New Philippine bank notes violate the non-establishment clause of the Constitution

New Philippine currency

Image from Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas

When the newly designed Philippine currencies were unveiled, I was excited to get some for my self. The designs were indeed refreshing and good.

While almost everyone else cried foul over the supposed geographical errors and wrongly-colored native animals in the new bills, I shrugged it off because after all this is paper money, not a brochure or a Lonely Planet guide/map of the Philippines.

However, there is one crucial detail found on the new bills that to my view cannot be simply ignored or shrugged off as “artistic rendition“.

That crucial yet overlooked detail was found by the Filipino Freethinkers. That detail, as in the words of DJB Rizalist, is the unattributed Biblical passage found in every new bank note right above the seal of the Republic of the Philippines and below the phrase “REPUBLIKA NG PILIPINAS

“PINAGPALA ANG BAYAN NA ANG DIYOS AY ANG PANGINOON.” (Blessed is the Nation whose God is the Lord.)

It came from Psalms 33:12. It doesn’t matter if it came from the ‘Jewish’ part of the Bible but it is certainly a Christian text. A phrase that has religious color through and through.

So I join the Filipino Freethinkers, DJB Rizalist and those who want to upheld the Philippine Constitution and a secular government in saying that the new bills are an affront to the Bill of Rights, in particular the non-establishment clause and the guarantee of free exercise of religion.

Section 5. No law shall be made respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. The free exercise and enjoyment of religious profession and worship, without discrimination or preference, shall forever be allowed. No religious test shall be required for the exercise of civil or political rights.

Even renowned constitutionalist and Catholic priest Fr Joaquin Bernas, SJ points out that Philippine jurisprudence defines the non-establishment clause as:

both direct and indirect aid to religion are prohibited especially if the support involves preference of one religion over another or preference of religion over irreligion;

By including a phrase from the Christian Bible, the government through the new legal tender, clearly gives preference to that religion while the non-Christians would now just have to live with it.

In no disrespect to my fellow Christians, especially Catholics, even if the majority of us Filipinos belong to this flock, including our current President, we have no right to impose our religious texts, values etc. on our fellow Filipinos who belong to another religion. Especially if we have the government under our control.

So I join the call on the Bangko Sentral that such biblical phrase be immediately removed from the new bank notes.

4 Comments

  1. God goes by many names, I believe. So this should apply whether one is Christian, Muslim, or whatnot. If I remember my collegiate Philosophy of Religion right, one’s god can be one’s main concern. So even an atheist has a god (which can be himself, money, or whatever is his prime concern in life).

    At any rate, the Constitution’s preamble says “We, the sovereign Filipino people, imploring the aid of Almighty God, in order to build a just and humane societ …” so maybe then the Constitution is unconstitutional?

    The US dollar bill says “In God we trust,” which is even the official motto of the United States. Yes, some are in opposition of this, citing constitutional provisions for separation of church and state. But even then, a court ruling said

    “It is quite obvious that the national motto and the slogan on coinage and currency ‘In God We Trust’ has nothing whatsoever to do with the establishment of religion. Its use is of patriotic or ceremonial character and bears no true resemblance to a governmental sponsorship of a religious exercise.”

    It’s not an issue for me, although of course, it’s good to hear dissenting opinions.

    Reply

    1. The preamble of the Constitution is just an introduction to the main text itself. It is not a source of private rights or governmental power, expressed or implied. So the inclusion of ‘Almighty God’ is quite okay.

      The “In God We Trust” became the official motto of the US replacing the more secular “E Pluribus Unum,” which means “From many, comes one” because of McCarthyism – the spread of paranoia about godless communists infiltrating everywhere in America. Besides, the phrase is a general expression whereas the one now included in the new notes is a phrase lifted from the Christian Bible.

      I’m not against Christianity or any religion, it’s just that the Constitution establishes a secular government and so its instruments, the national currency being a primary one, should be secular as well.

      Reply

  2. as to my personal opinion, it doesn’t really matter because people in general would never really have the time to look at the note and appreciate its contents, rather i believe it will be more on how far the money can satisfy his/her needs. i believe its purely sensationalism.

    Reply

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