <http://www.manilatimes.net/index.php/top-stories/34272-new-peso-bills-feature-younger-looking-faces> (2010).
4 Lardizabal-Dado, N. New Generation Philippine Peso bills (updated), <http://www.thepoc.net/blogwatch-features/10615-new-generation-philippine-peso-bills.html> (2010).
5 Castillo, M. C. D. Ang Ladlad LGBT Party vs. Commission on Elections, <http://sc.judiciary.gov.ph/jurisprudence/2010/april2010/190582.htm> (2010).