MANILA - Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo on Monday dared a Palace official to file charges against Roman Catholic leaders after allegations that the church violated a Constitutionally-mandated separation between the Church and the State.
Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo earlier criticized the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines' (CBCP) pastoral letter that denounced the government's "pattern of intimidation," saying the statement violates the separation of the Church and the State.
"Hahamunin namin sila... Kung it violates, sila na ngayon ang magkaso sa amin," Pabillo said in an online press conference.
"Don't we really have a right to speak sa kakulangan ng pamahalaan?
Dahil ba kami ay simbahan hindi na kami puwede magsalita?" he said.
The CBCP, in a pastoral letter dated July 16, said it was "still in disbelief" at how the government prioritized the passage of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, instead of stemming the spread of global pandemic in the country.
"The dissenting voices were strong but they remained unheeded. None of the serious concerns that they expressed about this legislative measure seemed to be of any consequence to them," the letter read.
Pabillo clarified that the Catholic Church does not intend to sow divisiveness among Filipinos.
"Wala kaming ganiyang intension... Ang aming call is call to prayer... Nakalagay, nakasaad na it's a call to prayer," he said.
Christian Monsod, one of the framers of the 1987 Constitution, said that "freedom of expression is absolute" under the Philippines' charter.
"It is very clear that priests and bishops, as citizens of the country, have the right to freedom of speech," Monsod said in the same press conference.
"If he (Panelo) is saying that Constitution prohibits citizens from commenting against the government, then he is totally wrong," he said.
CBCP spokesperson Fr. Jerome Secillano earlier said the Church must continue to speak against societal ills.
"From a legal understanding of the Constitutional provision, it means that the State is not actually going to put up an official religion and secondly that state fund should not be used to fund a particular religion... It doesn’t actually bar Church leaders [from] expressing their political opinions," Secillano said in an interview on ANC.
"If the Church does not anymore speak about all these matters and there are wrongs being committed left and right, then we cease to exist as a Church," he said.