The advocacy for secularism is an advocacy for rights. More specifically, it is the advocacy for certain privileges and claims that are being denied due to the lack of separation of Church and State in our country.
The Hoefeldian system classifies rights into privileges, claims, powers, and immunities. The dynamics of these four elements can be appreciated by observing how a religious country like the Philippines attempts to change its laws as it slowly breaks away from the authority of the Church.
Privileges and claims are called first-order rights: entitlements to perform/not perform certain actions, or that others perform/not perform certain actions. To have a privilege to do something means to have no duty not to do it, while to have a claim on something means that some other person or entity has a duty to satisfy that claim.
Powers and immunities, on the other hand, are second-order rights that have a bearing on first-order rights. To have power means to have the ability to alter one’s own or another’s privileges or claims, and to have immunity means that another person or entity lacks the ability to alter one’s privileges or claims.
To illustrate, take for example the right to drink alcohol. It is a privilege-right in the sense that people aged 18 and above have no duty not to drink, but it is not a claim-right because the government has no duty to provide alcohol, let alone for free. The government, however, has the power-right to suspend the right to drink (and the right to buy and sell liquor) as what the Commission on Elections (Comelec) is set to do four days before and during election day, although foreigners have a limited immunity from the Comelec ban since they can drink in certain hotels and establishments with special permits.
The rights commonly advocated by secularists today are reproductive health (RH), divorce, and marriage equality. The RH law grants certain claims to qualified citizens by imposing a duty on the government to provide free contraceptives. The divorce bill seeks to grant couples of failed marriages the privilege to start a new life with a new spouse by relieving them of the duty to remain married to their old partners. Advocates of marriage equality fight for equal rights – not “special” rights – of same sex couples so they can enjoy the same legal recognition, protection, and claims that heterosexual couples often take for granted.
Unfortunately, these rights have yet to see the light of day as the supreme court issued a status quo ante order on the recently-passed RH law, while divorce and marriage equality still have to hurdle a tedious legislative process which at any point could stop them in their tracks. While it is the State that holds the power to grant or deny these claims and privileges, those who represent the State are also human beings and may be influenced by their religious beliefs or dictated upon by their religious leaders, adversely affecting the citizens who don’t share their persuasions. In effect, religion – actually just one particular religion – still holds considerable power over all of us whether or not we subscribe to it, the constitutional inviolability of Church-State separation notwithstanding.
And so the advocacy for secularism is an advocacy against theocracy. It is a struggle against the undue influence of religion in public affairs, a drive to remind our public servants that they answer to the people and not to some church hierarchy. The call for secularism is a call to our fellow citizens to wield their power to choose the life they want to live, to think and act free from fear of excommunication and hell fire while remaining grounded on reason and evidence, and to strive to increase happiness and lessen needless suffering in this world. Ultimately, the advocacy for secularism is an advocacy for immunity from religion, and the advancement of the rights of the rational individual.
If you share this advocacy, please join Filipino Freethinkers as we fight for a true separation of Church and State in the Philippines.
I hate hearing people say that same-sex marriages will destroy the sanctity of that union. On the top of my head, here are 5 things that are currently destroying the sanctity of marriage:
Non-consensual non-monogamy (or infidelity with deliberate deceit).
Getting married because of economic reasons.
Getting married because someone got knocked up.
Getting married under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Nobody’s asking me but I don’t think marriages were ever sacred. Most marriages in the good old days were done to acquire land, to obtain financial security, to improve social status, to gain more political power… pretty much the same reasons why most people are getting married today. Romantic love is a fairly recent invention but as far as myths go, it’s also a fairly good thing to put your faith in. I get very giddy when I see couples holding hands while walking because even though it doesn’t seem to exist for me, it’s nice to see that it is real for some people. They’re not hurting me, unless I’m particularly hormonal that day and I start wondering why I’m still single.
I’m also perpetually perplexed by people who cry foul for their divine being of choice. Take the people who believe in Judeo-Christian god for example. You’ll occasionally find them protesting on the streets carrying “God hates fags” posters (even though their god allegedly created everything – hell included because, as you might know, Lucifer came from heaven too). I envy them because they have so much time in their hands, as I’m pretty sure it takes a while to organize a protest. It takes time and effort to create banners and posters but I suppose nothing bonds people closer than a common enemy. All that hate must have the kick of a million energy drinks.
Anyway, it perplexes me because if they hate “fags” so much… why not just let them burn in hell? What’s all the fuss trying to save damned souls? Don’t you people want more space in heaven? I’m pretty sure all your efforts have already been recognized by the bearded one upstairs. Do good and be good, that’s all you need to do right? I checked the Bible and from what I can tell, there are only two things that will guarantee safe passage to hell: suicide and doubt. So unless you killed yourself and/or you’re an atheist, all you need to do is to ask for forgiveness and you’re all set to go up.
Marriage isn’t as sacred as you want to think it is and the promise of hell for other people seems desirable if you hate them, which leaves us with… it’s unnatural?
Do you know what I think is unnatural? Wearing clothes. Animals don’t wear clothes. Why don’t we legislate a law against wearing clothes? Especially hideous ones like leopard prints. And glittery shoes. Why do people wear these things? Sometimes together. It’s just unnatural. Let’s ban it.
Oh, what’s that? I’m using my own subjective opinion of what is fashionable? You mean to say that I can continue to disapprove of them without depriving them the pleasure of being dressed horribly? And what’s that? They think my outfits are just as bad? Wait, wait, wait. Do you mean to tell me that we can coexist being poorly dressed and disapproving of each other without having to ban anything?
