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Religious Freedom Ranking:
4 out of 5 stars: Good


The country has a population of 97.98 million. The National Statistics Office reports that 93 percent of the population is Christian. The Roman Catholic Church is the dominant religious group with a total of 80 to 85 percent of the population. The Islamic religion comprises between 5 to 9 percent of the population. Religious groups that together make up less than 5 percent of the population include Seventh-day Adventists, United Church of Christ, United Methodist, the Episcopal Church in the Philippines, Assembles of God, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and Philippine (Southern) Baptists.  Other locally established groups include the Philippine Independent Church (Aglipayan); the Iglesia ni Cristo (Church of Christ); the Members Church of God International; and the Kingdom of Jesus Christ, the Name Above Every Name. Iglesia ni Cristo is the largest indigenous Christian denomination with the largest number of members: 5.6 million. Residents of Christian backgrounds usually integrate traditional indigenous belief systems when practicing.

Institutionalized religions must register with the Securities and Exchange Commission and with the Bureau of Internal Revenue to create a tax-exempt status.  However, there is no punishment for groups that do not register. There have been no reports that any religion was denied registration.  

The government allows for religious teachings in public schools with parents’ written consent. Attendance is not mandatory. This gives religious groups the chance to teach moral values during school hours. Religious groups can also hand out spiritual literature in public schools. The law mandates that public schools guarantee that the religious rights of students are protected.  Muslim students can wear hijabs (head coverings), and Muslim girls do not have to wear shorts during physical education courses.  

A total of 588 madaris (Islamic schools) were registered with the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF), while 40 were registered with the Department of Education (DepEd).  NCMF and DepEd provide financial assistance for these schools.  DepEd provided Arabic language teaching and Islamic values instruction during the 2009-10 school year.     

On February 18, 2010, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo signed Republic Act 9997, which replaced the previous Office of Muslim Affairs with the NCMF.  This worked to endorse the rights of Muslim Filipinos at both the national and local level and supported the implementation of economic, educational, cultural and infrastructure agendas for Muslim Filipino communities. The NCMF’s Bureau of Pilgrimage and Endowment directs the hajj (annual Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca).  It is also accountable for the management of awqaf (endowment properties) and organizations, and the conduct of activities for the establishment and preservation of hajj towns, Islamic centers, and other developments. The Presidential Assistant for Muslim Affairs helps organize relations with countries that have large numbers of Islamic residents while adding to the city of Mindanao’s economic growth and the peace process. Mindanao and other nearby islands hold the largest amount of Filipino Muslims.  
PhilippinesThe government promotes interfaith dialogue to build reciprocated trust and respect among different religious and cultural groups, especially between Christianity and Islam.  The Council on Interfaith always arranges for interfaith activities, discussions, and programs to realize peace through cooperation.  

The National Ecumenical Consultative Committee (NECCOM) promotes interfaith dialogue among the Roman Catholic Church, Muslim groups, Iglesia ni Cristo, Aglipayan and Protestant denominations.  

From March 16 to 18, 2010, the country introduced the Special Non-aligned Movement Ministerial Meeting on Interfaith Dialogue and Cooperation for Peace and Development (SNAMMM).  The meeting held 118 member representatives of the Non-aligned Movement (NAM) where they adopted a declaration of peace and respect, diversity and tolerance, to further religious unity.  On March 16, 2010, the Council of Values Formation held 70 delegates from numerous civil society and religious institutions.  They advised the NAM member representatives to work in partnership in resolving matters that would encourage ongoing peace and expansion.

There have been no reports of forced religious conversion. However, terrorism and kidnappings for ransom of westerners and other Christians has become increasingly common.

Attacks by the armed rebellious Muslim group Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and ensuing conflicts with government troops resulted in the deaths of hundreds of Christian and Muslims citizens and unsettling fear in the city of Mindanao. The government attributed another series of attacks, kidnappings, and killings to the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), other Islamic activists, and the New People’s Army. On July 5, 2009, a bomb outside the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Cotabato City killed six and wounded 30 others as they were leaving church service. Two days later on July 7, two more bombs exploded next to a cathedral in Jolo City, killing two people and injuring 50.  On January 11, 2010, a grenade exploded outside a cathedral in Jolo, Sulu.  Only the cathedral building was damaged.  On May 9, 2010, the day before national elections, a hand grenade exploded inside a mosque in Pikit, North Cotabato killing two and wounding 12.  The Philippine National Police arrested suspects associated with the ASG in relation with these bombings. Since this tragedy, the government and MILF have effectively upheld a truce that was instituted in July 2009 and have since engaged in peace discussions. The Peacemakers’ Circle Foundation and the Bishops-Ulama Conference are other organizations designed to continue to bring about peace conferences between Christians and Muslims in selected communities.  

The Code of Muslim Personal Laws recognizes Shari’a (Islamic law) as part of national law. However, it does not apply in criminal cases because it only pertains to Muslims.  Ulama (Muslim community leaders) quarreled with the government stating it should permit Islamic courts to expand their jurisdiction to criminal law matters.  Some ulamas supported the MILF’s vision of structuring an autonomous area governed in harmony with Islamic law.

Discrimination against Muslims has been reported. Young Muslims have stated that it is common for employers to stereotype Muslims as being less educated.  Some Muslims have assumed a false Christian identity and wear Western clothes because it was easier to rent rooms or be hired for jobs. The government’s campaign against terrorist groups led a few human rights NGOs to blame the police and military of bias in their treatment of Muslims.

2010 U.S. Department of State International Religious Freedom on the Philippines

Religious Freedom Ranking: 3
1-5 stars
Last Updated on Tuesday, 14 February 2012 19:01