Philippines’ land transport regulators drew flak from the country’s Catholic majority after proposed rules essentially banned rosaries and other religious icons from being placed on dashboards.
The proposed regulation comes after the passage of the Anti-Distracted Driving Act in the country, which classifies rosaries, along with other things like soft toys as a distraction. The proposed law also bars drivers from using mobile phones while on the road.
It has since been suspended, after lawmakers pointed out a technicality in the law requiring regulators to conduct a six-month long awareness campaign before the rules were set.
The law sparked an outcry amongst the country’s Catholic community, with bishops denouncing the rules set by the country’s Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB).
“The LFTRB is absolutely missing the point by prohibiting the display of small religious images in cars,” Jerome Secillano, an executive secretary at the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), told the Inquirer.
He added that rosaries weren’t the problem, but rather mechanical problems, ignorance, and abusive behavior on the road was.
Piston, the country’s association of jeepney (the most common form of public transport in the Philippines) drivers and owners, said that there was no evidence that religious icons caused accidents.
“Do not meddle with the drivers’ faith in God,” the association’s president George San Mateo said.
Regulators said on Tuesday that rosaries could still be placed on a vehicle’s rearview mirror if they were coiled up, but people still weren’t buying it:
(LTO refers to the Land Transportation Office, another regulator.)
No phones ok but rosaries? Then ban also d use of wipers coz its more distracting or heavy rains coz it causes zero visibility. Talino nila!
— Ate Carol (@cbmparis) May 22, 2017
Government: *does not ban cars with blinking headlights
Also government: okay let’s ban rosaries in cars because that could cause accidents🙄
— Zach Dempsey (@Francinne28) May 23, 2017
There were some funny responses as well:
“Off to Manila. Will I get confronted [by regulators]? I don’t know.”
anti distracted driving law prohibits rosaries na nakasabit?? lol it’s not like they’re going to pray the rosary in the middle of driving
— ✨ eya (@ezradaniellee) May 22, 2017
There were also some pretty cute responses:
“Is this illegal?”
Over 80 percent of Filipinos identify as Catholic, and while regulators did consult with the country’s Catholic Church before proposing the ban, the church said on Tuesday that it did not agree with the proposed rules at all.
“There was no talk if we approve of it. Who are we? What was clear was that there was a consultation,” the secretary general of the CBCP, Marvin Mejia, told the Inquirer.
Mejia added that the church has been assured that religious items would not be prohibited at all if they didn’t obstruct drivers’ line of sight.
“From their end, they called to consult us because there were some misinterpretations,” he said. “We just listened and understood them.”