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Ban on Rosaries and Religious Icons on Dashboards Stir Up Public Backlash

Following the suspension of the Anti-Distracted Driving Act earlier today, one controversial issue keeps stirring up huge reactions from the public: the banning of rosaries and other religious statues on car dashboards.

According to the law, these said objects are restricted if they will block a driver’s line of sight. Drivers, however, are allowed to coil their rosaries up on the rear view mirror so they won’t swing around.

Public Backlash

Father Secillano during a homily

Catholic religious groups reacted to the said ban by pointing out how LTFRB’s view on what really causes these accidents are misconstrued.

“The LTFRB is absolutely missing the point by prohibiting the display of small religious images in cars,” said Secillano, executive secretary of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines’ permanent committee on public affairs.

Seciliano explained that the cause of vehicular accidents on the road are not really because of the rosaries themselves, but by car problems and a driver’s abusive behavior and insensitivity to the law.

Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operator Nationwide (Piston), one of the biggest organizations of jeepney drivers and owners in the Philippines, released a statement saying no data shows that these religious items have caused accidents in the past. They even went so far in saying that a religious belief exists outside other influences.

“Do not meddle with the drivers’ faith in God,” said its president, George San Mateo.

Law-makers have expressed their concern about LTFRB’s take on how to implement the Anti-Distraction Law.

“The LTFRB appears going overboard on its fresh drive against distracted driving in going after even harmless accessories like rosaries on rearview windows—something that infringes on religious freedom. Besides, many motorists today rely on navigational apps on smartphones to avoid congested roads. It would be unfair to unduly restrict the use of such apps and may even have unintended consequences,” according to Camarines Sur Rep. Lray Villafuerte.

Even Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III reprimanded the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of the Anti-Distracted Driving Act, and asked the committee on public services to review it once again.

Legal Basis to Ban Religious Items Questioned

Rosary coiled on a rear view mirror

The question, however, is if there really is any legal basis to support this ban. According to Lawyer Romulo Macalintal:

“Rosaries and similar small religious items displayed on a car are not even mentioned or subject of Republic Act No. 10913, the Anti-Distracted Driving Act. The law is merely directed to ‘the inimical consequences of the unrestrained use of electronic mobile devices on road safety as to cause its regulation (as) the State recognizes the vital roles of information and communications technology in nation-building’ as stated in its Section 2, declaration of policy,” he stated.

Religious Practice Ingrained in Filipino Culture

Family praying the rosary

The Philippines is predominantly a Catholic country, with at least 92% of the population baptized in the religion. Rosaries are used in the Catholic Church as a form of prayer, recalling the events in the lives of Jesus and his mother, Mary. They, along with religious items of their God and other popular saints, are believed to protect drivers against harm and accidents on the road. This belief serves as the basis for the longstanding tradition among Filipino motorists to hang rosaries on their rear view mirrors or place small religious items on their car’s dashboard.

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