Press Release
November 26, 2012


Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago, a constitutional law expert, said that the threat by some Catholic clerics to punish Congress members who vote for the RH bill constitutes "borderline violation of the constitutional principle of separation of church and state."

"The separation principle includes what is called the establishment clause, as well as the free exercise clause. The general guide is that the government should observe neutrality," she said.

Santiago said that the US Supreme Court's decisions are not binding but are authoritative in the Philippines, and that for a law or policy to be religiously neutral, the Supreme Court will consider:

1. Whether the policy has secular purpose;

2. Whether the primary effect the does not advance or inhibit legislation; and

3. Whether the policy creates an excessive entanglement between government and religion

She said this three-part test was laid down in the 1971 case of Lemon v. Kurtzman decided by the US Supreme Court.

"In 1997, the US Supreme Court ruled that it abandoned the three-part test and adopted the rule that "any denominational preference violates the establishment clause, unless the government can demonstrate that the law is necessary to promote a compelling interest," she said, citing the 1997 case of Agostini v. Felton.

Santiago said that of all the major churches in the Philippines, only the Catholic Church is against RH. The rest are pro-RH, namely, Iglesia ni Cristo, Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches, National Council of Churches in the Philippines, Interfaith Partnership for the Promotion of Responsible Parenthood, and the Assembly of Darul-Iftah of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

Santiago also cited certain surveys showing that a big majority of Filipinos are pro-RH. Santiago said that in the 1994 case of Board of Education v. Grumet, the US Supreme Court invalidated a state law that created a separate school district for a small village that was inhabited by members of only one religious sect.

"US Supreme Court Justice Sandra J. O'Connor said that to determine whether government observes neutrality, the court must analyze whether a government program such as RH has the effect of favoring or disfavoring religion that would violate the establishment clause," Santiago said. Santiago said that the constitutional principles she invoked presumes that there is such a thing as Catholic vote which as a politician she does not believe to be correct.

"In the past, the Catholic church campaigned against Sen. Juan Flavier because as health secretary, he freely distributed condoms. But Flavier won the elections. Thus, the so-called Catholic vote is a political myth," Santiago said.

News Latest News Feed