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FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION TELEBAP vs. COMELEC, G.R. NO.

132922, April 21, 1998 (289 SCRA 337) Facts: TELEBAP and GMA Network together filed a petition to challenge the validity of Comelec Time due to the fact that said provisions: (1) have taken properties without due process of law and without just compensation; (2) it denied the radio and television broadcast companies the equal protection of the laws; and (3) that it is in excess of the power given to the Comelec to regulate the operation of media communication or information during election period. Held: Petitioners' argument is without merit, All broadcasting, whether by radio or by television stations, is licensed by the government. Airwave frequencies have to be allocated as there are more individuals who want to broadcast than there are frequencies to assign. 9 A franchise is thus a privilege subject, among other things, to amended by Congress in accordance with the constitutional provision that "any such franchise or right granted . . . shall be subject to amendment, alteration or repeal by the Congress when the common good so requires." Indeed, provisions for COMELEC Time have been made by amendment of the franchises of radio and television broadcast stations and, until the present case was brought, such provisions had not been thought of as taking property without just compensation. Art. XII, 11 of the Constitution authorizes the amendment of franchises for "the common good." What better measure can be conceived for the common good than one for free air time for the benefit not only of candidates but even more of the public, particularly

the voters, so that they will be fully informed of the issues in an election? "[I]t is the right of the viewers and listeners, not the right of the broadcasters, which is paramount." 11 Nor indeed can there be any constitutional objection to the requirement that broadcast stations give free air time. Even in the United States, there are responsible scholars who believe that government controls on broadcast media can constitutionally be instituted to ensure diversity of views and attention to public affairs to further the system of free expression. For this purpose, broadcast stations may be required to give free air time to candidates in an election. In truth, radio and television broadcasting companies, which are given franchises, do not own the airwaves and frequencies through which they transmit broadcast signals and images. They are merely given the temporary privilege of using them. Since a franchise is a mere privilege, the exercise of the privilege may reasonably be burdened with the performance by the grantee of some form of public service. ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corp v. COMELEC January 28, 2000 FACTS: COMELEC issued a Resolution approving the issuance of a restraining order to stop ABS CBN or any other groups, its agents or representatives from conducting exit surveys. The Resolution was issued by the Comelec allegedly upon "information from a reliable source that ABS-CBN (Lopez Group) has prepared a project, with PR groups, to conduct radio-TV coverage of the elections and to make an exit survey of the vote during the elections for national officials particularly for President and Vice President, results of which shall be broadcasted immediately. The electoral body believed that such project might conflict with the official Comelec count, as well as the

unofficial quick count of the National Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel). It also noted that it had not authorized or deputized ABS-CBN to undertake the exit survey. Two days before the elections on May 11, 1998, the Court issued the Temporary Restraining Order prayed for by petitioner ABS-CBN. The Comelec was directed to cease and desist, until further orders, from implementing the assailed Resolution or the restraining order issued pursuant thereto, if any. In fact, the exit polls were actually conducted and reported by media without any difficulty or problem. ISSUE: W/N the Comelec, in the exercise of its powers, can absolutely ban exit polls ABS-CBN: The holding of exit polls and the nationwide reporting of their results are valid exercises of the freedoms of speech and of the press COMELEC: 1)The issuance thereof was "pursuant to its constitutional and statutory powers to promote a clean, honest, orderly and credible May 11, 1998 elections"; and "to protect, preserve and maintain the secrecy and sanctity of the ballot." 2)It contends that "the conduct of exit surveys might unduly confuse and influence the voters," and that the surveys were designed "to condition the minds of people and cause confusion as to who are the winners and the losers in the election," which in turn may result in "violence and anarchy." 3)"exit surveys indirectly violate the constitutional principle to preserve the sanctity of the ballots," as the "voters are lured to reveal the contents of ballots," in violation of Section 2, Article V of the Constitution and relevant provisions of the Omnibus Election Code. It submits that the constitutionally protected freedoms invoked by petitioner "are not immune