Alright, alright. I have to be honest. The reason why I’m this close-minded is because I like humans. Not women, not men: humans. Have I kissed a girl and liked it? Indeed I have. She was a very beautiful, very intelligent but also very silly adult female and we never had sex but I loved her for seven years and we didn’t hurt anyone but each other.
I know it’s hard to look at something you find unsightly. I really, really find leopard print and glittery shoes ugly but here’s a trick that addresses the problem: turn away. No one is asking me to approve, no one is asking me to change my opinion about it, but I’m very aware that I don’t have the right to tell them that they should stop wearing that abominable print simply because I find it weird. I don’t think anyone has the right to tell anyone that they are not allowed to love someone simply because they happen to be of the same sex.
On the top of my head, here are 3 pairings that need more negative attention than same-sex couples:
“Consensual” pedophilia. I’m pretty close-minded about this too. I don’t think it’s proper to sexualize children.
People afflicted with Stockholm Syndrome.
Rape victims who are forced to marry their rapists.
There’s just so much suffering in the world. I just don’t see the point of depriving anyone of some modest amount of joy, no matter how temporary it may be or even if I get nothing out of it. I don’t plan on ever getting married so this really doesn’t concern me. I’m pretty sure it doesn’t concern straight people either so I don’t see why they have so much say in it. Pardon my ignorance.
BANGLADESH — Several atheist bloggers have recently been prosecuted for blasphemy by Islamic political parties. The said parties are calling for the death penalty as punishment for the bloggers’ “insulting religion” online.
Despite how Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina claims that the Bangladesh constitution is secular, she still goes on to contradict herself by saying that ”existing laws are enough” and “If anybody tried to hurt any sentiments of any religion or any religious leader, there is a law. We can take any action.” The Filipino Freethinkers stand in solidarity with these bloggers as the religious groups of Bangladesh seek to trample upon their right to freedom of speech.
If you would like to help out as well, the following are just some of the many ways to take action:
Express your dissent online. There is a ”Scarlet B” campaign for bloggers and others to express solidarity with the Bangladeshi bloggers (use the image on the right). The Twitter hashtag #HumanistSolidarity has also been used in connection with the Bangladeshi bloggers.
Contact the ambassador to Bangladesh from your country. The American Humanist Association has urged its members and supporters to contact the US Ambassador to Bangladesh and express their concerns. Individuals in most countries can undertake a similar action, writing to protest the arrests, and the threat to freedom of speech they represent. If a national ambassador receives even a small number of letters on the same topic this can draw an issue to their attention and raise its priority with the foreign government.
It can’t be said enough that ideas do not have rights, but people do, and that no expression of criticism warrants harming one’s fellow humans. To quote Evelyn Beatrice Hall, ”I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”.
Brace yourselves. Marriage Equality is coming. It’s been happening all over the world recently, and it’s only a matter of time that it happens here.
But as with many developments in science and social justice, the conservative Catholic Church and its Pro Life cohorts will do everything to stop it. They’ll be particularly more antsy with the recent loss in the RH battle and a potential loss on divorce also looming.
They’ll explain how marriage equality — we don’t call it same-sex marriage anymore* — is an attack on the traditional marriage, the sanctity of the family, Filipino culture, and human existence itself. They’ll bring out their usual non-sequiturs and one-sided statistics.
And although this especially applies to their flock, the Church will fight so that it applies to everyone else. They have every right to do so, but it shouldn’t matter in a secular democracy. Yet just like “equality,” “secular” and “democracy” are words the Catholic Church has always been allergic to.
Although it was particularly aimed at secularism, it illuminated the Church’s stance on other issues, showing just why equality, secularism, and democracy are foreign ideas to this foreign institution:
The Church is essentially an unequal society, that is, a society comprising two categories of per sons, the Pastors and the flock, those who occupy a rank in the different degrees of the hierarchy and the multitude of the faithful.
So distinct are these categories that with the pastoral body only rests the necessary right and authority for promoting the end of the society and directing all its members towards that end; the one duty of the multitude is to allow themselves to be led, and, like a docile flock, to follow the Pastors.
The encyclical goes on to explain why secularism has been, is, and always will be denounced by the Roman Catholic Church.** For now, understand that in the same way that the Church fought against secularism until it became the obvious choice to almost everyone, they will do the same against marriage equality. They’ll rehash the same tired arguments they’ve been using to block the measure here and all over the world.
But ultimately, behind the flawed arguments and supposed “science,” what it all boils down to is this: the Church does not think marriage equality is a good idea, so everyone else will just have to obey them. Because in their unequal society, our one duty is to allow ourselves to be led, and, like a docile flock, to follow the Pastors.
* What LGBT couples are asking for is not a special kind of marriage that merits its own moniker (same-sex marriage). All they’re saying is that the right to marry should apply equally to everyone.
** Fans of Vatican II will undoubtedly bring up Dignitatis Humanae, which supposedly corrects the Church’s stand on religious freedom. But one of the last things Pope Benedict XVI did was explain how this wasn’t really the case. But that’s a story for another article.
With the Papal elections winding down in the Vatican, most pinoys are beginning to focus their attention on our very own parade of horribles: The May 2013 Elections.
The people will be voting for candidates who most closely adhere to their wants and needs, and they’ll be very interested in what the various candidates’ opinion on hot topics such as same-sex marriage.
It goes without saying that as a religiously conservative country, the Philippines has not been supportive of gay marriage, with an overwhelming amount of senatoriables voicing their opposition to the measure.
