MANILA, Philippines – The new vision statement of the Department of Education (DepEd) may not have the “God-loving” phrase in it, but forming God-loving learners is still a vision of the department, Education Secretary Armin Luistro said.
"We maintain that the formation of God-loving learners is a vision that we have not surrendered,” Luistro said in a statement Friday, August 29.
Luistro made the statement after the Catholic Bishop's Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) in another statement Friday said that "the formation of God-fearing pupils and students is a vision that cannot be surrendered.”
CBCP President Socrates Villegas quoted Vatican II's Gravissimum Educationis:
"This Sacred Synod likewise declares that children and young people have a right to be motivated to appraise moral values with a right conscience, to embrace them with a personal adherence, together with a deeper knowledge and love of God.”
"The right of a child to recognize God, to love him and to hope in him cannot be harmful to anyone else, believer or not,” Villegas noted.
While there is respect for pluralism in society, he said there is no obligation for civil society to completely remove the name of God from public life, "especially when the majority of Filipinos continue to acknowledge God's sovereignty and to trust in Divine Providence.”
In recent weeks, DepEd's new vision has been a hot topic online and offline, even though its revision was done way back September 2013.
Luistro on Friday clarified media reports that “mistakenly attributed" to him claiming that "the God-loving phrase was removed from the department's vision to be fair to Filipinos who may subscribe to other beliefs and principles.”
"I had not issued any statement to that effect. This attribution is completely false,” he explained.
Instead, he explained the review of the department’s vision and mission is actually anchored on Filipino core values Maka-Diyos, Maka-Tao, Makakalikasan and Makabansa (Love for God, people, environment, and country) – the country's national motto found in Section 40 of Republic Act 8491.
He also clarified he was not able to interact with a group "claiming to have pressured the department based on an open letter that they posted on 5 February 2013 via their Twitter account.” (READ: No religion)
Luistro also referred to another article that said a spokesperson of a Christian advocacy group "aired the group's dissatisfaction over what it believes is a rash decision on DepEd's part that had been influenced by some members of the non-religious sector."
But he noted that discussions on the revision of DepEd’s vision, mission, and core values (VMV) began as early as 2010, and not without consultations with “key persons in various levels of the organization, including the regions and school divisions.”
Reiterating an earlier statement, Luistro said it is important to appreciate DepEd’s new VMV “in its entirety.”
"The term 'God-loving' is synonymous with Maka-Diyos. The term Maka-Diyos is essentially connected with Maka-tao, Makakalikasan and Makabansa and allows our Values Education teachers to develop modules that will hopefully form persons of integrity,” he explained.
He added, "It warns against pietism or ritualism and encourages persons of faith to live those convictions everyday, everywhere.
Luistro affirmed the constitutional principle of “benevolent neutrality” toward religion and spirituality, and the department’s continuous promotion of “the spirit of inclusivity” as it remains open to dialogue.
'Stand up for God'
Villegas, for his part, called on public school teachers who are lay Catholics to “stand up for God.”
"We exhort our Catholic laity in public elementary and high schools to be zealous in the apostolate of forming pupils and students. Do not get tired of teaching that God is the beginning and the end of all things, that he is the Father who wishes all to have life, and to have it to the full!"
He added: "This, our dear public school teachers, is your particular mission in the life of the Church, the dignity of your calling as evangelizers within the world and its concerns....The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” – Rappler.com
Jee is part of Rappler's Central Desk, handling most of the world, science, and environment stories on the site. She enjoys listening to podcasts and K-pop, watching Asian dramas, and running long distances. She hopes to visit Israel someday to retrace the steps of her Savior.