to regulation by the State in the legitimate exercise of its police power," such as in the present case. 4) "[p]ress freedom may be curtailed if the exercise thereof creates a clear and present danger to the community or it has a dangerous tendency." It then contends that "an exit poll has the tendency to sow confusion considering the randomness of selecting interviewees, which further make[s] the exit poll highly unreliable. The probability that the results of such exit poll may not be in harmony with the official count made by the Comelec x x x is ever present. In other words, the exit poll has a clear and present danger of destroying the credibility and integrity of the electoral process." SUPREME COURT: The COMELEC Resolution on exit polls ban is nullified and set aside. 1) Clear and present danger of destroying the integrity of electoral processes Speculative and Untenable. First, by the very nature of a survey, the interviewees or participants are selected at random, so that the results will as much as possible be representative or reflective of the general sentiment or view of the community or group polled. Second, the survey result is not meant to replace or be at par with the official Comelec count. It consists merely of the opinion of the polling group as to who the electorate in general has probably voted for, based on the limited data gathered from polled individuals. Finally, not at stake here are the credibility and the integrity of the elections, which are exercises that are separate and independent from the exit polls. The holding and the reporting of the results of exit polls cannot undermine those of the elections, since the former is only part of the latter. If at all, the outcome of one can only be indicative of the other. 2) Overbroad

The Comelec's concern with the possible noncommunicative effect of exit polls -- disorder and confusion in the voting centers -- does not justify a total ban on them. Undoubtedly, the assailed Comelec Resolution is too broad, since its application is without qualification as to whether the polling is disruptive or not.[44] Concededly, the Omnibus Election Code prohibits disruptive behavior around the voting centers.[45] There is no showing, however, that exit polls or the means to interview voters cause chaos in voting centers. Neither has any evidence been presented proving that the presence of exit poll reporters near an election precinct tends to create disorder or confuse the voters. Moreover, the prohibition incidentally prevents the collection of exit poll data and their use for any purpose. The valuable information and ideas that could be derived from them, based on the voters' answers to the survey questions will forever remain unknown and unexplored. Unless the ban is restrained, candidates, researchers, social scientists and the electorate in general would be deprived of studies on the impact of current events and of election-day and other factors on voters' choices. 3) Violation of Ban Secrecy The contention of public respondent that exit polls indirectly transgress the sanctity and the secrecy of the ballot is offtangent to the real issue. Petitioner does not seek access to the ballots cast by the voters. The ballot system of voting is not at issue here. The reason behind the principle of ballot secrecy is to avoid vote buying through voter identification. Thus, voters are prohibited from exhibiting the contents of their official ballots to other persons, from making copies thereof, or from putting distinguishing marks thereon so as to be identified. Also proscribed is finding out the contents of the ballots cast by particular voters or disclosing those of disabled or illiterate

voters who have been assisted. Clearly, what is forbidden is the association of voters with their respective votes, for the purpose of assuring that the votes have been cast in accordance with the instructions of a third party. This result cannot, however, be achieved merely through the voters' verbal and confidential disclosure to a pollster of whom they have voted for. In exit polls, the contents of the official ballot are not actually exposed. Furthermore, the revelation of whom an elector has voted for is not compulsory, but voluntary. Voters may also choose not to reveal their identities. Indeed, narrowly tailored countermeasures may be prescribed by the Comelec, so as to minimize or suppress incidental problems in the conduct of exit polls, without transgressing the fundamental rights of our people.## An exit poll is a species of electoral survey conducted by qualified individuals or groups of individuals for the purpose of determining the probable result of an election by confidentially asking randomly selected voters whom they have voted for, immediately after they have officially cast their ballots. The results of the survey are announced to the public, usually through the mass media, to give an advance overview of how, in the opinion of the polling individuals or organizations, the electorate voted. In our electoral history, exit polls had not been resorted to until the recent May 11, 1998 elections. SWS vs Comelec Facts: Petitioner SWS and KPC states that it wishes to conduct an election survey throughout the period of the elections and release to the media the results of such survey as well as publish them directly. Petitioners argue that the restriction on the publication of election survey results constitutes a

