By Tracy Cabrera
MANILA — Following a pronouncement from the Archdiocese of Manila that it will still open its churches during the Holy Week despite restrictions imposed on mass gatherings, Malacañang urged the Catholic archdiocese not to defy the restrictions set by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-MEID), particularly on religious activities that draw crowds of churchgoers, to arrest the surge in COVID-19 cases.
In a statement, presidential spokesperson Atty. Harry Roque issued an appeal to Manila Apostolic Administrator Bishop Broderick Pabillo, asking the prelate to adhere to the minimum health safety protocols because this would mean the safety of those who would want to attend the religious gatherings the church would be holding during Lent.
Pabillo had earlier announced that they would be holding religious services with 10 percent capacity starting today, March 24, 2021.
Roque said holding a religious gathering is contrary to the rules set by the IATF-MEID which specifically prohibits mass gatherings under the implementation of general community quarantine (GCQ) bubble in Metro Manila, Cavite, Rizal, Bulacan, and Laguna, collectively called NCR Plus, from March 22 to April 4.
“That will be contrary po to the decision of the IATF and we ask Bishop (Broderick) Pabillo not to encourage, iyong disregard of IATF rules. Ito naman po ay para sa kabutihan ng lahat,” the Palace official in a press briefing.
“At kasama din po sa obligasyon ng estado ay sumunod din doon sa mga talaga ng Panginoon na mamuno. So, I hope the Bishop will not encourage non-compliance po with this IATF decision,” he added.
Roque pointed out that non-compliance with the IATF rules is not covered by the ‘separation of church and state’ and should (the Church) defy the quarantine rules, government can order churches closed if necessary.
“What is covered is the freedom to believe and the freedom not to endorse a religion. Pero in the exercise of police powers, we can order the churches closed, huwag sana pong dumating doon, Bishop Pabillo,” he clarified.
“Wala po tayong makakamit na kahit anong objective if you will defy and you will force the state to close the doors of the church,” the presidential spokesperson concluded.