Why this has not received front page news is surprising, to say the least. But beginning SY 2005-2006, the Government has implemented a Standard Curriculum for Madrasah (or Islamic) Education in public schools and private madaris (plural of madrasah) within Muslim communities. To date, there are already 35 public schools in the National Capital Region that conduct madrasah classes. Meaning, classes in Arabic Language and Islamic Values are now being conducted by state-funded educators in state-funded schools. Taxpayers, regardless of their beliefs, are therefore funding one specific religious education to one specific religious group.
Against the clear declaration in Article II (Declaration Of Principles And State Policies) Section 6 of the 1987 Constitution that the “separation between Church and State shall be inviolable”, DepEd Order No.51, s2004 which not only declares “Madrasah Education … a vital component of the National Education System” but enjoins the implementation of said Standard Curriculum, is patently unconstitutional.
If the Government can somehow unbelievably win an argument that DepEd Order No.51, s2004 (dated August 28, 2004) is not contrary to Article II Section 6 of the Constitution, then Sections 1 and 5 of Article III (Bill of Rights) of the Constitution are available to other religious groups to assail its validity. Article III Section 1 provides that no person shall be denied “equal protection of the laws” while Section 5 declares that “[n]o law shall be made respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. The free exercise and enjoyment of religious profession and worship, without discrimination or preference, shall forever be allowed.”
Catholics or Buddhists certainly have a right to question why there are no DepEd Orders enjoining Catholic or Buddhist education in public schools. In a predominantly Catholic nation, it is doubtful that Catholic taxpayers would agree to, not only fund Islamic Education for Muslims, but not even be allowed to insist on Catholic Education for Catholics in state schools.
Although DepEd Order No.51, s2004 predicates its purpose by citing “the global commitment on Education For All”, national unity and the 1996 Peace Agreement, these interests are not at all served by singling out Muslim and/or Muslim education as exclusive beneficiaries of state policy.
At a time where religious fervor regularly reveals its danger and terror around the world, the government’s focus on one specific religion and one specific religious group is ill-advised at the very least. There is no better time than now to be resolute on upholding the principles of Separation of Church and State, Equal Protection and the Non-Establishment clause.
A standard curriculum which teaches all the world’s religions to foster respect and understanding of each other’s beliefs would have been the wise move.
In the realm of the religious, there may be more than one God. But in the secular world, there is but one Constitution, and it applies to everyone. At least it should.
Sources: www.deped.gov.ph; 1987 Philippine Constitution