Church’s Political Role Debated In Philippines

Top politicians in the Philippines have criticized an effort by the Catholic bishops to have greater control over legislation.

House Majority Leader Prospero Nograles rebuffed a call from Archbishop Fernando Capalla for an official forum where religious leaders could influence lawmakers, Manila Standard Today reported in early January.

Capalla claimed that a Bishops-Congressmen’s Forum would help the Catholic church craft laws because “almost every House bill has a moral dimension.”

Nograles, however, said the bishops could lobby for policies they prefer, but would not be given an official role in the creation of laws.

“The bishops can suggest legislation,” he said, “but they cannot have an absolute participation in legislation.”

House Senior Deputy Minority Leader Rolex Suplico added that an official partnership with religious leaders would undermine the nation’s constitution, which calls for church-state separation.

Suplico suggested that the archbishop’s proposal showed disrespect for legislators.

“We cannot presume that members of Congress cannot discern right from wrong,” he observed. “We cannot presume that the people voted for clowns to Congress.”