MANILA -- The Department of Education (DepEd) has changed its vision statement, removing a phrase that some groups deem to be "too sectarian" for a government institution.
The phrase, "God-loving" has been removed from DepEd's vision statement, after a group of atheist from the Philippines, Filipino Freethinkers, wrote an open letter to the agency.
In an open letter dated February 5, 2013, Filipino Freethinkers denounced DepEd's use of the terms "God-loving" and "Maka-Diyos" in its vision statement and core values for being "clear violations of the principle of secularism."
"They enshrine theism as a preferred belief system and imply that those who do not subscribe to belief in a deity are at best second-class citizens who have flawed or incomplete values," the group said in its letter.
The group added that the Philippine Constitution clearly stated that there should be separation of Church and State, and that it "shall be inviolable.”
"With this, we strongly urge the Department of Education to act on this matter through the omission or replacement of the said clauses with more universal values that apply to both theists and non-theists alike."
A few weeks after, the Filipino Freethinkers' Parenting Chapter released another open letter on the same topic, this time, pointing out that there is a minority of Filipinos " who are neither Catholic, Christian, nor sectarian but subscribe to alternative beliefs or unbelief, including the irreligious, and even Indigenous Peoples (IPs) with their traditional beliefs."
The letter also pointed out that "educating children about religion still falls under the authority and jurisdiction of parents" as reflected in article XIV, section 3.3 of the 1987 Philippine Constitution.
On September 4, 2013, DepEd released its new vision statement:
"We dream of Filipinos who passionately love their country and whose values and competencies enable them to realize their full potential and contribute meaningfully to building the nation."
DepEd's old vision statement reads as follows:
By 2030, DepEd is globally recognized for good governance and for developing functionally-literate [sic] and God-loving Filipinos.
The department, however, retained "Maka-Diyos" as one of its core values.
In a statement released Friday, DepEd said its Vision, Mission and Core Values statements "is one document and should be read in its entirety to grasp the full meaning."
"It is a living document that is meant to reinvigorate our Agency and society as a whole. It is meant to permeate and to affect the way we behave and how we find solutions to complex issues. It is meant to be part of public discourse and personal transformation. It is not static and not intended for mere posting on walls and tables."
In a podcast aired Saturday, Filipino Freethinkers lauded the government, DepEd in particular for "making a decision towards secularism", and for correcting "a mistake that was too sectarian for our constitution, that is secular."