CNA Staff, Mar 24, 2021 / 18:00 pm
A spokesperson for Rodrigo Duterte, president of the Philippines, said the government will force local churches to close if priests hold public Masses in defiance of public health orders. A local bishop, however, has argued that Masses held at low capacity are a safe way to maintain public worship, especially during Holy Week and Easter.
In an attempt to combat a surge in coronavirus infections, new government restrictions have banned public meetings, including religious gatherings.
The Philippines has had more than 677,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and nearly 13,000 deaths, among the highest rates in Southeast Asia.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said Tuesday that the government would not be violating religious freedom laws by forcibly closing churches that violate the new restriction.
“In the exercise of police powers, we can order the churches closed and I hope it will not come to that,” said Roque, according to the Associated Press. “We won’t achieve anything … if you will defy and you will force the state to close the doors of the church.”