prior restraint on the exercise of freedom of speech without any clear and present danger to justify such restraint. Issue: Are the Comelec Resolutions prohibiting the holding of pre-polls and exit polls and the dissemination of their results through mass media, valid and constitutional? Ruling: No. The Court held that Section (5)4 is invalid because (1) it imposes a prior restraint on the freedom of expression, (2) it is a direct and total suppression of a category of expression even though such suppression is only for a limited period, and (3) the governmental interest sought to be promoted can be achieved by means other than suppression of freedom of expression. It has been held that "[mere] legislative preferences or beliefs respecting matters of public convenience may well support regulation directed at other personal activities, but be insufficient to justify such as diminishes the exercise of rights so vital to the maintenance of democratic institutions. Government Service Insurance System and Winston F. Garcia vs. Dinnah Villaviza, et al. G.R. No. 180291, July 27, 2010. Freedom of speech. Government workers, whatever their rank, have as much right as any person in the land to voice out their protests against what they believe to be a violation of their rights and interests. Civil Service does not deprive them of their freedom of expression. It would be unfair to hold that by joining the government service, the members thereof have renounced or waived this basic liberty. This freedom can be reasonably regulated only but can never be taken away. Thus, Section 5 of Civil Service Commission Resolution No. 02-1316, which regulates the political rights of those in the government service, provides that the concerted activity or mass action proscribed must be coupled with the intent of effecting work stoppage or service disruption in

order to realize their demands of force concession. Such limitation or qualification in the above rule is intended to temper and focus the application of the prohibition, as not all collective activity or mass undertaking of government employees is prohibited. Otherwise, government employees would be deprived of their constitutional right to freedom of expression. Respondents act of wearing similarly colored shirts, attending a public hearing for just over an hour at the office of the GSIS Investigation Unit, bringing with them recording gadgets, clenching their fists, and some even badmouthing the GSIS guards and GSIS President and General Manager Winston F. Garcia, are not constitutive of an (i) intent to effect work stoppage or service disruption and (ii) for the purpose of realizing their demands of force concession. These actuations did not amount to a prohibited concerted activity or mass action. SORIANO VS MTRCB The following is an update on the case of Bro. Eli Soriano versus Ma. Consoliza Laguardia and the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB). It begins with the preachers account with a snippet from TOP magazine. It then leads to Erika T. Dys news on Supreme Courts en banc decision, and Newsbreak Purple S. Romeros voting report of the Supreme Court on the case. The focus is on the dissenting opinions of two justices: Justice Roberto A. Abad and Justice Antonio T. Carpio.The dissenting opinions carry facts of the case which can update the reader. Dissent means that judges that do not agree with the majority may write their own dissenting opinions to state their views. Justice Antonio Carpio Background:

MTRCB suspended Bro. Sorianos television broadcasts after the same religious group, the Iglesia ni Cristo (INC), had filed practically the same complaints about the use of harsh words by Bro. Soriano or alleged bad words and defamation against the INC. Soriano contested the suspensions at the high court, complaining that the MTRCB violated his constitutional right to free religion, speech, and expression. The statements were merely in response to the detestable conduct of the ministers of the Iglesia ni Cristo hosting a television program entitled, Ang Tamang Daan, he said. In taking Ang Dating Daan off the air, the MTRCB cited Section 3 of Presidential Decree 1986, granting the Board the power to screen, review, and examine all movie and TV programs and to delete materials that it deems morally offensive. But Soriano countered that Section 3c of PD 1986 is unconstitutional in so far as it sanctions the censorship of religious TV programs as a form of subsequent punishment. [SOURCE: THE OLD PATH MAGAZINE. Vol. 1 No. 3 | 2005. http://www.angdatingdaan.org/publications/pub_top_2.htm %5D After four years, this report came out The Supreme Court en banc, in an 11-4 vote, upheld the three-month suspension imposed by the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board on the TV program Ang Dating Daan, aired on UNTV 37, after its host, petitioner Eliseo S. Soriano, was found to have uttered offensive and obscene remarks during its August 10, 2004 broadcast. The majority, in a consolidated decision, speaking through Justice Presbitero J. Velasco, Jr., held that the suspension is not a prior restraint, but rather a form of permissible administrative sanction or subsequent punishment. In

