National News: Kabataan Partylist Withdraws Proposed Religious Freedom Bill
After earning the ire of the Catholic Church and the criticisms of the faithful, the Kabataan Partylist has withdrawn its proposed House Bill 6330, or "An Act Empowering Heads of Offices and Departments to Strictly Implement the Constitutional Provisions on Religious Freedom in Government Offices."
In a press statement yesterday, Kabataan Partylist Raymond Palatino said they are withdrawing HB 6330 "in response to the appeal and clamor of our members, constituents, supporters, various groups, institutions and the general public to reconsider the filing of such measure."
The proposed bill seeks to stop the practice of displaying religious icons and images and holding Masses and prayer vigils in government offices.
Kabataan Partylist seeks to clarify that the bill has no intention to "ban God," suppress any religion or belief and prevent government employees from practising their faith, he said.
Palatino said the purpose of the bill is to ensure that government offices do not favor one religion over the other, or discriminate one against the other.
"Kabataan Partylist sincerely apologizes for any offense the bill caused. We are sad that we hurt the religious sentiments of many, when our desire was to uphold and promote religious sensitivity and harmony," he added.
On Wednesday, retired Cebu archbishop Ricardo Cardinal Vidal has called on the faithful to stand up against the religious freedom bill.
"This is no longer the issue of religion. It is the culture peculiar to you," Vidal said in an interview. He cited the devotion of Catholics to the Señor Sto. Niño as part of Filipino culture.
"You are not there for yourself. You are there to represent the people. If you represent us, please respect us," he said, referring to Kabataan Partylist.
Kabataan Partylist added: "We hope the conversations will continue about the need to respect different beliefs in society. We are encouraged by the fact that despite the misunderstandings, the bill initiated relevant discussions on freedom of religion as one of the fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution."*