The question is, does their opposition to gay marriage hold any water? For the benefit of the people still undecided on this matter – and since I’m a mean-spirited blackheart with nothing better to do – I’ll be presenting some of the crazier reasons these people are against gay marriage…and why they’re bullshit.
“It’s against natural law. Ang lalaki, ang mapapangasawa niya ay babae, at sila’y mag-aanak at dadami ang sangkatauhan. ‘Yan ang naturang batas at hindi kailanman nagkaroon sa natural law na pwede ‘yung parehong babae, parehong lalaki… Walang pamilya! Hindi naman ‘yan magkakaanak.” – Lito David
Malayo ‘yan. Tayo’y ginawa ng Diyos na [ang] pag-aasawa [ay] para magkaroon ka ng anak, procreation, para magkaroon ka ng happiness. Kung para sa happiness lang, ‘wag na kayong magpakasal. Kung dalawa kayong lalaki, dalawa kayong babae, gusto n’yong magsama, puwede naman. So bakit kailangang magpakasal pa? – Dick Gordon
Marriage is for propagating family, but it is high time for registered partnerships. – Ricardo Penson
First off, there is nothing in our laws that makes having children a legal requirement for couples to marry. If this were the case, then marriage should be illegal for the sterile and the elderly. Strangely enough, lesbian couples can still skirt this requisite through the magic of science.
This argument was also used during the deliberations to repeal California’s Proposition 8. Prop 8 has since been repealed, with several states in the US beginning to legalize gay marriage, which goes to show you just how effective the argument was.
Furthermore, if David and Gordon are going to argue against gay marriage on the grounds that “It’s not natural,” they’re going to have to explain swans, seagulls, bonobos, dolphins, vultures, pigeons, ducks, sheep, and hyenas. All of the above have exhibited homosexual behavior in the wild.
Taking the naturalistic fallacy further, we shouldn’t be using “unnatural” things, such as modern medicine, cars, smartphones (of which David has taken to backfisting), and computers.
I’d include clothes, but do we really want to regularly see Mr. David’s junk, or Dick’s…well, you get the idea.
“I don’t think that’s a marriage. They can just live together if they want. No need to flaunt it.” – Jun Magsaysay
I think that is a joke of a proposal. I don’t know where that idea came from, but marriage is between a man and a woman so maybe the laws can be liberalized in such a way that the property relations of people of the same sex who decided to live together can be governed by law but let us not call that marriage. Madali naman yan sa partnership, we can let the government code govern that or the laws on partnership, not the family code. – Koko Pimentel
It’s more than just being able to live together and “flaunting it”. Marriage ensures that the partners involved receive the same legal protections as straight couples, such as the on the matter of hospital visitation rights. There’s also the myriad of laws under the family code that protect the right to property of both people entering a marriage, in the event of the death of the spouse.
This isn’t about granting “special” rights to the LGBT community, as Pimentel implies. This is about granting them EQUAL rights, under the same family code that protect all straight marriages in the Philippines. And on a more sentimental note, it is about two men or women who have entered a long-term relationship, being able to proudly say “We’re married!” instead a word salad like “We’re under a recognized civil union!”
Pimentel should brush up on history, so that he’ll understand why his plea for things to be “Separate but equal,” should be ignored, if not outright ridiculed. Just like his stance on reproductive rights.
“Ang paniniwala ko pa rin between man and woman yung marriage.” – Nancy Binay
Sa akin, parang ‘di maganda dahil man and woman ang marriage. – Samson Alcantara
I don’t have anything against gay people… they were probably born that way but this should not be sanctified by marriage. Some of my friends are gay but marriage to me is a sacred institution. – Bal Falcone
We are still a Catholic nation. If we look at the Bible, the marriage of two persons is always man and woman. It’s always been Adam and Eve. Wala namang Adan at Adan. Wala ring Eba at Eba – JV Ejercito Estrada
Marriage is not the exclusive property of the Catholic Church. Furthermore, it’s not as if legalizing same-sex marriage will require RCC churches to marry gay couples; The couples can always get married in churches that support gay marriage.
And really, the “some of my friends are X” defense is a crapshoot argument. Would it be any more sensible if Mr. Falcone said “Some of my friends are black, but I think segregation is a sacred institution”? Is it any surprise that most of the arguments against gays sound similar to the tired rhetoric of the proponents of the Jim Crow laws?
Furthermore, Mr. Estrada, the Philippines is not a “Catholic Nation.” While it is true that most of the people here are Catholic, that doesn’t give them the right to impose their religion on all other non-Catholics; Even constitutionalist Fr. Bernas considered this a very bad idea.
And assuming we limit our definition of marriage to consenting adults, the one-man, one-woman definition can also be disputed. Polygamy is also a widely accepted form of marriage among numerous cultures, such as Islam.
Lastly, it’s a PERSONAL belief – nobody is forcing you to have a gay marriage. However, it also follows that you don’t have a right to impose your personal belief of what marriage is on gays. It’s not your job to force your “paniniwala” on the people – it’s your job to defend their basic rights. And if you don’t understand that, you don’t have any business running for senate.
Totally against that. Equal rights are guaranteed by the United Nations Charter on Human Rights. There is really no need to expand the concept of human rights. I respect the human rights of gays and lesbians, but when you allow same sex marriage, there is no purpose whatsoever as to the objective of that. – JC Delos Reyes
JC failed to mention that as of 2011, the United Nations passed a resolution opposing discrimination or violence against the gay community.
That discrimination doesn’t necessarily have to come in the form of laws that directly oppress the LGBT community. It can be as simple as denying them the right to marry the person they love, and wish to spend the rest of their life with. A right straight people like me can enjoy, and most often take for granted. JC has no business claiming to agree with the UN if he can’t even acknowledge that gays deserve to be protected by the same range of laws that protect everybody else in RP.
