Bienvenido “Benny” Abante, Jr., the Filipino House Minority Leader, wants to make reading the Bible a requirement for students in elementary and secondary public schools. Abante, who is also a pastor, believes that making Bible reading mandatory for students will improve the quality of life in the Philippines.
“If only biblical discipline, principles and standards are taught and inculcated in the minds of our children, there would be no much problems on leadership, governance, and peace and order,” said Abante, according to GMA News Online.
Abante Introduces House Bill 2069
Called the “Mandatory Bible Reading Act of 2019,” Abante’s bill says, “the State recognizes the vital role of the youth in nation-building and shall promote and protect their physical, moral, spiritual, and social well-being.” The responsibility of the nation’s educational institutions, says the bill, is to “teach the rights and duties of citizenship, strengthen ethical and spiritual values, develop moral character and personal discipline, and encourage critical and creative thinking.”
The bill states that students in elementary and high school are at prime ages for being strengthened in the areas listed above and is based on the “conviction that the Bible is a book of righteous instructions, principles and standards, discipline, and a book of moral and spiritual values.” Through the bill, Abante proposes that the subjects of English and Filipino should require students to read, discuss, and be tested on the Bible. Notably, the bill provides for students of another faith—Muslim students will study the Quran instead of the Bible.
If Abante’s bill passes the House and the Senate, President Rodrigo Duterte will decide whether to sign or veto it. If he vetoes it, the House of Representatives can overturn the veto with a 2/3 majority vote. If the president chooses not to act, the bill will automatically become law after 30 days.
Abante was elected as House Minority Leader this past July and is the senior pastor of the Metropolitan Bible Baptist Ekklesia. He is also one of several members of Congress who supports the reinstatement of the death penalty in the Philippines. He has, however, said he is in favor of the death penalty only as a consequence for “heinous crimes,” such as terrorism or when people are raped and murdered. For the pastor and politician, love of one’s country seems to go hand-in-hand with love for God. While attending a mass baptism, Abante praised the ministry that organized the event, saying, “I am proud that there is an indigenous Filipino religious organization that believes in nationalism and patriotism” and “that promotes love of country and love for God.”
The House Minority Leader believes that even though many view the Philippines as the only “Christian nation” in Asia, that does not mean people necessarily recognize the Bible’s value and power. He hopes that government officials, as well as students, will apply the Bible to their lives in order to improve life in the Philippines. He said, “If only the Bible is read, proclaimed, obeyed and practiced, the Philippines, our beloved and only country, would be a much better place to live in, and our government would be a government of honesty, righteousness and order.”