LENI Robredo is practically politically dead, and the latest SWS survey has shown this. Her net satisfaction rating shed 11 points.
And you do not have to believe scientific surveys. All you need to do is to look at the angry faces that merrily float on the screen everytime her face shows up.
Teddy Baguilat, her party-mate, in response to her steep decline in net satisfaction ratings, tweeted on Holy Tuesday, April 11, a biblical explanation. “Ika nga sa bible [as the bible said], the prophet (who bears truth) is sometimes not welcome in his hometown. Kaya [this is why]VP Leni’s ratings have gone down.”
Some devout Catholics have criticized the timing of President Duterte’s visit to Muslim-dominated countries, namely the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the Kingdom of Bahrain and the State of Qatar, at a time when Filipinos were commemorating the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Some painted the visit as a gross disrespect of our Catholic faith.
Yet, these people have not taken Teddy Baguilat to task for what can be considered as blasphemy, where he likened Leni Robredo to a prophet being persecuted even by her own people. They did not question the timing of Teddy’s tweet, that of all days he has to deify his embattled Vice President three days before Catholics and other Christians commemorate the crucifixion of Christ.
What is problematic is the ease by which people can appropriate religion to provide justification for acts of preferred political personalities, even as religion has been used to diminish or silence the politics of others. And in the Philippines, what is even more discomfiting is the manner by which a secular state such as ours has allowed Roman Catholicism to influence the direction of our political discourse.
It has always been said that the Philippines is the only Catholic country in Asia.
This lie has been repeatedly stated over and over again, effectively blindsiding the intent of the Constitution that installed a state that is separate from any religion. It is a constitution that bars the state from discriminating against people based on faith. Yet, we have seen how our government has privileged Roman Catholicism as the dominant religion. To privilege one is to discriminate against the others, particularly the religious minorities. In fact, if at all, the state has a duty to protect their rights over the dictates of the Catholic majority.
However, the state fails to protect the rights of the minority when we have laws that are crafted not on the sheer logic of secular demands, but are constrained by religious considerations. There was a time in our history when the writings of Jose Rizal were banned from schools simply because he was seen as a heretic by the Catholic Church. When a law was proposed requiring the inclusion of a course on Rizal in the curriculum, the Catholic Church opposed it.
The Reproductive Health Law was strongly opposed by the Church on the grounds that it was an affront to the tenets of the faith.
Even the President seemed to have bought into this line of thinking when he declared that he could no longer support same-sex marriages, something which he promised during the campaign, on the ground that we are a Catholic country.
And the use of religion to discriminate does not favor only the Catholics. Bigamy is a crime, but not for men who are followers of Islam.
One needs to realize that the Philippines is not a theocracy. Its secular nature bars us from privileging any particular religion in the conduct of our civic affairs. The deployment of Roman Catholicism as a principal logic that inhabits our political discourse is a gross violation of the very nature of our state.
What aggravates the use of religion is when it becomes a weapon that can be deployed selectively by partisans, such as when noise is generated to chastise the President’s visit to Islamic states during Lent, even as there is silence when Teddy Baguilat deified Leni Robredo by likening her to a persecuted prophet.
One can condemn this column today as an ill-timed heretic discourse coming just after we have celebrated the resurrection of Christ.
However, belief in the resurrection does not mean closing democratic spaces or silencing the minority and the dissenters. It is about having a faith that is unassailable even in a plurality of voices. A secular state that celebrates pluralism of beliefs, religious or otherwise, is not a threat to a faith that is cemented by belief in the resurrection of Christ as savior and Lord. A law that would allow divorce, or for same-sex couples to marry, could not assault the faith that is firmly held by believers deep in their hearts. After all, even persecution by Rome did not stop the early Christians from propagating their faith.
But more importantly, this column serves as a litmus test for your politics vis-à-vis your faith. If you are uncomfortable with it, it can only mean that you really do not truly understand the freedoms we owe to the fact that the Philippines is a secular state, and not a theocracy.