On a related note, he certainly has no right to be claiming to be in support for the UN charter on human rights, given his attempts to block every woman’s right to RH medicine and education, which are supported by the UN.
“I am for the protection and respect ng political rights ng lahat, regardless of gender. Pero pagdating sa marriage of same sex, sabi ng Good Book, huwag gayahin ‘yung nangyari sa Sodom and Gomorrah dahil darating ang paggunaw sa isang bansa pag ‘yun ay ginawa.” – Eddie Villanueva
We saved the best for last.
The gist of Bro. Eddie’s argument is that he’s for equal rights, unless it goes against the teachings of his good book. The problem is that even a cursory reading of the bible shows that it’s anything but a “good” book. From its endorsement of genocide and slavery to unleashing bears on kids who make fun of baldies, the bible’s text goes anywhere from morally questionable, to the sort of religiously-motivated actions that would make even Kratos take pause and say “Whoa there! Isn’t that getting a bit excessive? ”
As a parting note, I advise all voters reading this to go through their favorite candidate’s stances on various social concerns before voting. It’s your responsibility, and privilege.
The Supreme Court of the Philippines voted 10-5 to put a status quo ante order on the RH law, which means that instead of the RH law being implemented the Philippines will return to the magical state it was in before the RH bill was passed.
We already have the law and the implementing rules and regulations. The Supreme Court has ordered the Philippines to regress, to freeze progress for four more months. Four more months that the CBCP and its allies can use to maneuver their political power to kill the RH law in the Supreme Court.
Despite sounding like a very progressive Catholic, Ateneo de Davao University president Joel Tabora, S.J. has never really stated, at least not publicly, whether he agrees with the underlying logic of the Reproductive Health (RH) Law.
When asked on Twitter by Filipino Freethinkers president Red Tani if he believes that using artificial contraception is inherently evil (as defined by the Roman Catholic Church in Casti Connubii and Humanae Vitae), Tabora replied:
“Based on the level of natural law that is presupposed in those encyclicals, yes. But I do not think an abstract category such as “inherently evil” is fruitful in understanding the demands of Christian ethics today.”
Notice that the first sentence is as qualified as it gets, and the second sentence removes whatever illusion of significance the first sentence has to Red’s question on Tabora’s stand on contraception. And if that wasn’t enough, Tabora further said:
“To illustrate: is it “inherently” evil to separate the conjugal act from both its unitive and procreative meanings? Do not get me wrong. The notion of natural law and its use as a foundation for moral teaching has developed. It is “complicated.” Doctrines develop. There was a time when the Church tolerated slavery and persecuted heretics.”
It seems that Tabora is being deliberately ambiguous or evasive by implicitly undermining the encyclicals without expressly going against the Church’s teachings. But does his doublespeak mean dishonesty? Let the reader be the judge, keeping in mind that the university president’s job description is unlikely to include the right to publicly deny the Catholic position.
But while his statements on RH are so carefully crafted, look how freely he speaks of things he truly believes in:
“I certainly believe there are grave sins. That’s why there is the Cross. And Resurrection.”
This time he didn’t mention the Church, let alone the encyclicals. He categorically stated his belief in Christ – something he did not do on the issue of RH and contraception and whether he agrees with the Vatican’s teachings.
“If the “Catholic Church” is truly convinced of its position, convince first the Catholics of it, then propose law based on their collective witness. Running to legislation to do the job of proclamation and religious education will not convince Catholics who are not convinced.”
In those two sentences Fr. Tabora summed up everything secularism stands for. It doesn’t matter if he never clearly stated his support for reproductive health, because he left a reminder that the legislature ought not to aid any religion. And as far as the advocacy for the separation of Church and State is concerned, this Jesuit educator is as secular as Catholic priests ever get.
Tintin, you’ve shown that there are parents who badly need gender and sexuality education (the right kind of education, mind you). Sorry, you can’t squeeze your way out of this. Whatever you do from this point forward, however many sorry’s you spew out, your ‘article’ has already proven that there are parents who have little to zero understanding of how to handle the gender and sexuality aspects of raising a child. That’s what you’ve done.
Camille, you’ve shown that there are people who blur the lines between what they learned in training and what is their personal opinion. It’s one thing to pepper your opinion with faith and traditional beliefs. But to use your credentials to mask your medieval musings is completely unacceptable. Starting today, we’re going to be a lot more careful of you and other ‘psychologists’ who have an opinion on anything. That’s what you’ve done.
You’ve proven that there are real experts out there who will expose your misguided truths. And you’ve also proven that we will no longer take this sitting down, that this ignorant and hateful attitude shall no longer go unnoticed with impunity. You made me feel good because after all these years of fighting for equality, there are still tireless LGBT activists and allies willing to stand up for what is right. You made me wonder what greater challenges we can overcome. You made me believe that my children (if I decide to have them) might actually be in good hands when they grow up. You made me believe that a future without people like you might be closer than I thought. You made me look forward to that. That’s what you’ve done.
And for that, from the bottom of my homosexual heart, thank you!
