Posts Tagged ‘Philippine Postal Corporation’

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Nikko Galicia

[FEU Law Legal Writing], December 5, 2014

WON: Church and State

Philippines is known for being a Christian nation in Asia, majority of people (90%) being of the Christian faith. [1] Our country is also known as a secular nation with a constitutional separation of church and state. [2] This separation is stated in our Constitution, under the Declaration of Principles, Bill of Rights, even in the Legislative Department. [3] Although, until now, the separation between the Church and State is still not clearly defined.

Earlier this year, a legal action has been filed against the Philippine Postal Corporation, for its issuance of postage stamps commemorating the 100th founding anniversary of Iglesia ni Cristo, on the grounds that it violates the Constitution on sponsorship of the religious activity. [4] The provision he raised reads:

“Article VI, Section 29. (2) No public money or property shall be appropriated, applied, paid, or employed, directly or indirectly, for the use, benefit, or support of any sect, church, denomination, sectarian institution, or system of religion, or of any priest, preacher, minister, or other religious teacher xxx”

Government officials commented on the matter, and both former Governor Dela Cruz and Presidential Spokesman Lacierda believes that the stamps are not unconstitutional, as they are only commemorative. [5]

A similar case has already been decided way back 1937 in Aglipay v. Ruiz, in issuance of postage stamp in commemorating the Eucharistic Assembly in Manila. [6] It was ruled in favor of the Government, explaining that the purpose and intent of the issuance was not for the benefit of the Roman Catholic Church, but the Government was only taking advantage of the event to raise funds as authorized by the law.

In a 1971 case decided by the US Supreme Court, it is where the “Lemon” test was introduced to determine the involvement of the Church in any Government activities. [7] Although the case has been decided in the US, it could be used as a guideline in Philippine courts. Lemon test have these points to answer; Purpose, Effect, Entanglement. On these three points, courts can determine if the intent of the law or government activity does support any system of religion. [8]

Given these laws, cases, and guidelines, Philippine government may say that there is indeed a separation of the Church and State, however, it is not clear where does the line that separates them reside, and we can only rely on the adversarial system to set that line for us.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religion_in_the_Philippines

[2] Id.
[3] 1987 Philippine Constitution,
Article II, Section 6. The separation of Church and State shall be inviolable.
Article III, Section 5. 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 forever be allowed. No religious test shall be required for the exercise of civil or political rights.

Article VI, Section 29. (2) No public money or property shall be appropriated, applied, paid, or employed, directly or indirectly, for the use, benefit, or support of any sect, church, denomination, sectarian institution, or system of religion, or of any priest, preacher, minister, or other religious teacher, or dignitary as such, except when such priest, preacher, minister, or dignitary is assigned to the armed forces, or to any penal institution, or government orphanage or leprosarium.

[4] http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/615126/taxpayer-sues-phlpost-over-iglesia-ni-cristo-postage-stamp
[5] http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/610819/is-phlposts-iglesia-ni-cristo-stamp-unconstitutional
[6] Aglipay v. Ruiz, G.R. No. L-45459, 64 Phil. 206, March 13, 1937
[7] http://www.senate.gov.ph/press_release/2011/0713_santiago1.asp
[8] Lemon v. Kurtzman, 403 US 602, June 28, 1971

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By BARTOLOME C. FERNANDEZ JR.

June 2, 2014

Posted on Philippine Daily Inquirer

I am intrigued by recent news reports disclosing that the government, through the Philippine Postal Corp., has authorized a special issue of commemorative postage stamps to mark the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Iglesia ni Cristo (INC). The design of the stamp shows a portrait of Felix Y. Manalo and the main temple building of the INC in Quezon City with the words “Iglesia ni Cristo Centennial and First Executive Minister” inscribed thereon.

An interesting constitutional question that is provoked is whether or not the issuing of said stamps violates the constitutional ban against the appropriation and payment of public funds for the benefit or support of any sect, church, sectarian institution or system of religion (Section  29(2), Article VI, 1987 Constitution) which is a direct corollary of the principle of separation of church and state (Section 6, Article II, 1987 Constitution).

The INC is unquestionably a religious sect, church or sectarian institution. As I see it, the issuance of the stamps in question is assailable on constitutional grounds insofar as it entails the appropriation and payment of public money that redound to the benefit and support of the INC. It is evidently the purpose of the stamp issue to focus attention on the INC religion. The publicity engendered and the resulting propaganda received by the INC are quite obvious.

I see no legitimate secular objective of the appropriation of public funds for issuing the stamps in question. Nor am I aware of any government event, occasion or activity of public interest or significance to be commemorated thereby. There is, in fact, every reason to assume that the issuance of the INC stamp is per se inspired by a sectarian feeling to favor or benefit the INC.

In all candor, I am intolerant of any attempt, such as the issuance of the stamps in question, to infringe a constitutional inhibition. I cannot relish the idea of our government undertaking an activity that may trigger the belief that it is taking sides or favoring a particular religious sect. I am even tempted to assume that the functionaries concerned made use of poor judgment or were ill-advised in issuing the stamps in question.