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Let the people and the entire press take videos of the Sinulog 

By: Atty. Ruphil F. Bañoc - CDN Digital | January 17,2020 - 09:28 AM

For purposes of academic discussion, both the law of the land and the Bible frown on depriving the people and the faithful to publish the Sinulog fiesta activities of the Sto. Nino.

First, on the law of the land, the fact that huge amount of public funds is being spent in a certain activity it goes without saying that the people, the owner of the funds, can exercise their right to information. They can demand full access to information as it becomes a matter of public concern.

In fact, people are more circumspect where public funds are spent in an activity that could benefit a specific religion. No less than the 1987 Constitution substantially provides that the Philippine government does not recognize any religion as a state religion.

As a general rule, government will not spend money that will favor a certain religion. The exception to that rule as mentioned in a litany of cases decided by the Supreme Court is when the same is spent solely for government purposes and that religion is only an incidental beneficiary thereof.

For Sinulog of the Sto. Nino it cannot be denied that the Roman Catholic Church is the beneficiary of the public funds. To make spending millions of public funds justifiable, government officials see to it that the main purpose of using the amount is to promote tourism and socio-cultural activities of the government.

With this, the Catholic Church will appear as an incidental beneficiary only to the main purpose, which is governmental. That’s why the Cebu Provincial government can justify donating 8 million pesos to the Sinulog Foundation Incorporated (SFI). Also, the city government can justify the spending of millions of pesos for the said activities.

Therefore, it is in a nature of a government event that is held in a government facility, the Cebu City Sports Complex. So why deprive the people, the owner of the funds, of taking videos of the activities? Why deprive the people of helping to promote tourism and socio-cultural activities?

Through the years, the SFI may have an official media partner, but it did not deprive all media outlets of exercising their rights of the press enshrined in the Constitution. Why only now? Because of the so called contract entered into by the SFI and MyTV? Why did SFI give MyTV the exclusive rights to take video and footage of the Sinulog? How much money is involved in the said contract? Is it more than the government funds spent in that activity? Oh come on!

No law is even allowed to be passed abridging the freedom of the press as provided for in Article III sec 4 of the 1987 Constitution. Are they now trying to impress that a “contract” can supersede the constitutional guaranty of the free press? Will it not fall within the ambit of prior restraint?

Second, biblically speaking, the fact that preaching the good news is encouraged it goes without saying that the activities involving the Sto Nino, the Jesus Christ, should be made known to as many people as possible. Matthew 5: 15 says, “ Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead, they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.”

Furthermore, the Bible says, “Preach the gospel to the whole world.” Is allowing print, broadcast, and social media  to cover the activities of the Sto Nino not in effect preaching the activity to the four corners of the world?

Finally, Mayor Edgardo Labella, himself a lawyer and religious man made a turn around and decided to allow the event to be covered not exclusively. I hope the mayor would be a little more circumspect next time in making his decisions and in sensing the motives of the people surrounding him!

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