A gay son with a loving, informed, and educated mother,
Ron de Vera
An Open Letter from the Parenting Chapter of the Filipino Freethinkers
While we respect and fully support the mission of the Department of Education, “to provide quality basic education that is equitably accessible to all and lay the foundation for life-long learning and service for the common good,” we believe that there is a need to review its mission, namely to be, “globally recognized for good governance and for developing functionally-literate and God-loving Filipinos,” and one of its core values, “Maka-Diyos,” as reflected in the current DepEd Mission and Core values in the following link, http://www.deped.gov.ph/index.php/about-deped/vision-and-mission;
(Image source: foundersintent.org)
While the Philippines is a country whose population mostly belongs to or adheres to a certain religion and believe in the existence of a Higher Being, we believe that such a fact should not find its way nor bias the vision and core values of government offices, but should rather support the separation of church and state and consequently, should be secular in nature.
By contrast, there is still a minority of Filipinos who are neither Catholic, Christian, nor sectarian but subscribe to alternative beliefs or unbelief, including the irreligious, and even Indigenous Peoples (IPs) with their traditional beliefs.
There are some who may argue that the wording, “God-loving”, and “Maka-Diyos” is not a major matter as these are not policies that the DepEd is implementing, per se. It should be clear though that their presence in the vision and core values of the country’s primary government agency involved with primary and secondary education assumes and gives license to the DepEd to translate these motherhood concepts into policies which it can strictly implement in the basic education curriculum.
Moreover, the presence of these two phrases undermines this diverse but significant group of non-theistic Filipinos whose beliefs or lack thereof has been disregarded, overlooked, and not represented by a national agency like the DepEd.
Therefore, there is an urgent need to have an inclusive mission and core values that would value and represent the diversity of all Filipinos’ belief or non-belief.
The 1987 Philippine Constitution is explicit in the primacy of parents’ roles in bringing up their chldren, as expressed in article XIV, section 2.2, “The State shall establish and maintain a system of free public education in the elementary and high school levels. Without limiting the natural rights of parents to rear their children…”
Moreover, educating children about religion still falls under the authority and jurisdiction of parents as reflected in Section 3.3 of the same article, “at the option expressed in writing by the parents or guardians, religion shall be allowed to be taught to their children or wards in public elementary and high school…”
Thus, the law is clear, religion is still primarily the business of parents, and not the State (as represented by DepEd). If parents or legal guardians do not want the state to teach any kind of religion or belief to their children, they are well within their rights to do so.
We also do not think that it would be costly for DepEd to re-evaluate these concepts while keeping true to its goals and aims. And while we heard of some news that DepEd is doing just that (reviewing its VM and core values) https://twitter.com/ffreethinkers/statuses/298730354322313216, the results remain to be seen.
Many of you have said you’d like to help Carlos in his case — he’s been found guilty of offending religious feelings. On the legal side, he has decided to appeal the case instead of bargaining for probation, essentially telling all of us that, no, he’s not guilty, and he’ll fight this all the way to the Supreme Court if he has to.
But in terms of taking to the streets, we — fellow advocates and supporters of Carlos — are still discussing the most strategic course of action in terms of being as brave and effective as Carlos was while not jeopardizing his case. Rest assured that we will go to the streets (or even inside certain buildings) when the time is right, and we’ll let everyone know when we’re ready.
For now, we can support Carlos not by fighting but by celebrating. He’s hosting a La Solidaridady Walk to celebrate Rizal’s fight for freedom this Sunday (February 10) at 4pm. He’s already posted details of the event on his site:
Wanna walk with me in Luneta Park on February 10, at 4pm. Meet me under the trees at theAgrifina Circle in front of the steps of the National Museum of the Filipino People. and let’s make pasyal to celebrate Jose Rizal’s FIGHT for Freedom.
Let’s dress up as our favorite Rizalian era characters or whatever you cosplay character you wish, and let’s look at old photos of Luneta online on our iPhones and Androids, and capture this day on instagram, twitter, tumblr or facebook and FREELY upload it online so the world can see the awesome new renovations of our national park. We’ll hashtag #rizalpark #freedom #luneta
We’ll check out the new dancing fountain, the larger than life Philippine Map, the newly renovated gardens, and photograph ourselves in a “DAMASO” Rizal Derby Hat inside our Damaso Photobooth at Art Park!
We’ll cap the walk with a visit to the site where Jose Rizal was shot back in 1896. Of course, we’ll stop and have street food along the way.
Oh and this tour is FREE. YES. As in FREE. It’s my way of supporting the Rizal Park’s efforts in revitalizing Manila’s premier public space and supporting Rizal’s fight for FREEDOM. Mabuhay and Kalayaan!
Visit The National Museum and see the Spolarium before the walk to complete your Manila day. )
Text 09209092021 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to confirm.
Oh. And dogs are welcome to tour. Dogs in costumes even more.
Many have already shown interest in going, so not only will you be there to support Carlos, you’ll meet the allies you’ll be marching with when the time comes. And if there’s a fun (and free!) way to start preparing for that inevitable day, this solidarity walk is it.
“Try protesting inside a MOSQUE and let’s see if you can keep your head on your shoulder.”
I have heard this said several times to argue against Carlos Celdran’s actions in the Manila Cathedral in 2010, and I think it is nothing but veiled Islamophobia, not to mention unfair to a group of people who happen to practice a different religion from the Filipino majority.
Saying this actually suggests that ALL our Muslim brothers and sisters are a bunch of violent, vindictive terrorists who will kill anyone who disrespects their faith. I find this offensive because I have Muslim friends and office-mates who are peaceful, reasonable, progressive, and in many ways, better than so many so-called Christians who react violently when someone disagrees with them. Shame on those people for even suggesting that all Muslims will immediately resort to violence. They probably don’t know that many Muslims, and I doubt if they are good friends with one.
‘Fatwa envy’ is the term used for the phenomenon of people complaining that criticism of their religion or political beliefs is wrong because the criticism would never be directed at Muslims for fear of violence or death, according to Rational Wiki (http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Fatwa_envy).