affirming the power of the MTRCB to issue an order of suspension, the majority said that it is a sanction that the MTRCB may validly impose under its charter without running afoul of the free speech clause. *Source: Erika T. Dy. SC Upholds MTRCB Suspension of Ang Dating Daan. Supreme Court of the Philippines. April 30, 2009.] A researcher from Newsbreak had provided a capsule report of the voting of the High Court on this issue as follows How the Supreme Court decided on Soriano v. Laguardia; Soriano v. MTRCB (on the suspension of Dating Daan preacher for uttering profanities on air against the Iglesia ni Cristo) Why is it important: The case raised questions on what constitutes prior restraint. The SC upheld the 3-month suspension of Dating Daan host Eliseo Soriano, who uttered profanities against the religious sect Iglesia ni Cristo on his show. The Movie and Television Review Classification Board first slapped Soriano with a 20-day preventive suspension upon preliminary probe. It then issued a 3-month suspension against Soriano after he was found guilty of expressing obscenities on air. The majority ruled that it is within the powers of the MTRCB to issue a preventive suspension. However, those who dissented, which included Chief Justice Reynato Puno, said that the sanction will extend to Sorianos future speech, and thus would constitute prior restraint. How they voted: De Castro concurred with the decision. Carpio and Carpio-Morales dissented. Brion and Corona voted

to dismiss the petition. [Research by Purple S. Romero. Newsbreak.com] Here come now the excerpts from Law Monitor of the Supreme Court showing the dissenting opinions of Justice Roberto A. Abad and Justice Antonio T. Carpio. Saturday, June 5, 2010 Supreme Court Decisions and Resolutions March 2010 G.R. No. 164785/G.R. No. 165636. March 15, 2010 Eliseo F. Soriano Vs. Ma. Consoliza P. Laguardia, etc. et al./Eliseo F. Soriano Vs. Movie and Television Review and Classification Board, et al. FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY Bayan, et al., Vs. Eduardo Ermita, et al., G.R. No. 169838 April 25, 2006 DIGEST Bayan, et al., Vs. Eduardo Ermita, et al., G.R. No. 169838 April 25, 2006 Facts: The petitioners, Bayan, et al., alleged that they are citizens and taxpayers of the Philippines and that their right as organizations and individuals were violated when the rally they participated in on October 6, 2005 was violently dispersed by policemen implementing Batas Pambansa No. 880. Petitioners contended that Batas Pambansa No. 880 is clearly a violation of the Constitution and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and other human rights treaties of which the Philippines is a signatory. They argue that B.P. No. 880 requires a permit before one can stage a public assembly

regardless of the presence or absence of a clear and present danger. It also curtails the choice of venue and is thus repugnant to the freedom of expression clause as the time and place of a public assembly form part of the message which the expression is sought. Furthermore, it is not content-neutral as it does not apply to mass actions in support of the government. The words lawful cause, opinion, protesting or influencing suggest the exposition of some cause not espoused by the government. Also, the phrase maximum tolerance shows that the law applies to assemblies against the government because they are being tolerated. As a content-based legislation, it cannot pass the strict scrutiny test. This petition and two other petitions were ordered to be consolidated on February 14, 2006. During the course of oral arguments, the petitioners, in the interest of a speedy resolution of the petitions, withdrew the portions of their petitions raising factual issues, particularly those raising the issue of whether B.P. No. 880 and/or CPR is void as applied to the rallies of September 20, October 4, 5 and 6, 2005. Issue: Whether the Calibrated Pre-emptive response and the Batas Pambansa No. 880, specifically Sections 4, 5, 6, 12, 13(a) and 14(a) violates Art. III Sec. 4 of the Philippine Constitution as it causes a disturbing effect on the exercise by the people of the right to peaceably assemble. Held: Section 4 of Article III of the Philippine Constitution provides that no law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances. The right to peaceably assemble and petition for redress of grievances, together with freedom of speech, of expression, and of the press, is a right that enjoys dominance in the sphere of constitutional protection. For this rights represent the very basis of a functional

