Republic Act No. 1425, known as the Rizal Law, mandates all educational institutions in the Philippines to offer courses about José Rizal. The full name of the law is An Act to Include in the Curricula of All Public and Private Schools, Colleges and Universities Courses On the Life, Works and Writings of Jose Rizal, Particularly His Novels Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo, Authorizing the Printing and Distribution Thereof, and for Other Purposes. The measure was strongly opposed by the Roman Catholic Church in the Philippines due to the anti-clerical themes in Noli Me Tangere andEl Filibusterismo.
Senator Claro M. Recto was the main proponent of the then Rizal Bill. He sought to sponsor the bill at Congress. However, this was met with stiff opposition from the Catholic Church. During the 1955 Senate election, the church charged Recto with being a communist and an anti-Catholic. After Recto's election, the Church continued to oppose the bill mandating the reading of Rizal's novels Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo, claiming it would violate freedom of conscience and religion. In the campaign to oppose the Rizal bill, the Catholic Church urged its adherents to write to their congressmen and senators showing their opposition to the bill; later, it organized symposiums. In one of these symposiums, Fr. Jesus Cavanna argued that the novels belonged to the past and that teaching them would misrepresent current conditions. Radio commentator Jesus Paredes also said that Catholics had the right to refuse to read them as it would "endanger their salvation". Groups such as Catholic Action of the Philippines, the Congregation of the Mission, the Knights of Columbus, and the Catholic Teachers Guild organized opposition to the bill; they were countered by Veteranos de la Revolucion (Spirit of 1896), Alagad in Rizal, the Freemasons, and the Knights of Rizal. The Senate Committee on Education sponsored a bill co-written by both Jose P. Laurel and Recto, with the only opposition coming from Francisco Soc Rodrigo, Mariano Jesús Cuenco, and Decoroso Rosales. The Archbishop of Manila, Rufino Santos, protested in a pastoral letter that Catholic students would be affected if compulsory reading of the unexpurgated version were pushed through. Arsenio Lacson, Manila's mayor, who supported the bill, walked out of Mass when the priest read a circular from the archbishop denouncing the bill. Rizal, according to Cuenco, "attack[ed] dogmas, beliefs and practices of the Church. The assertion that Rizal limited himself to castigating undeserving priests and refrained from criticizing, ridiculing or putting in doubt dogmas of the Catholic Church, is absolutely gratuitous and misleading." Cuenco touched on Rizal's denial of the existence of purgatory, as it was not found in the Bible, and that Moses and Jesus Christ did not mention its existence; Cuenco concluded that a "majority of the Members of this Chamber, if not all [including] our good friend, the gentleman from Sulu" believed in purgatory. The senator from Sulu, Domocao Alonto, attacked Filipinos who proclaimed Rizal as "their national hero but seemed to despise what he had written", saying that theIndonesians used Rizal's books as their Bible on their independence movement; Pedro López, who hails from Cebu, Cuenco's province, in his support for the bill, reasoned out that it was in their province the independence movement started, when Lapu-Lapu fought Ferdinand Magellan. Outside the Senate, the Catholic schools threatened to close down if the bill was passed; Recto countered that if that happened, the schools would be nationalized. Recto did not believe the threat, stating that the schools were too profitable to be closed. The schools gave up the threat, but threatened to "punish" legislators in favor of the law in future elections. A compromise was suggested, to use the expurgated version; Recto, who had supported the required reading of the unexpurgated...
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