Ben Contreras .
WE are a good copycat of the United States that even the law on separation of Church and State as written in our Constitution is almost similar to that of America’s.
The First Amendment of the US Constitution states that “Congress shall make no law respecting as establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
The 1987 Constitution of the Philippines declares in Article III, Section 5 that “No law shall be made respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting thereof.
Neither the law of the Church nor the Republic of the Philippines on the separation of Church and State is absolute. The many articles written by intellectual people and as explained by the Church have been unclear on what they want. And because of this ambiguity, both parties find ways to go around the law make their violation a matter that is subject to one’s own interpretation. As it is today, the government is at a losing end. Or, so it seems.
Anything the Church does, be it in business or property ownership is tax free. It may be the most stupid law, thanks to the influence of the Church over its believers, but in a land where more than 80 percent are Catholic, one just can’t simply ignore the influence of the Church over its flock. Politicians need votes to stay in power. A good relationship with the Church may not guarantee their support, but to antagonize the Church is simply suicide. Or, so they say and think.
The influence of the Church was made more pronounced during the Edsa Revolution when the then Cardinal Sin was able to call on the flock to rally behind those who rebelled against the dictatorial regime of the Marcoses. It’s so intoxicating that the Church found it hard to shed it off and opted to partake of it. And the influence of the Church continues until today.
In a recent controversy between homeowners of the Golden Glow Village, the Church invoked the doctrine of separation of Church and State after violating certain government laws.
Pueblo de Oro donated a piece of land for the purpose of putting up a church. A church may be good for a growing community and no problem would have arose from it if it stuck to its original plan and purpose, but St. Francis of Xavier Church went farther by building a columbarium inside this huge church without consulting residents.
Thus, sometime in August 2016, the Golden Glow Village Home Owners Association submitted their resolution to the Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board, interposing their vehement opposition to the operation and establishment of the columbarium.
There were exchanges of letter and personal communications between parties, including HLURB. The side of the Church made an ardent appeal to the homeowners, only to cloud its sincerity by issuing statement calling the homeowners “ignorant and selfish.” It certainly does not speak well of the Church.
On Aug. 24, 2018, HLURB responded to the homeowners by saying, “that no application for a Development Permit, Certificate of Registration and License to Sell for a columbarium project was submitted to our office as of this date.”
Even ordinary folk have to get permits for fencing. What more for a project like columbarium! What is the Church trying to tell us? That they are above the law?
On Dec. 6, 2017, HLURB wrote a letter to Archbishop Antonio Ledesma, citing the following violations after evaluation and verification by their office:
- failure to a secure development permit;
- selling without a development permit;
- selling without license to sell;
- selling without Certificate of Registration.
As such, the Church was issued a Cease and Desist Order without delay.
Apparently, the Church ignored the letter of HLURB dated Nov. 21, 2018, citing certain guidelines as mandated by the law of the State. It has continued with haste to finish the project.