democratic polity, without which all the other rights would be meaningless and unprotected. However, it must be remembered that the right, while sacrosanct, is not absolute. It may be regulated that it shall not be injurious to the equal enjoyment of others having equal rights, nor injurious to the rights of the community or society. The power to regulate the exercise of such and other constitutional rights is termed the sovereign police power, which is the power to prescribe regulations, to promote the health, morals, peace, education, good order or safety, and general welfare of the people. B.P. No 880 is not an absolute ban of public assemblies but a restriction that simply regulates the time, place and manner of the assemblies. B.P. No. 880 thus readily shows that it refers to all kinds of public assemblies that would use public places. The reference to lawful cause does not make it content-based because assemblies really have to be for lawful causes, otherwise they would not be peaceable and entitled to protection. Neither the words opinion, protesting, and influencing in of grievances come from the wording of the Constitution, so its use cannot be avoided. Finally, maximum tolerance is for the protection and benefit of all rallyist and is independent of the content of the expression in the rally. Furthermore, the permit can only be denied on the ground of clear and present danger to public order, public safety, public convenience, public morals or public health. This is a recognized exception to the exercise of the rights even under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Wherefore, the petitions are GRANTED in part, and respondents, more particularly the Secretary of the Interior and Local Governments, are DIRECTED to take all necessary

steps for the immediate compliance with Section 15 of Batas Pambansa No. 880 through the establishment or designation of at least one suitable freedom park or plaza in every city and municipality of the country. After thirty (30) days from the finality of this Decision, subject to the giving of advance notices, no prior permit shall be required to exercise the right to peaceably assemble and petition in the public parks or plaza in every city or municipality that has not yet complied with section 15 of the law. Furthermore, Calibrated preemptive response (CPR), insofar as it would purport to differ from or be in lieu of maximum tolerance, is NULL and VOID and respondents are ENJOINED to REFRAIN from using it and to STRICTLY OBSERVE the requirements of maximum tolerance, The petitions are DISMISSED in all other respects, and the constitutionality of Batas Pambansa No. 880 is SUSTAINED INTEGRATED BAR OF THE PHILIPPINES represented by its National President, Jose Anselmo I. Cadiz, H. HARRY L. ROQUE, and JOEL RUIZ BUTUYAN, Petitioners - versus HONORABLE MANILA MAYOR JOSE LITO ATIENZA Respondent. G.R. No. 175241 Promulgated February 24, 2010 Petitioners Integrated Bar of the Philippines[1] (IBP) and lawyers H. Harry L. Roque and Joel R. Butuyan appeal the June 28, 2006 Decision[2] and the October 26, 2006 Resolution[3] of the Court of Appeals that found no grave abuse of discretion on the part of respondent Jose Lito Atienza, the then mayor of Manila, in granting a permit to rally in a venue other than the one applied for by the IBP. On June 15, 2006, the IBP, through its then National President Jose Anselmo Cadiz (Cadiz), filed with the Office of the City Mayor of Manila a letter application[4] for a permit

to rally at the foot of Mendiola Bridge on June 22, 2006 from 2:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. to be participated in by IBP officers and members, law students and multi-sectoral organizations. Respondent issued a permit[5] dated June 16, 2006 allowing the IBP to stage a rally on given date but indicated therein Plaza Miranda as the venue, instead of Mendiola Bridge, which permit the IBP received on June 19, 2006. Aggrieved, petitioners filed on June 21, 2006 before the Court of Appeals a petition for certiorari docketed as CA-G.R. SP No. 94949.[6] The petition having been unresolved within 24 hours from its filing, petitioners filed before this Court on June 22, 2006 a petition for certiorari docketed as G.R. No. 172951 which assailed the appellate courts inaction or refusal to resolve the petition within the period provided under the Public Assembly Act of 1985.[7] The Court, by Resolutions of July 26, 2006, August 30, 2006 and November 20, 2006, respectively, denied the petition for being moot and academic, denied the relief that the petition be heard on the merits in view of the pendency of CA-G.R. SP No. 94949, and denied the motion for reconsideration. The rally pushed through on June 22, 2006 at Mendiola Bridge, after Cadiz discussed with P/Supt. Arturo Paglinawan whose contingent from the Manila Police District (MPD) earlier barred petitioners from proceeding thereto. Petitioners allege that the participants voluntarily dispersed after the peaceful conduct of the program. The MPD thereupon instituted on June 26, 2006 a criminal action,[8] docketed as I.S. No. 06I-12501, against Cadiz for violating the Public Assembly Act in staging a rally at a venue not indicated in the permit, to which charge Cadiz filed a Counter-Affidavit of August 3, 2006.

