Any milk-farmer worth his salt knows you make a stool with three legs, because it can't wobble. Even if one comes up a little short, the three-legged stool remains firmly planted.
A four-legged stool is prone to that startling buck and wobble, likely to scare bossy and result in her moving her rump into the face of said milk farmer.
Now the Philippines, in theory, is structured as a three-legged stool, like that of the American system it generally copies.
The problem in the Philippines is that there is a fourth leg:
- Catholic Church
This leg is written out of government in the Constitution, but Church advocates pulverize the Constitutional dictate by saying the Church is entitled to free speech, like any other institution.
So priests argue politics from the pulpit and threaten the President with ex-communication and receive free cars from a government agency and threaten their congregation with doom in Hell if they back the RH Bill. Their speech is active, for sure. It imposes very heady, life-threatening, responsibility on others.
And the State's stool wobbles because the People have no means to impose responsibility on the Church.
They can vote the President and the legislators out of office, and pressure the Congress to impeach wayward judges.
How do they tell the Catholic Church to sit down and shut up? To deal with things spiritual, and not things political. To render unto Caesar that which is Caesars?
Now somewhere, there ought to be a way to distinguish speech from action. Like, I can be for gun rights, but clearly see it is not appropriate to go out and shoot someone I disagree with. It is okay for the Catholic Church to advocate for natural birth control methods among its congregation. But when it suppresses the rights of non-Catholics to education and prevents them from making informed choices, it has meddled where it ought not.
The Catholic Church has influence, but takes no responsibility for result. There is no way to hold the Church accountable for its actions. That is the problem with it having so much influence in the Philippines.
The US model holds churches accountable for staying out of politics. If they meddle, they lose their status as tax free organizations.
I'm in favor of drawing a clearer line as to what the Catholic Church is allowed to do in the Philippines.
It is allowed to talk. To teach. To argue.
It is not allowed to threaten. To bribe. To take gifts from the State. Or to extend favors to governmental officials. It is certainly not appropriate for a top official of the Church to pay a visit to an impeached Chief Justice as a way to insert the Church into the normal balancing of the three branches of government.
It is not absolutely not appropriate for the Church to threaten Non-Catholics with consignment to Hell. That is a form of emotional slander. It crosses the line.
The punishment would be to summon top Church officials to the Palace for a lecture, to make sure that the Church understands that it is allowed to exist in the Philippines with the blessing of the State.
But it is not a fourth leg of the State's democratic stool and it needs to be more respectful of the democratic process.
It needs to take responsibility for that, at least. And it needs to stop threatening non-Catholics.