After hearing all kinds of nonsense in Congress, from the religious arguments of Rep. Pablo Garcia to the superstitious ones of Rep. Roilo Golez, it was inspiring to listen to Senator Pia Cayetano’s sponsorship speech on the RH Bill.
It took more time for Garcia and Golez to blabber about what was not in the bill than for Sen. Cayetano to expound on what was actually in it. She even addressed common misconceptions and objections about the bill’s controversial provisions.
But what I liked most about her speech is that she spoke about secularism — the separation of church and state mandated by our constitution — and she did justice to it, a topic other legislators either misunderstand or disregard altogether.
If you cannot read her entire speech — which I highly recommend — at least read the excerpt below. In a country with a supposedly secular government polluted by so much nonsense, Sen. Cayetano’s rational, secular speech is a welcome breath of fresh air.
On the separation of Church and State and the freedom of religion.
Mr. President, we, as Senators have our own personal views and relationship with God. This is a part of who we are. Thus, I do not ask that we separate our moral values from our scrutiny of the bill. I simply ask that we remember that our religious views may be different from our neighbors and we cannot use our legislative seat to deprive a fellow Filipino of his legal and constitutional rights to exercise his religion, to make choices within the legal boundaries but based on his own religion and NOT ours.
Time and again, the position of the Church has been discussed as a basis for not supporting this bill, but as Senators, we are tasked to separate our religious beliefs when they interfere with matters that belong to the State. I simply ask that we recognize the right of every citizen to make choices regarding ones reproductive health based on one’s own conscience, moral and religious views.
Just because we are a predominantly Catholic country doesn’t mean we can impose Catholic dogma on every Filipino. That is the job of the clergy and they can do as they please in the Church and its activities with their flock. But, in the halls of Congress, the Constitution is clear, – – there must be a separation of Church and State. If for the sake of argument, 99.9% of Filipinos were Catholic and every single one expressed a certain view, I would still be standing here today to fight for the rights of that 1 Filipino who is entitled to choices based on his religion and not the religion of the majority … because that is the mandate of our Constitution — that we make laws respecting the freedom of religion of all without the Church interfering with matters that should be left with the State.
Following the same argument, if 99.9 % of the population belonged to a different religion, I would still stand up for that 1 Catholic to ensure that his rights were protected and that services and facilities were available to allow him to make choices based on his beliefs. Those are the principles of separation of Church and State and the freedom of religion.