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Enrile presses for clearer separation of Church and State

/ 01:47 PM March 20, 2019

MANILA, Philippines — In a recently released video on Facebook and YouTube, former Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile pressed for a clearer separation of Church and State in response to questions from the country’s leading political bloggers.

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The panel asked Enrile about his thoughts on the current state of relations between the Catholic Church and the Duterte administration, given the recent testy exchanges between the two institutions.

 Of particular note was the concern that President Duterte’s latest remarks against members of the clergy may be perceived as official government policy.

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 Enrile pointed to efforts by the church leadership itself to police its own ranks, specifically against issues of sexual abuse.

He suggests that the problem may be rooted in the fact that of the different Christian sects, it is the large Catholic faith that insists on celibacy for priests.

One of the bloggers present, tech CEO Franco Mabanta, shared a startling statistic from 2015 revealing that 6 percent of all Catholic priests the world over had either admitted to or been caught committing pedophilia. 

“Even the Pope recognized that. (Cardinal) Tagle was crying on TV when he admitted that there is a problem in the church. I’ve talked to some priests and they admit it,” Enrile said in the video. He also described the church as a human institution that is characteristically imperfect.

Panelist Arnel Ignacio offered his opinion that the church may at times be “encroaching on government policies”.

On a number of issues, the church has vigorously campaigned against increasingly significant topics such as same-sex marriage, and divorce in the Philippines. Both are initiatives that Enrile has come to actively support as he makes a renewed run for the Senate in the May 2019 elections. However, he does agree with the church stand against the death penalty.

 Enrile says he supports the freedom of individual choice. “I will not meddle with the way people live their lives as long as it is not against the law,” he states in the video, at the same time he acknowledges the right of church leaders and members to their own opinion. 

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“There is a blur, an ambiguity in our system,” he adds. “They are priests but they are also voters. They also have the freedom of speech and are exercising their rights,” he added.

The panel was composed of political bloggers Franco Mabanta, Arnell Ignacio (FB: Tito Arnell), Trixie Cruz-Angeles (FB: Luminous) and Jesus Falcis (FB: Jesus Falcis Blog).

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