"It will go a long way."
“Soul, I hear you calling…Oh baby please, give a little respect to me…”
I was reminded by these lyrics off Erasure’s 1988 hit single after reading about President Rodrigo Roa Duterte’s latest tirade against the Roman Catholic Church and its beliefs. Coming off a string of similar rants unleashed over the past two years he’s been in office, one wonders why Duterte feels the need to discuss his religious sentiments in public.
“If I choose not to believe in any god, what’s the “f*****g thing about it? It’s about freedom to choose one,” Duterte said earlier this year, when he called God “stupid.” He has mocked the Trinity, the creation story, and the Last Supper. He has dissed Jesus as being “unimpressive” for getting himself crucified instead of calling on lightning to smite his persecutors.
Catholicism is often touted as the country’s ‘unofficial official religion’ for the simple fact that some 70 to 80 percent of Filipinos describe themselves as Catholic. Though I am not one myself, I grew up in the culture and am aware that many believers are dismayed at Duterte’s unending potshots. The clerics certainly are; several priests have publicly rebuked the President multiple times.
The President should understand that religion and spirituality play a huge role in Philippine society, and to continue mocking it could lead to consequences.
First though, it must be considered that Duterte is exercising his right to free speech, as protected by the Constitution. He’s very much on the side of free speech; recall his strong defense of former communication official Mocha Uson’s antics using this same reason.
Nor is he breaking any law. The Philippines has no blasphemy law. What the law does punish are instances of “interruption of religious worship” and “offending religious feelings,” in Articles 132 and 133 respectively of the Revised Penal Code.
The former penalizes “any public officer or employee who shall prevent or disturb the ceremonies or manifestations of any religion;” the latter, “anyone who, in a place devoted to religious worship or during the celebration of any religious ceremony, shall perform acts notoriously offensive to the feelings of the faithful.”
Duterte does not sling his mud in churches or other religious establishments. Thus he does not contravene the law. Instead, he does it at the most inappropriate places, usually while delivering speeches at public events.
Another issue we should unpack here is that of respect. Insulting someone shows a lack of respect for them. As president, as a leader, Duterte is held to a high standard of behavior. To move the country forward, he must unite rather than divide. There are many religions practiced in this country, and their believers deserve to observe their faith in peace.
The question is, why does the President feel the need to take almost every opportunity to mock Catholics and Christians? What is his big problem with the church? They criticize him, to be sure, but they are not his only critics.
Religion and spirituality are very important to Filipino as core values, as several studies show.
In 1988 the Ateneo de Manila University conducted a study about Filipino values and valued traits. Among them were faith and religiosity, and pakikipagkapwa-tao
(relating to others).
Ours is the only Constitution that mentions the words ‘God’ and ‘love,’ said Dr. Serafin D. Talisayon in a 1990 paper. He also mentioned that a 1979 Gallup Polls study “confirmed the high value placed by Filipinos on education and spirituality,” while a 1980 Tsukuba University study found that Filipino respondents “scored the highest” among the countries studied in items about spiritual/religious beliefs.
Another writer said that “the authentic and classic EDSA People Power was… religious in temperament and persuasion…” (Hornedo 1988). As proof of this, one of the first things done after People Power was the installation of the gigantic statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary at EDSA, because many ascribed the success of that peaceful “revolution” to her divine intervention.
To continue verbally harassing the church and its tenets could later create the last straw for clergy and believers. And nothing good will result from trampling on core values. To restore peace and harmony, a sincere apology, amends where necessary, and a little respect will go a long way.
“Heal the world, make it a better place… For you and for me and the entire human race” is another great jam. FB and Twitter: @DrJennyO