Manila bishop slams 'unreasonable' gov't restriction on religious services

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 17) — The new directive of the government on the conduct of religious gatherings limiting participants to a maximum of 10 is "laughable" and "unreasonable," a leader of the Catholic Church said Sunday.

Limiting Mass goers to such measly number, even for bigger churches, is another way of saying that the government does not recognize the conduct of religious activities at all, Manila Apostolic Administrator Broderick Pabillo said in a Facebook post.

"It is just another way of saying that you do not have religious activities," he said.

"There are many churches with different sizes. Five persons for such a big church as Baclaran or the Manila Cathedral is laughable! The one-size-fits-all directive is really unreasonable!" Pabillo said.

The government should have instead imposed a one-meter or two-meter distance between persons in a church, he added.

"This is a problem with the government. They make arbitrary decisions without proper consultation with the sectors involved. So they come out with unreasonable directives!" the bishop noted.

Pabillo was referring to the recent decision of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases on the parameters for activities in areas under the modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) and general community quarantine (GCQ).

Under the omnibus guidelines on community quarantine released on Friday, religious gatherings in areas under MECQ would be limited to not more than five persons.

Meanwhile, religious activities in areas under GCQ allow only a maximum of 10 participants.

Mass gatherings in areas under the enhanced community quarantine are still prohibited.

Malacañang also announced Saturday that priests, imams, rabbis, and other religious ministers may conduct "home religious services" as long as health protocols are practiced such as wearing of face masks and observing social distancing.

Metro Manila and other areas were placed under MECQ starting May 16, while the government continues to address the rising COVID-19 cases.

Movement in high-risk areas is still restricted under the lockdown, while only select industries are permitted to resume operations at a limited capacity.

To date, the Philippines has a total of 12,305 COVID-19 cases, 2,561 recoveries, and 817 deaths.