MANILA, Philippines - A Catholic priest, who is among the country's top legal minds, has compared the Inquisition to the Ayala Alabang ordinance requiring people to secure prescriptions before they are allowed to buy condoms and other contraceptives in the village.
In a blog post, Fr. Joaquin Bernas, SJ, JSD, said the move seems to be "an attempt by a sector of the Catholic church to instrumentalize the power of the state to impose Catholic belief on all others."
"This is something which gives the Catholic religion a bad name. It is reminiscent of the Inquisition," the dean emeritus of the Ateneo Law School said.
He added that Catholics should not impose their belief on other people.
"The official Catholic teaching is that artificial contraception is immoral. Other religions believe in good faith otherwise. Seeking to impose Catholic belief and practices on non-Catholics and others violates freedom of religion. Freedom of religion does not merely mean freedom to believe. It also means freedom to act or not to act according to one’s belief. And this too is the teaching of Vatican II in its decree Dignitatis Humanae."
Bernas, an amicus curiae of the Supreme Court and among those who helped draft the present Philippine Constitution, said the Ayala Alabang ordinance raises a lot of questions.
"An interesting question is whether the annex to the Alabang ordinance expands the list of drugs and devises listed by the Food and Drug Administration. It seems to me that the drugs and devises being currently sold over the counter are not in the FDA list. Interesting too is the question whether a barangay council can determine what doctors may or may not prescribe," he said.
Bernas added that Republic Act 5921, or the law that governs pharmacy, does not ban the sale without prescription of contraceptives.
"Of course, the ordinance authors will say that they are not prohibiting the use but merely regulating the sale. But they insult the intelligence of villagers by thinking that the Alabang residents are village idiots who do not have enough brains to see the truth behind the pretense. One does not have to be a genius to understand that the curtailment of sale is intended to prevent the use of what is sold. And therein lies the gross offense," he said.
"Would we allow the police to search the sacred precincts of marital bedrooms for telltale signs of the use of contraceptives? The very idea is repulsive to the notions of privacy surrounding the marriage relationship,” he stressed.
"Finally, the ordinance purports to prescribe a criminal penalty. Only a real court and not a village kangaroo court or vigilante may impose criminal penalty, and only after trial," he added.