FAST FACTS: The Bible in PH presidential inaugurations
MANILA, Philippines – The Bible has always played a low-key role in presidential inaugurations. The Philippine Constitution does not require the Bible for the swearing-in ceremony, but in a country populated mostly by Catholics, presidents still choose a Bible that holds a personal or historical significance, as part of the long-standing tradition.
During the ceremony, the president traditionally lays his hand on the Bible as he takes his oath of office as the country’s newest chief executive. As he places his left hand on a closed Bible, he states this oath:
“I do solemnly swear [or affirm] that I will faithfully and conscientiously fulfill my duties as President [or Vice-President or Acting President] of the Philippines, preserve and defend its Constitution, execute its laws, do justice to every man, and consecrate myself to the service of the Nation. So help me God."
In case of affirmation, the last sentence will be omitted. The affirmation proviso is in line with the principle of the separation of Church and State, as well as the "non-establishment of religion" clause which says "no religious test shall be required for the exercise of civil and political rights.”
Oath taking with the Bible only started under Magsaysay’s term.
From Emilio Aquinaldo to Elpidio Quirino, presidents did not swear on the Bible, as legacy of the Revolution of 1896 which directly engaged the Philippine state at large.
Ramon Magsaysay was the first president to swear on a Bible during his inauguration at the Independence Grandstand (now Quirino Grandstand) in Manila on December 30, 1953.
During this year, the Catholic Welfare Organization (CWO) under the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) decreed legislations and mobilized public opinion that would support the Catholic faith despite the onslaughts against it by the Masons and other anti-Catholics.
This was also the period when the Catholic Church urged the disadvantaged to prevent communist success and coalesced in supporting Magsaysay for president.
President-elects have the option to use two Bibles.
Due to personal preferences, some presidents used two Bibles which were either handed down or personally given by their loved ones.
During his inauguration, Magsaysay used two Bibles – one coming from his father and one from his mother. These were then placed on a lectern as his oath was administered.
Ferdinand Marcos also took his oath on two Bibles on December 30, 1965. One Bible came from his father, Mariano Marcos, while the other one was given by his wife Imelda.
Some inaugural Bibles have been passed down.
Some presidents were also lucky enough to use the same Bible that their parents – their presidential forerunners – once took their oath on.
On June 30, 2004, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo took her oath of office before then Supreme Court Chief Justice Hilario Davide using the same Bible her father, Diosdado Macapagal, used when he was sworn in as president in 1961.
Also, during his inauguration as the 15th president of the Philippines on June 30, 2010, now-outgoing President Benigno Aquino III also used the same Bible that his late mother, Corazon Aquino, swore on to serve the country.
Presidential spouses are usually the bible holders.
Fidel V. Ramos, the first non-Catholic president of the Philippines, still took his oath on a Bible on June 30, 1992 with First Lady Amelita Ramos beside him.
Former Senator Loi Ejercito-Estrada also held the Bible for husband Joseph “Erap” Ejercito Estrada on June 30, 1998.
When Arroyo took oath in Cebu City in 2004, her husband Mike Arroyo was holding the Bible for her.
But other personalities may also hold the bible for presidents.
On December 30, 1957, Bohol Governor Juan Pajo held the Bible as Carlos Garcia – also a Boholano – took his oath.
Corazon Aquino recited the presidential oath as her hands rested on a bible held by her slain husband’s mother, Dona Aurora Aquino, on February 25, 1986 at Club Filipino.
The younger Aquino also broke tradition when he chose Eugenio Lopez, a barangay captain from his hometown to swear him into office. However, on inauguration day, it was Fr Catalino Arevalo, a Jesuit theologian, who held the Bible for him.
The Bible used by Aquino from his inauguration is still in Malacañang.
On June 30, President-elect Rodrigo Duterte will have his youngest child, Kitty, hold the Bible of his mother Soledad as he takes his oath as the 16th president of the Philippines. – Rappler.com
Mary Gleefer Jalea is a Rappler intern.