“Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (2 Cor. 3:17).
For the growth of the people of God and of society, education plays an absolutely vital and indispensable role. This is why the Church is deeply and extensively involved in education. And we are proud that Catholic schools are among the best in the country.
But today the future of our schools is at stake. Their nature as private and Catholic and even their very existence are seriously threatened.
The source of this grave threat is the proposed Magna Carta of Students, House Bill No. 1378.
Let it be clear to all that we as Bishops on many occasions, especially during Martial Law, the darkest period of our recent history, have defended and promoted basic human rights and fundamental freedoms. We still continue to do so.
Therefore, we are certainly for a Magna Carta of Students for we are for the authentic empowerment of youth, including students. But we are unequivocally against the proposed Magna Carta in its present form. We strongly oppose it by virtue of those same basic freedoms and rights that we have consistently defended.
Our reflection in faith affirms that the most fundamental freedom of the human person is a gift of the Spirit of the Lord. We believe that “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”
But we hold that this proposed Magna Carta, instead of being infused with God’s Spirit, stifles that same Spirit by its negation of basic rights and its dismissal of wisdom and common sense. This is the fundamental reason for our opposition.
- God’s Spirit is not in this proposed Magna Carta because it rejects the “natural and primary right of parents” to educate their children as guaranteed by our Constitution, Art. II, Section 121. Parents entrust their children to school authorities and teachers, but the bill effectively negates this by practically allowing student governments to run the schools.
- God’s Spirit is not in this proposed Magna Carta because it undermines the religious nature of our schools. For the bill allows any organization–including those that contradict the school’s philosophy, mission, and objectives–to operate on campus.
- God’s Spirit is not in this proposed Magna Carta because it destroys the very nature of private schools. The proposed bill treats private schools as though they were public schools and properties of the State. It utterly disregards the basic philosophy, mission, goals, and objectives of Catholic private schools and makes the confiscatory move of assigning a seat in the governing boards to a student.
- God’s Spirit is not in this proposed Magna Carta because it disregards common sense principles of governance. It practically hands over to the student government, already subject to the changing, even ideological, currents of student politics, control of the school by giving the students the power to veto through a referendum the decisions made by administration. It likewise transfers from the school administration to the student government, a body again subject to the vagaries of student politics, the authority to approve and supervise student organizations.
- God’s Spirit is not in this proposed Magna Carta because it subverts simple and tried wisdom by undermining the financial stability of the school and the authority of the governing board. The proposed bill establishes a school fee board where students are represented, a board that becomes the highest body in the school on the matter of tuition fees, thus creating two parallel and independent “highest” bodies in the same school, namely the school governing board and the school fee board.
- God’s Spirit is not in this proposed Magna Carta because it imposes on schools a false philosophy of education which promotes unwarranted freedom and right at the expense of human responsibility, of a morally guided search for truth, of the spirit of mutual cooperation, and finally at the expense of quality education itself.
- God’s Spirit is not in this proposed Magna Carta because by laying aside the religious Catholic goals and objectives of our schools, the proposed bill thwarts the ultimate good of students themselves in the name of a false understanding of freedom and right.
For such reasons as the above, we vigorously oppose the Magna Carta of Students.
As Bishops we have been entrusted by the Lord to teach on matters that affect the living of Christian freedom and responsibility in accord with the Spirit of God. We hereby teach and declare that the proposed bill is inimical to true freedom and responsibility.
We, therefore, urge legislators to listen to the voice of parents and teachers all over the country regarding this insidious bill. They have submitted many proposals to our legislators to improve the bill and promote authentic empowerment of students. Approving the bill in its present form would surely be catastrophic to the nature and very existence of all private schools, Catholic or otherwise, and to the good of students themselves.
Ultimately, by ignoring the rights of parents and of private schools, the proposed Magna Carta is contrary to the very aim of national development itself, the common good of all.
To our honorable legislators then we say: Reject this proposed Magna Carta . Legislate a better one, based on a true concept of freedom and right, in accord with the Spirit of God. Where the Spirit is present, there, indeed, is true and responsible freedom.
For and in the name of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines:
+OSCAR V. CRUZ, D.D.
Archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan
27 January 1996
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