You can drive out a person who says or does rude things inside your house, but you don’t sue them or send them to prison. It shows how emotionally immature you are. I am of the opinion that there are times when some people need a rude awakening, especially when social niceties and outward politeness are numbing and sheltering them from the fact that they are rudely over-stepping their boundaries.
The CBCP and their ultra-conservative Catholic cohorts are over-stepping their boundaries, getting access to public privileges without paying taxes, violating the separation of church and state and shutting down art exhibits and protest actions that they find offensive. They can’t surrender pedophile priests to the public, they amass wealth by the billions in a country full of hungry, poor people, they get to ask a former president for gifts of SUVs, and they exercise political influence like it is their birthright. Barging into their church meetings to protest their political meddling is an act of defiance, an act of rebellion against the bigger evil that they are perpetuating, and is a nonviolent way of bringing to light the fact that they are not exercising the same respect that they are now demanding from everyone else.
A Stomping Ground For Stomping on Non-Catholics
It reminds me of the public high school that I went to years ago. Our government-employed Catholic principals and teachers required that all students attend a Catholic catechism class, and not attending will cost you your grade in Values Education. The cathecist teachers they allowed to come in and teach were from the local parish that the school administrators go to every Sunday. These cathecists would routinely ask each student, in the presence of the whole class, whether they are Catholic or not. When they learn that some of us are from ‘born-again’ families, they would proceed to joke that we are ‘burned again’, in reference to the hellfire punishment for apostates. Before we graduated, we were compelled to attend a Catholic mass. Some of our teachers even threatened us that we will not get diplomas if we do not attend.
(image source: Mostphotos.com)
The Catholic Church in our neighbourhood has a tall loudspeaker that rudely blares their prayers and sermons all over the place every Saturday and Sunday afternoon, at the expense of the non-Catholics who also reside in the area. Every Lenten season, messengers claiming to be from the same neighbourhood Catholic church would knock on our gates and ask for donations for the Holy Week celebrations, and we get dirty looks when we tell them that we are not Catholics.
Another incident was when my wife was confined in a Catholic hospital in Manila years ago when she gave birth to our son. We had no choice but to rush her there because it was the nearest hospital in the vicinity. The hospital’s priest visited our room while my wife was still recovering from a Cesarean surgery, asked us if we were Catholics. When we said we aren’t, he told us that we have lost our way and that God welcomes lost sheep when they go back to the fold. He said it in front of my visiting mother, who is a life-long ‘Born-Again’ Protestant deacon. It was a disconcerting experience for my mother and my wife, to say the least.
So a strangely-dressed man with a placard sign saying ‘Damaso’ walks in on an ecumenical church meeting that the CBCP bishops are attending and tells them to stop meddling in politics. For all the rude violations that the ruling Catholic majority keep doing at the expense of those who do not share their beliefs, is it that damnable when a man like Carlos Celdran gets fed up and goes directly to them, to tell them to their faces to stop?
In the New Testament account, an angry Jesus goes into the Temple to turn over the tables of merchants who jack up their prices to rip off the faithful, and whipped the traders with a rope to drive them out of their own legal territory. (Gospel of John 2: 13-16)
Now You Do What They Told Ya, Now You’re Under Control
In connection to this, I happen to like punk and metal bands that use rude language to get their messages across, and I have often observed that it has a more immediate impact than any politely-worded political treatise out there because it gets into the heart of the issue. Rage Against The Machine’s “Killing In The Name Of” comes to mind.
To paraphrase fellow freethinker Sass Sasot, polite behaviour is often dictated by those who are in power, the oppressor, to control the oppressed. What we call ‘polite behaviour’ depends on what a certain group of people find acceptable. Who dictates the norm for polite behaviour? If those who are in power are the only ones allowed to decide what proper behaviour is, or what a proper venue for protest is, then the minority is already being restricted by this dictate and are only being bullied to the point of silence. Restrictions imposed by social rules of propriety only serve to delay the efforts of the person complaining of injustice. As Martin Luther King, one of the modern fathers of civil disobedience, would say, “Justice too long delayed is justice denied.” (from Letter From Birmingham City Jail)
Polite society often tells us to obey its rules at the expense of things with bigger consequences and to obscure bigger issues that should be addressed. My answer to that is “Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me!“, as RATM would put it.
Few things make me nervous. Job interviews, cute boys, boa constrictors—I can face them just fine. But when I took my first HIV test at the last FF meetup, I definitely felt my tummy tumbling over. And this ended up being a very good thing.
I’ve been sexually active for a decade now, and have had an above average number of sexual partners. And yes, I hate to admit that some of those encounters were without protection, because I was a stupid, stupid, stupid kid who should have known better. And in all ten of these years, I had never gotten tested for HIV. So, despite the fact that my partners were relatively clean-living people (e.g. no back-alley blood transfusions for cash, at least I don’t think), and have not announced any life-threatening ailments on their Timelines, I was most definitely not in the clear. There was that chance, however small. It takes just one, as they say.
Fortunately, we were under the care of some awesome people from Take the Test Project, a group that administers HIV testing and counseling for free to whoever requests for them. Not only were they learned, patient, open, and unbiased during their pre- and post-test counseling, but they were also very efficient on the whole; I knew the results of my blood test in less than thirty minutes.
But that period of waiting, however short, spooked me. It made me think about how I should have been more careful, and how I should apply what I’ve learned and be far more cautious from that point on. I was also nervous because if I turned out to be HIV-positive, then it was highly likely that my boyfriend of nearly five years could be positive as well, since we stopped using condoms after I went on the Pill. I knew that a positive result, all in all, would change my life, and maybe my boyfriend’s, significantly.
