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House panel approves PH Magna Carta of Religious Freedom

THE House committee on human rights approved on Wednesday a landmark legislation that seeks to protect and promote the right of Filipinos to live according to their religious beliefs and convictions and be free from any discrimination, harassment and persecution.

House Bill 6538 or the “Philippine Magna Carta of Religious Freedom” bill, authored by Deputy Speaker and Citizens Battle Against Corruption (CIBAC) party-list Rep. Eduardo “Bro. Eddie” Villanueva and CIBAC Rep. Domingo C. Rivera, aims to afford legal protection to Filipinos who will freely pursue a lifestyle that is in accordance with their moral sense of right and wrong, whether such conviction comes from a well-defined religion or not.

Under the proposed legislation, it will be prohibited and punishable to compel, force or threaten any person to commit an act that is contrary to his religious conviction thus giving such person the liberty to live in obedience to his Creator without the fear of being maligned, humiliated, harassed, persecuted from the community or even severed from employment or educational institution.

“This bill seeks to be the enabling law that will give flesh and substance to the Constitutional right of every Filipino to freedom of religion guaranteed under Section 5, Article III of the 1987 Constitution which clearly states that the ‘free exercise and enjoyment of religious profession and worship, without discrimination or preference, shall forever be allowed.’ Existing jurisprudence in the country holds that ‘religious freedom is a fundamental right entitled to the highest priority and the amplest protection among human rights, for it involves the relationship of man to his Creator and the only instance that it can be suspended or denied is when there is the existence of a grave and present danger to the public interest. However, absent an implementing law, the right of a person to religious freedom will always be susceptible to violation,” said Villanueva, founder of Jesus Is Lord Church Worldwide (JIL Church) and Deputy Speaker for Good Governance and Moral Uprightness.

“In a nutshell, the bill aims to afford legal protection to a person who simply wishes to live in full adherence to his religious convictions. It is our firm belief that when a person is living in a manner that is harmonious with his relationship with the Almighty God, he is the best version of himself and the most able to contribute to the public good,” Villanueva argued.

The Freedom of Religion bill will now be set for House plenary debate and voting before it will be transmitted to the Senate for its action.