Muslims oppose move to ban religion in gov't

by Carine Era Asutilla, ABS-CBN Central Visayas

Posted at Jun 20 2012 07:54 PM | Updated as of Jun 22 2012 01:26 AM

CEBU CITY, Philippines - The National Commission on Muslim Filipinos in Cebu is asking the lower House to dismiss House Bill 6330 or the Religious Freedom in Government Services Act that wants all religious symbols to be removed from government offices.

Aldin Pangarungan, head of the Cultural Affairs Division of NCMF, said the proposed law violates the rights of people living in a democratic country.

Pangarungan said that although Muslims don't believe in the religious images, they respect the belief of Catholic Christians and their effort to keep their faith strong.

Putting the images not only in their homes but also in offices is just one way of keeping their faith alive, he added.

Pangarungan also said that the display of the images and the Bible is part of the Filipino culture. The Philippines is a predominantly Catholic country.

"The Constitution, which is the fundamental of our democratic country, recognizes the customs, traditions, and institutions of every Filipino citizen. Passing the bill would violate the Constitution," Pangarungan said.

The Muslim leader also said that instead of removing religion from public facilities and offices, government officials should instead hear out their campaign to put prayer rooms in government offices.

The NCMF has been campaigning for the move since 1984.

Pangarungan said that only a few heard their call and set aside a space for Muslims' prayer rooms.

The number of Muslim residents in Cebu is growing. There are more than 60,000 Muslims in 11 communities in the city.

More than 122,000 Muslims are currently working and residing in Central Visayas.

Meanwhile, Human Life International is preparing a prayer rally against HB 6330. HLI official Dr. Rene Bullecer said the bill is unconstitutional.

"The preamble mentions, 'We, the sovereign Filipino people, imploring the aid of Almighty God.' This statement recognizes the presence of the most powerful being, to whom we owe the creation of the government," Bullecer said.