In the meantime, the appellate court ruled, in CA-G.R. SP No. 94949, by the first assailed issuance, that the petition became moot and lacked merit. The appellate court also denied petitioners motion for reconsideration by the second assailed issuance. Hence, the filing of the present petition for review on certiorari, to which respondent filed his Comment of November 18, 2008 which merited petitioners Reply of October 2, 2009. The main issue is whether the appellate court erred in holding that the modification of the venue in IBPs rally permit does not constitute grave abuse of discretion. Petitioners assert that the partial grant of the application runs contrary to the Pubic Assembly Act and violates their constitutional right to freedom of expression and public assembly. The Court shall first resolve the preliminary issue of mootness. Undoubtedly, the petition filed with the appellate court on June 21, 2006 became moot upon the passing of the date of the rally on June 22, 2006. A moot and academic case is one that ceases to present a justiciable controversy by virtue of supervening events, so that a declaration thereon would be of no practical use or value. Generally, courts decline jurisdiction over such case or dismiss it on ground of mootness. However, even in cases where supervening events had made the cases moot, this Court did not hesitate to resolve the legal or constitutional issues raised to formulate controlling principles to guide the bench, bar and public. Moreover, as an exception to the rule on mootness, courts will decide a question otherwise moot if it is capable of repetition, yet evading review.[9]

In the present case, the question of the legality of a modification of a permit to rally will arise each time the terms of an intended rally are altered by the concerned official, yet it evades review, owing to the limited time in processing the application where the shortest allowable period is five days prior to the assembly. The susceptibility of recurrence compels the Court to definitively resolve the issue at hand. Respecting petitioners argument that the issues presented in CA-G.R. SP No. 94949 pose a prejudicial question to the criminal case against Cadiz, the Court finds it improper to resolve the same in the present case. Under the Rules,[10] the existence of a prejudicial question is a ground in a petition to suspend proceedings in a criminal action. Since suspension of the proceedings in the criminal action may be made only upon petition and not at the instance of the judge or the investigating prosecutor,[11] the latter cannot take cognizance of a claim of prejudicial question without a petition to suspend being filed. Since a petition to suspend can be filed only in the criminal action,[12] the determination of the pendency of a prejudicial question should be made at the first instance in the criminal action, and not before this Court in an appeal from the civil action. In proceeding to resolve the petition on the merits, the appellate court found no grave abuse of discretion on the part of respondent because the Public Assembly Act does not categorically require respondent to specify in writing the imminent and grave danger of a substantive evil which warrants the denial or modification of the permit and merely mandates that the action taken shall be in writing and shall be served on respondent within 24 hours. The appellate court went on to hold that respondent is authorized to regulate the exercise of the freedom of expression and of public assembly which are not absolute, and that the

challenged permit is consistent with Plaza Mirandas designation as a freedom park where protest rallies are allowed without permit. The Court finds for petitioners. Section 6 of the Public Assembly Act reads: Section 6. Action to be taken on the application (a) It shall be the duty of the mayor or any official acting in his behalf to issue or grant a permit unless there is clear and convincing evidence that the public assembly will create a clear and present danger to public order, public safety, public convenience, public morals or public health. (b) The mayor or any official acting in his behalf shall act on the application within two (2) working days from the date the application was filed, failing which, the permit shall be deemed granted. Should for any reason the mayor or any official acting in his behalf refuse to accept the application for a permit, said application shall be posted by the applicant on the premises of the office of the mayor and shall be deemed to have been filed. (c) If the mayor is of the view that there is imminent and grave danger of a substantive evil warranting the denial or modification of the permit, he shall immediately inform the applicant who must be heard on the matter. (d) The action on the permit shall be in writing and served on the application [sic] within twenty-four hours. (e) If the mayor or any official acting in his behalf denies the application or modifies the terms thereof in his permit, the applicant may contest the decision in an appropriate court of law.

