Section 6, Article II of the Constitution explicitly mandates the inviolability of the separation of Church and State in the Philippines.
This means the Catholic Church, among others, should not meddle in politics.
No purported holy purpose can be an excuse for any of its Padre Damasos to interfere in the political concerns of the government.
Jesus Christ declared, “Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and to God what belongs to God.”
The Good Book itself preaches separation of Church and State.
Citizens of the Philippines have the right to criticize the way the government operates.
Since the government is financed by taxpayers’ money, taxpayers have the right to criticize the way the government is managed.
Section 28 (3), Article VI of the Constitution exempts the Church (and other religious denominations) from taxation. Because of that exemption, the Church is expected to lay off politics.
That arrangement is just and equitable.
Citizens are allowed to criticize the government because they pay the taxes which finance the operations of the State.
Padre Damaso is prohibited from criticizing the government because he does not pay taxes.
Accordingly, when Church leaders breach the inviolability of the separation of Church and State by making political statements in public, what they say is subject to press commentary and criticism.
Last month, Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas made a public announcement where he insisted the government should allow representatives of the International Criminal Court to enter the Philippines to investigate former President Rodrigo Duterte and his anti-narcotics campaign during his administration.
Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla, however, has repeatedly announced that in 2019, the Philippines had already withdrawn from the Rome Statute, the treaty creating the ICC.
Remulla adds the justice system in the Philippines is functioning, and there is no need for any foreign entity to investigate the internal issues of the country.
In sum, Remulla maintains the ICC has no legal authority to conduct its own investigation of local issues inside Philippine territory. To allow otherwise, Remulla stressed, will be repugnant to Philippine sovereignty.
For his part, Villegas claims “a thorough inquiry by persons without vested interests or prior alliances should be welcomed.”
Villegas added, “if we have faith in ourselves and in our institutions, then we should not hesitate allowing officials of (the ICC) to see for themselves that we are able to bring the culpable before the bar of justice.”
As expected, groups known for their biased opposition to former President Duterte praised Villegas’ political statements.
What Villegas said, however, is pure hogwash.
Just because the Philippines has faith in its own justice system is not a valid reason to invite representatives of the ICC to the country to verify the justice situation for themselves.
Villegas sweepingly concludes the Philippines needs a foreign agency to conduct a separate investigation of the Philippine situation, before the statements of our own Secretary of Justice can be considered credible.
From the way he sounded, Villegas’ views are jaundiced by his apparent preference for anything foreign as against anything Filipino.
In addition, it is well-nigh impossible for an investigation panel based abroad to conduct a credible, thorough and impartial probe over a contentious Philippine issue, and within a very limited period.
For one thing, there will be a language barrier considering that some local witnesses may not be well-versed in English.
Moreover, anti-Duterte elements will surely submit a mountain of allegations against the ex-president, and ascertaining whether a narrative of a witness is credible or otherwise will take a very long, tedious process.
For the record, the individual who first sought the intervention of the ICC against Duterte already admitted he was paid by anti-Duterte elements to do so.
If the Philippines invites the ICC over as Villegas wants to, Filipino taxpayers will have to shoulder the enormous cost of the ICC’s stay in the country. It’s easy for Villegas to spend money that isn’t his.
Besides, what does Villegas know about Public International Law that gives him enough credibility to make public statements on the matter?
Doesn’t Villegas know that the Supreme Court upheld the authority of then President Duterte to withdraw from the Rome Statute in 2019?
Friars should not pretend to be skilled in law when they are not.
As a priest, Villegas has a credibility problem.
The public sees the Church as staunchly anti-Duterte, and this was apparent during the Duterte administration.
It is also an open secret that the Church supported the failed presidential run of Leni Robredo in 2022, the superficial political opportunist who was always at odds with Duterte.
If the Church wants transparency, they should set the example by conducting an investigation of the pedophiles and similar other misfits within their ranks, and pay taxes, before they meddle in politics.