The House of Representatives has passed on the third and final reading House Bill 6492 or the Magna Carta on Religious Freedom Act.
The House-approved measure prohibits the government or any person to burden, curtail, impinge or encroach on a person’s right to exercise his/her religious belief, freedom, and liberty of conscience except if the act results in violence or if it is necessary to protect the public.
Garnering 256 affirmatives, one negative and three abstentions, the bill was passed via viva voce. It was the first bill that got passed after Congress came back from holiday break.
“This is indeed good news and a welcome development for all the Filipino people – whether they subscribe to a particular religion or not. With this measure, people can freely live out and conduct their lives in accordance with whatever religious belief they have – without the fear of being persecuted or harassed simply because of fidelity to their belief,” said the principal author, CIBAC Rep. Bro. Eddie Villanueva.
Its passage complements Section 5, Article III of the 1987 Constitution which provides that “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.”
Proponents of the bill emphasized that it is the State’s policy to protect and uphold every person’s fundamental and inalienable right to freely choose and exercise one’s religion and beliefs, as well as to act and live according to one’s conscience.
The solons noted that such right is guaranteed under Section 5, Article III of the Constitution and other international human rights instruments to which the State is a party.
Among the guideline considered by the lawmakers were the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Declaration on the Elimination on All Forms of Intolerance and Discrimination Based on Religion and Belief.
It defines the bundle of rights subsumed under the concept of freedom of religion and provides for corresponding penalties for its violations.
Villanueva explained that the bill would ultimately liberate the Filipino people from inadvertent religious fanaticism and extremism and instead guide them to the faith that will make their lives flourish the best.
Likewise, the measure will punish those who force others to choose or leave a religious group, threaten others with harm if they do not change their religion, defame or humiliate others because of their religious beliefs, and obstruct the dissemination
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