Nonetheless, it’s important to understand that being HIV-positive is nothing to be ashamed about. I was nervous, yes, but none of that had to do with a prospective shame. Yes, being HIV-positive would be challenging. Yes, it would affect what kind of activities you could or couldn’t do. Yes, it would make meeting new partners* trickier, since it would entail being extra candid and cautious when it came to matters of sex. But being ashamed of myself was not one of the problems.
I was nervous because HIV was a virus. Having it does not make me a bad person; having it does not warrant anyone to look down on me, much less shun me for anything. But it is a dangerous thing, and if not treated immediately and properly, could lead to AIDS and a much earlier death. In certain respects, it’s kind of like having diabetes. Getting diagnosed with diabetes means drastic lifestyle changes—cutting out sugar, being generally more careful with what you consume, taking daily insulin shots, etc. I would be very nervous if I had to wait for news of whether I was diabetic or not, too. Either condition would change my life, and as a person aiming to live a fairly simple existence—with just enough thrills here and there to sate me—this would be a little hard to swallow.
My test turned out non-reactive, which meant that I did not have the markers for HIV. There was a very miniscule chance that I could still be positive, especially if I were recently infected, but on the whole, I was safe. It was the best news. But the last thing that announcement did was encourage me to move on like all of this never happened. It did the exact opposite. It made me even more adamant that everyone, regardless of who they are and how they live, should take the test as well. Not only will taking it lessen this ridiculous stigma around the virus, but it will do a whole world of good to those who do turn out positive, so they can plan out their lives accordingly, preventing them from getting sicker or spreading the virus to others. Feeling nervous prior to test results is nothing compared to finding out accidentally and far, far too late.
However wild or tame your lifestyle may be, taking the HIV test is simply the right thing to do. Negative or positive, the results will help you, your loved ones, and the population as a whole to look the virus in the eye and live a better life for it.
Want to take the test? Just get in touch with the Take the Test Project through their site, or through these numbers:
0917-58-HIV RT (448 78)
0999-88-HIV RT (448 78)
0932-88-HIV RT (448 78)
*Which I won’t do because I lab you very, very much, babby!!!
Celdran’s political protest challenges the hegemony of the Catholic Church, while his case tests the independence of the judiciary from the Church
Article 133: Legacy of Colonialism
In her review of Carolyn Brewer’s Holy Confrontation: Religion, Gender, and Sexuality, Barbara Watson Andaya tells us of how Spanish friars aggressively sought to replace the spiritual role of elderly women in the lives of our ancestors. During that time, women were the spiritual leaders. Summarizing Brewer’s findings, Andaya tells us that “humiliation became a primary weapon [of Catholic friars], as young boys were recruited to locate sacred items and then urinate on them or perform other acts of desecration.” Our indigenous spiritual rituals and beliefs were replaced with “Christian rituals and symbols.” Our indigenous priestesses were called “bruja (female witch),” which we then “localized into bruha.”
If this happened today, we might say that under Article 133 of the Revised Penal Code our indigenous priestesses would have a cause for action against the Catholic Church. After all, what the Catholic Church did to our ancestors was not only “notoriously offensive;” it was arrogant, violent, cruel, and inhuman. They deprived our ancestors of their own beliefs. They oppressed and dehumanized our ancestors because they are of a different civilization. They did this because they were so convinced that they had a mission to civilize the world; and for our Spanish colonizers, civilized and human meant Christian and European. The rest are savages, barbaric, non-human. Article 133 wasn’t intended to protect our ancestor’s indigenous religions. The revised penal code is largely derived from the penal code of our Spanish colonizers. Since during that time Church and State were not separate entities, Article 133 was probably not meant to protect all religions but a legal tool to secure the hegemony of the religion of our colonial masters, who believed that Christianity is the only one true religion.
Separation of Church and Judiciary
Celdran’s simple act of protest challenges that hegemony. He deliciously used Rizal’s critique of that hegemony: Damaso. Some say that Celdran is just seeking attention. If we are going to reduce Celdran’s action as mere attention seeking, then what is stopping us from doing the same to all acts of revolt against the Catholic Church that happened all throughout history in all nations that have been colonized by this religion? Others say that there is a “civilized” way of protesting against the Catholic Church. This view needs to be interrogated by an analysis of hegemony.
In The Conservation of “Race,” Kwame Anthony Appiah informs us that “hegemony sets the framework. It defines the dominant system of concepts, the ‘common sense,’ in terms of which social and political reality will be lived.” The “civilized” way of protesting against the hegemon is determined by the hegemon itself, who became the hegemon precisely because of having such authority to determine the norm. So the civilized way of protesting against the Catholic Church is determined by the Catholic Church. The acceptable way of objecting to the Catholic Church is determined by the Catholic Church. If the Catholic Church says there is no acceptable way of objecting to it, then every form of objection to them will be considered “notoriously offensive.” This danger is actually reflected in the 2013 ruling against Celdran that quoted the 1939 Supreme Court ruling on the Baes Case.
