Tag Archive | "BSP"

Where It Starts

As a practicing Episcopalian, one might think that I would welcome a Bible quote on my money. Should I not be flattered, inspired even, that the Bangko Sentral has seen fit to elevate my religious identity to the national level by plastering it on our legal tender? Besides, its only a tiny little line on the bill itself. I myself was too busy harrumphing with everyone else at miscolored parrot feathers to even notice the quote from Psalms on the 500 peso note until someone pointed it out to me. Even one who appreciates the need for Church/State separation might feel tempted to call the issue insignificant, and that bringing any sort of serious attention to it would be a waste of time better spent on the many other more dire issues that face our country today. Why can’t we stay focused on more blatant and urgent examples of religious interference in government, such as the actions of the CBCP and its allies on the RH Bill?

The problem lies with the fact that these seemingly small things have a tendency to come roaring back, used as leverage for the big issues of the future. While attending the RH Bill congressional hearings, I’ve lost track of the number of times that Anti-RH resource speakers trotted out that line in our 1987 constitution about imploring the aid of Almighty God as definitively final proof that the Republic of the Philippines is not, in fact, a secular democracy and that therefore we ought to establish their version of God’s rules on all and sundry. The ‘In God We Trust’ line on American currency has similarly been abused by fundamentalists there who wish to keep the teaching of evolution out of schools.

Ask yourselves: do you respect the rights of others to practice their beliefs as they see fit, so long as they do not overtly impose those beliefs on you, or take your taxes to fund their practice? Do you like living in a country where you are free to think on your faith, or lack thereof, and reach your own conclusions about how to live your life and share it with others? Because that’s what a truly secular and democratic government guarantees for all its citizens. While we might be pretty far from that ideal right now, it doesn’t mean that it’s not a worthy goal to strive for.

Photo credit: Tico Bassie / cc-by-nc-nd

Here is a relatively easy place to start. For now, by itself, this is indeed a small thing, with a simple solution: remove that line from our taxpayer-funded printed official currency. In doing so we forever remove the possibility of someone brandishing that 500 peso bill and insisting that being members of the ‘official’ religion of this country gives them the right to dictate how everyone else ought to live their lives. This is our chance to actually prevent a problem from developing, rather than reacting to its future consequences. It may not be nearly as glamorous or dramatic, but its just as important.

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Statement Regarding New Peso Bills

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.

Original image from GMA news blog, used under fair use. Emphasis by the editors.

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.htm
l> (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).

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