The constitution states that “no law shall be made respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. The free exercise and enjoyment of religious profession and worship, without discrimination or preference, shall be forever allowed. No religious test shall be required for the exercise of civil or political rights.” The government played an active but limited role in religious affairs, including participating in efforts to promote religious harmony and tolerance. The government and leaders of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) signed a comprehensive peace pact towards the establishment of a new, autonomous political entity known as Bangsamoro in the southern island of Mindanao and supported the crafting of a draft “Basic Law” on Bangsamoro that affirms the right to nondiscrimination based on creed and the right to freedom from harassment based on religious belief or ethnicity. The draft legislation also includes provisions on sharia, which would only apply to Muslims.
Religious scholars and leaders within Catholic and evangelical churches said relations among religious groups in society were generally amicable; however, there were instances of ethnic, religious, and cultural discrimination against the Muslim population. Observers stated that this, combined with economic disparities within the country at large, contributed to persistent conflict in provinces in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). Various religious groups and human rights organizations focused their efforts on building and strengthening interfaith relations by facilitating dialogue among persons of different faiths.
The U.S. embassy discussed religious freedom issues with the government and maintained outreach with religious leaders and nongovernment organizations to engage them in interfaith activities. The Ambassador and senior embassy officers hosted and attended events, including several in Mindanao, which promoted interfaith dialogue and religious tolerance.