I have been your admirer, Mr. Makabenta, for years, even when you were still writing for other papers before you moved to The Manila Times. And I agree 100% with your points in this column, but I strongly disagree with your statement that the late former senator and former secretary of education Raul Roco’s wordy and lame version of the Patriotic Pledge is unconstitutional because it INTRODUCES PRAYER INTO OUR SCHOOLS.
You write: “I say unconstitutional because it introduces prayer into our schools, whereas our constitution emphatically decrees a strict separation between Church and state.”
I am very disappointed, and I’m sure millions of Times readers also are, that you do not understand the TRUE MEANING of the principle of separation of Church and State. You should learn from your fellow Times columnist former senator Francisco “Kit” Tatad.
The essence of the separation principle is to protect the individual’s liberty to worship and pray as he likes and to remove the power of the State to establish a state religion.
The principle of separation does not mean that the state should be against prayer or against religion in general (like an atheist state) or against a particular religion. You are probably influenced by the thinking of the constitution of the Communist Party-ruled People’s Republic of China which exalts the freedom not to believe as a right equal to believing in God and practicing a religion.
The Philippine Constitution of 1987 is not against religion, Sir Makabenta. So is the wiser-in-many-parts 1935 Constitution of the Philippines, which became the first Constitution of our Republic after it became an independent country in 1946 and was in effect until Marcos tinkered with it and discarded it after he had used it to declare Martial Law.
Even the United States, which has the separation of Church and State as a founding principle, does not understand that principle to be a warrant against religion. However, media, academe and some judges in the US –whose mentality you seem to have adopted–have become tyrannically secular and anti-religion and anti-prayer. You should not be guided by them. You should beware of this form of American imperialism, Mr. Makabenta.
Nevertheless, you are correct, Sir, about the Roco version of the Panatang Makabayan now being recited by school children is a farce. Brother Armin Luistro of the Department of Education should restore the old and clearer Patriotic Pledge.
C. M. Malifier