No legislation was ever so divisive; none has so brutally gashed old national wounds. Never since the Revolution had the Catholic Church been the object of such derisive indignation.
Heading the Veteranos de la Revolucion, Emilio Aguinaldo, President of the First Philippine Republic, denounced the Filipino clergy for putting themselves "under the yoke of the old Spanish friars, against whom the Filipinos of 1896 had risen in arms..."[with] our blood spilled on the battlefields." He demanded the true separation of Church and State and said that Rizal's novels were "banned by the Spanish authorities who had kept Filipinos subject for more than 300 years under the guise of Christianity".
It was Magdalo times all over again ! Four thousand (4,000) revolucionarios gathered at Imus, Cavite, some gave moving testimonies of how they risked their lives just to be able to read the NOLI and FILI when still under Spanish subjugation. They unanimously approved a manifesto calling "un-Filipino and morally repulsive" any opposition to Senator Recto's bill. An old venerable declared he would stop going to church until the bill was approved. Another exclaimed, "My loyalty to religion ends where my loyalty to the country begins."
The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines insisted that Rizal attacked "the possibility of miracles, purgatory, the sacraments, indulgences, prayers, disparaged the veneration of saints, images, relics, the Blessed Mother and questioned Papal authority. Worst, Rizal doubted "God's omnipotence". In a pastoral letter, Bishop Rufino Santos of Manila explained their opposition to the "compulsory reading in their entirety of such books in any school where Catholic students may be affected."
Senator Laurel, head of the Education Committee, modified Recto's bill for expediency's sake by allowing exemptions for "reasons of religious belief." On 12 June 1956, Republic Act. No. 1425 (Rizal Law) was finally passed. Thus, the writings of Rizal especially the unexpurgated versions of the NOLI and FILI, became compulsory for all public and private schools in the Philippines.
Source: Locsin, Teodoro, "The Church Under Attack", "Phillippines FreePress", May 1956