(f) In case suit is brought before the Metropolitan Trial Court, the Municipal Trial Court, the Municipal Circuit Trial Court, the Regional Trial Court, or the Intermediate Appellate Court, its decisions may be appealed to the appropriate court within forty-eight (48) hours after receipt of the same. No appeal bond and record on appeal shall be required. A decision granting such permit or modifying it in terms satisfactory to the applicant shall, be immediately executory. (g) All cases filed in court under this Section shall be decided within twenty-four (24) hours from date of filing. Cases filed hereunder shall be immediately endorsed to the executive judge for disposition or, in his absence, to the next in rank. (h) In all cases, any decision may be appealed to the Supreme Court. (i) Telegraphic appeals to be followed by formal appeals are hereby allowed. (underscoring supplied) In Bayan, Karapatan, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) v. Ermita,[13] the Court reiterated: x x x Freedom of assembly connotes the right of the people to meet peaceably for consultation and discussion of matters of public concern. It is entitled to be accorded the utmost deference and respect. It is not to be limited, much less denied, except on a showing, as is the case with freedom of expression, of a clear and present danger of a substantive evil that the state has a right to prevent. Even prior to the 1935 Constitution, Justice Malcolm had occasion to stress that it is a necessary consequence of our republican institutions and complements the right of free speech. To paraphrase the opinion of Justice Rutledge, speaking for the majority of the American Supreme Court in Thomas v. Collins, it was not by accident or coincidence that the rights to freedom of speech and of the press were coupled in a single guarantee with the rights of the people peaceably to

assemble and to petition the government for redress of grievances. All these rights, while not identical, are inseparable. In every case, therefore, where there is a limitation placed on the exercise of this right, the judiciary is called upon to examine the effects of the challenged governmental actuation. The sole justification for a limitation on the exercise of this right, so fundamental to the maintenance of democratic institutions, is the danger, of a character both grave and imminent, of a serious evil to public safety, public morals, public health, or any other legitimate public interest.[14] (emphasis supplied) The Court in Bayan stated that the provisions of the Public Assembly Act of 1985 practically codified the 1983 ruling in Reyes v. Bagatsing.[15] In juxtaposing Sections 4 to 6 of the Public Assembly Act with the pertinent portion of the Reyes case, the Court elucidated as follows: x x x [The public official concerned shall] appraise whether there may be valid objections to the grant of the permit or to its grant but at another public place. It is an indispensable condition to such refusal or modification that the clear and present danger test be the standard for the decision reached. If he is of the view that there is such an imminent and grave danger of a substantive evil, the applicants must be heard on the matter. Thereafter, his decision, whether favorable or adverse, must be transmitted to them at the earliest opportunity. Thus if so minded, they can have recourse to the proper judicial authority.[16] (italics and underscoring supplied) In modifying the permit outright, respondent gravely abused his discretion when he did not immediately inform the IBP who should have been heard first on the matter of his perceived imminent and grave danger of a substantive evil that may warrant the changing of the venue. The opportunity to be heard precedes the action on the permit,