The 1939 Supreme Court ruled that, “whether or not the act complained of is offensive to the religious feelings of the Catholics, is a question of fact which must be judged only according to the feelings of the Catholics and not those of other faithful ones.” In his dissenting opinion, to which Justice Imperial concurred, Justice Laurel objected to that circular argument:
I express this opinion that offense to religious feelings should not be made to depend upon to the more ore less broad or narrow conception of any given particular religion, but should be gauged having in view the nature of the acts committed and after scrutiny of all the facts and circumstance which should be viewed through the mirror of an unbiased judicial criterion. Otherwise, the gravity or leniency of the offense would hinge on the subjective characterization of the act from the point of view of a given religious denomination or sect, and in such a case, the application of the law would be partial, and arbitrary, withal, dangerous…
Given that the Philippines is 80% Catholic, judges would most probably be Catholics. Whether or not we can get an “unbiased judicial criterion” to determine whether an action is notoriously offensive to the Catholic Church is a question of how courageous our Catholic judges are in ruling against the feelings of their fellow Catholics. Can Catholic judges say that they are not experiencing undue pressure in ruling in favour of their religious group? This now leads us to the greater significance of the Celdran Case: If the RH Bill tested the independence of the executive and legislative branch against the Church, the Celdran Case is testing the independence of the judiciary against the Church. Since the passage of the RH Bill into law, we are witnessing what the formal separation of Church and State means in substantive terms. Hence, there are two trials here: a legal one, which involves Celdran; and a political one, which involves the judiciary who must convince us that they are independent of the Church.
To conclude, Celdran’s political protest is a challenge to the hegemony of the Catholic Church, a legacy of Spanish imperialist ambitions. Depending on our attitude towards our colonial masters, we may view Celdran’s political action either as an insult to our masters or as a rightful defiance against our colonizers. On the other hand, Celdran’s case tests the independence of the judiciary, who must convince us that it can come up with an unbiased judicial discretion that will determine whether or not Celdran’s action is notoriously offensive to Catholics.
Decolonizing the Philippines is an ongoing process. The separation of Church and all branches of government is a continuous struggle. Celdran’s revolt is part of that process and an embodiment of that struggle. Celdran’s action is a legitimate political protest against the oldest living imperial power in the world.
The verdict is out and the courts have sentenced Carlos Celdran to a maximum of 1 year, one month, and 11 days in prison for having “offended religious feelings” under Article 133 of the Revised Penal Code. There is, however, some misunderstanding among those following the case regarding what the crime truly was. As will be clear, Article 133 privileges those with faith above those who have none, giving them special rights. And with these special rights, the faithful enjoy protection with no equal in secular society.
Apologists for Celdran’s imprisonment invariably open their arguments by saying that they are not opponents of free speech. Should Celdran have chosen a different venue, say Mendiola, he would not have been arrested. True enough, I regularly criticize the powerful Roman Catholic Church and have suffered little for it. In this country, I can make all the jokes about silly Catholic doctrines from the comfort of my home without fear of imprisonment. Article 133 specifically stipulates that the offense to religious feelings must be done inside a place of worship or during a religious ceremony.
What Celdran did was not polite, to say the least. But it did send a message, and nobody was hurt, molested, or tortured. There was no fear of clear and present danger with his placard. And nobody shielded him from the police. People like me who sit behind laptops cannot even dream of getting the reach of Celdran’s protest. And because Celdran was very effective, he was seen as a threat. The powers that be in the Church can take the tiny bloggers ranting online. After all, the old men running the Church don’t even use the Internet. They allow the nation this small freedom to appease those who think free speech is about posting half-baked Facebook commentaries. But, no. People didn’t die for the right to idle chatter. Free speech is about saying things that piss people off. Free speech is about saying things where people will hear what you say and be pissed off.
Filipino Freethinkers is a regular attendee of the Philippine LGBT Pride March that happens every December. While not an LGBT organization, FF supports the recognition of LGBTs as equal human beings. During this march, there are also regular Christian fundamentalist protesters. They shout at marchers and hold signs around the parade, saying that homosexuality is wrong. This has caused great offense to attendees, who come out to the parade to celebrate their identity, only to be shouted down in the one place they publicly proclaim their pride.
Because the parade grounds are not religious grounds, because the march is not a religious ceremony, the LGBT Pride marchers must take such offenses in stride, often making their own jokes to make light of the clearly stressful situation. LGBTs experience oppression and violence every day and choose one day of the year and one place to celebrate. They are a true minority deserving of protection. However, because they do not have politicians in their pocket and because they are decent human beings, they do not have special rights under the law to protect them from religious free speech.
It is quite ironic that those who see LGBT equality as affording “special rights” are exactly the people who have special rights under the law. While LGBTs only ask for their recognition as equal citizens, anti-Celdran apologists enjoy a unique class of speech that the non-religious cannot have. Had Celdran done the same kind of picketing the fundamentalists did but during a religious parade, he would still have been charged under Article 133. LGBTs cannot have Christian fundamentalist protesters arrested regardless of the degree of anguish they feel, which is certainly more than the attendees of the Manila Cathedral ecumenical event where Celdran protested. Witnesses even said at the trial that they had no idea what “DAMASO” meant until after the fact and that they thought Celdran was part of the activity. If they found Celdran disruptive, all they had to do was escort him out of the building. At most, they could have filed a case against him for trespassing. After all, the tax-free Manila Cathedral is private property of the Archdiocese of Manila. But, no, the CBCP flexed their muscles and showed the Philippines who was in charge. You can tweet all your criticisms, but don’t you dare make us hear them. Or else.
People have the right to peaceably assemble. People have the right to freedom of and from religion. What we ought not have a right to is unequal speech. Article 133 says that some kinds of speech are more equal than others. Article 133 is clearly archaic. It is a law that belongs to the time when the Catholic Church could do more than send people to prison. It is a law that has no place in a modern society that encourages the free exchange of ideas.
Only people who believe that their faith cannot stand on its own merit need Article 133.