The government will order the closure of Catholic churches which will defy the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) directive banning religious gathering during the National Capital Region (NCR) Plus bubble period from March 22 to April 4 amid the COVID-19 pandemic, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said.

Roque was responding to the Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo’s Pastoral Instruction which states that religious worship will be held inside the church at 10% capacity starting March 24—the day the Catholics mark the first day of the Holy Week which commemorates the passion and death of Jesus Christ. 

“That will be contrary po to the decision of the IATF and we ask Bishop Pabillo not to encourage, iyong disregard of IATF rules. Ito naman po ay para sa kabutihan ng lahat,” Roque said in a Palace briefing.

“In the exercise of police powers, we can order the churches closed. Huwag sana pong dumating doon, Bishop Pabillo. Wala po tayong makakamit na kahit anong objective if you will defy and you will force the state to close the doors of the Church,” Roque added.

[ hope it does not get to that point. We cannot achieve anything with defiance and we will be forced to close the doors of the church.]

Roque also argued that such drastic action is not a violation of the Constitutional provision of separation of church and state.

“This goes beyond freedom to believe and the prohibition to endorse a religion. That will be an enforcement of police powers to protect the public good,” Roque said.

[I hope the Bishop will not encourage non-compliance with thie IATF decision. This is for the benefit of all.]

“We understand po that this is Holy Week, but a Christian myself, as a practicing Christian, I have a relationship with God. At kasama din po sa obligasyon ng estado ay sumunod din doon sa mga talaga ng Panginoon na mamuno,” he added.

At least 80 percent of Filipinos are Roman Catholic.

Under the NCR Plus bubble policy, residents of Metro Manila and its adjacent provinces Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna and Rizal are not allowed to gather themselves beyond 10 people at any given time within the NCR Plus areas.

Likewise, people in NCR Plus areas cannot leave the NCR Plus areas border, exempt for essential trips. People outside of NCR Plus areas, however, are also prohibited from entering the NCR Plus bubble if it is not because of an essential trip. -NB, GMA News