Republic Act No. 1425
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Republic Act No. 1425, popularly known as the Rizal Law, directs all public and private schools, colleges, and universities to include in their curricula courses or subjects on the life, works, and writings of Dr. Jose Rizal, particularly the novels Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo. The Board of National Education is given the mandate to carry out and enforce the Rizal Law. It was approved on 12 June 1956.
Senate bill 438, known as Rizal Bill, which was first authored by Senator Claro M. Recto and required the inclusion in the curricula of all private and public schools, colleges and universities the life, works and writings of Jose Rizal particularly his novels Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo, is considered as one of the most controversial bills in the Philippines. As is customary, before the bill was approved and implemented in all schools and was signed into a law known as Republic Act 1425, it had been brought to the Upper and Lower House of the Congress for deliberations. But what made it controversial is that the bill was not just fiercely opposed by people from the Legislative Arm but also by the Catholic Church due to the inclusion of compulsory reading of Rizal's novels in which, according to them, Catholic dogmas are humiliated.
Senator Recto brought the bill to the Senate, and Senator Jose B. Laurel Sr., who was then the Chairman of the Committee on Education, sponsored the bill that consequently led to an exchange of arguments in the Congress. The bill was heatedly opposed by three senators, namely Senator Francisco Rodrigo, who was a former Catholic Action President; Senator Mariano Cuenco; and Senator Decoroso Rosales; a brother of Julio Rosales, an archbishop. Other oppositors were from the Lower House, namely Congressmen Ramon Durano, Marciano Lim, Jose Nuguid, Manuel Soza, Godofredo Ramos, Miguel Cuenco, Lucas Paredes, Carmen Consing and Tecia San Andres Ziga. The Catholic Church was indirectly included in the debates and played a major role in the intervention in the signing of the bill into a law. Allied with the church in battle against Rizal Bill were the Holy Name Society of the Philippines, Catholic Action of the Philippines, Legion of Mary, Knights of Columbus and Daughters of Isabela.
Oppositions argued that the bill would go against freedom of conscience and religion. The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) submitted a pastoral letter in which it said that Rizal violated Canon Law 1399, which forbids or bans books that attack or ridicule the Catholic doctrine and practices. Oppositors argued that among the 333 pages of Noli Me Tangere, only 25 passages are nationalistic while 120 passages are anti-Catholic. While upon scrutiny of thetwo novels by some members of catholic hierarchial, 170 passages in Noli Me Tangere and 50 in El Filibusterismo are against Catholic fatih. Furthermore, oppositors pointed out that Rizal admitted that he did not only attack the friars who acted deceptively towards the Filipinos but also the Catholic faith itself. They suggested a reading material for students as to what they called Rizalian Anthology, a collection of Rizal's literary works that contain the patriotic philosophy, excluding the two novels.
Of course, Recto and Laurel defended the bill and argued that the only objective of the bill is to keep the memory of the national hero alive in every Filipino's mind, to emulate Rizal as he peacefully fought for freedom, and not to go against religion. Senators Lorenso Tanada, Quintin Paredes and Domocao Alonto of Mindanao also defended Rizal Bill, which was also favored by some representatives from the House, namely Congressmen Jacobo Gonzales, Emilio Cortez, Mario Bengson, Joaquin Roxas, Lancap Lagumbay and Pedro Lopez.
Intense events took place in the wake of the deliberations for the Rizal Bill. One of which was the debate between Cebu Representative Ramon Durano and Pampanga Representative Emilio Cortes that ended in a fistfight in Congress. Bacolod City Bishop Manuel Yap threatened to campaign against pro-Rizal Bill legislators and to punish them in future elections. Catholic school representatives threatened to close down their schools if the Rizal Bill was passed. Recto told them that if they did, the State could nationalize the catholic schools. When there was a proposal to use the expurgated novels as textbooks and put the original copies under lock and key in the school libraries, Recto rejected this amendment and expressed:
"The people who would eliminate the books of Rizal from the schools...would blot out from our minds the memory of the national hero...this is not a fight against Recto but a fight against Rizal...now that Rizal is dead and they can no longer attempt at his life, they are attempting to blot out his memory."
Due to the never-ending debate on the Rizal Bill, approved amendments were formulated through ideas of three senators. Senator Laurel' created an amendment to the original bill in which, other that Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo, works written by Rizal and works wriiten by others about Rizal would be included and reading of the unexpurgated revision of the two novels would no longer be compulsory to elementary and secondary levels but would be strictly observed on the college level. Senator Lim suggested the exemption to those students who feel that reading Rizal's novels would negatively affect his or her faith. Senator Primicias created an additional amendment that promulgates the rules and regulations in getting an exemption only from reading the two novels through written statement or affidavit and not from taking the Rizal Course. According to historian Ambeth Ocampo, no student has ever availed of this exemption. After the revised amendments, the bill was finally passed on May 17, 1956 and was signed into law as Republic Act 1425 by President Ramon Magsaysay on June 12 of the same year.