since the applicant may directly go to court after an unfavorable action on the permit. Respondent failed to indicate how he had arrived at modifying the terms of the permit against the standard of a clear and present danger test which, it bears repeating, is an indispensable condition to such modification. Nothing in the issued permit adverts to an imminent and grave danger of a substantive evil, which blank denial or modification would, when granted imprimatur as the appellate court would have it, render illusory any judicial scrutiny thereof. It is true that the licensing official, here respondent Mayor, is not devoid of discretion in determining whether or not a permit would be granted. It is not, however, unfettered discretion. While prudence requires that there be a realistic appraisal not of what may possibly occur but of what may probably occur, given all the relevant circumstances, still the assumption especially so where the assembly is scheduled for a specific public place is that the permit must be for the assembly being held there. The exercise of such a right, in the language of Justice Roberts, speaking for the American Supreme Court, is not to be "abridged on the plea that it may be exercised in some other place.*17+ (emphasis and underscoring supplied) Notably, respondent failed to indicate in his Comment any basis or explanation for his action. It smacks of whim and caprice for respondent to just impose a change of venue for an assembly that was slated for a specific public place. It is thus reversible error for the appellate court not to have found such grave abuse of discretion and, under specific statutory provision, not to have modified the permit in terms satisfactory to the applicant.*18+ WHEREFORE, the assailed Decision and Resolution of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 94949 are REVERSED. The

Court DECLARES that respondent committed grave abuse of discretion in modifying the rally permit issued on June 16, 2006 insofar as it altered the venue from Mendiola Bridge to Plaza Miranda. BATAS PAMBANSA BLG. 880 AN ACT ENSURING THE FREE EXERCISE BY THE PEOPLE OF THEIR RIGHT PEACEABLY TO ASSEMBLE AND PETITION THE GOVERNMENT FOR OTHER PURPOSES

The definition herein contained shall not include picketing and other concerted action in strike areas by workers and employees resulting from a labor dispute as defined by the Labor Code, its implementing rules and regulations, and by the Batas Pambansa Bilang 227. (b) "Public place" shall include any highway, boulevard, avenue, road, street, bridge or other thoroughfare, park, plaza, square, and/or any open space of public ownership where the people are allowed access. (c) "Maximum tolerance" means the highest degree of restraint that the military, police and other peace keeping authorities shall observe during a public assembly or in the dispersal of the same. (d) "Modification of permit" shall include the change of the place and time of the public assembly, rerouting of the parade or street march, the volume of loud-speakers or sound system and similar changes. Section 4. Permit when required and when not required - A written permit shall be required for any person or persons to organize and hold a public assembly in a public place. However, no permit shall be required if the public assembly shall be done or made in a freedom park duly established by law or ordinance or in private property, in which case only the consent of the owner or the one entitled to its legal possession is required, or in the campus of a government-owned and operated educational institution which shall be subject to the rules and regulations of said educational institution. Political meetings or rallies held during any election campaign period as provided for by law are not covered by this Act. Section 5. Application requirements - All applications for a permit shall comply with the following guidelines: (a) The applications shall be in writing and shall include the names of the leaders or organizers; the purpose of such public assembly; the date, time and duration thereof, and place or streets to be used for the intended activity; and the

probable number of persons participating, the transport and the public address systems to be used. (b) The application shall incorporate the duty and responsibility of applicant under Section 8 hereof. (c) The application shall be filed with the office of the mayor of the city or municipality in whose jurisdiction the intended activity is to be held, at least five (5) working days before the scheduled public assembly. (d) Upon receipt of the application, which must be duly acknowledged in writing, the office of the city or municipal mayor shall cause the same to immediately be posted at a conspicuous place in the city or municipal building. Section 6. Action to be taken on the application -

Section 1. Title - This Act shall be known as "The Public Assembly Act of 1985." Section 2. Declaration of policy - The constitutional right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances is essential and vital to the strength and stability of the State. To this end, the State shall ensure the free exercise of such right without prejudice to the rights of others to life, liberty and equal protection of the law. Section 3. Act: Definition of terms - For purposes of this

(a) It shall be the duty of the mayor or any official acting in his behalf to issue or grant a permit unless there is clear and convincing evidence that the public assembly will create a clear and present danger to public order, public safety, public convenience, public morals or public health. (b) The mayor or any official acting in his behalf shall act on the application within two (2) working days from the date the application was filed, failing which, the permit shall be deemed granted. Should for any reason the mayor or any official acting in his behalf refuse to accept the application for a permit, said application shall be posted by the applicant on the premises of the office of the mayor and shall be deemed to have been filed. (c) If the mayor is of the view that there is imminent and grave danger of a substantive evil warranting the denial or modification of the permit, he shall immediately inform the applicant who must be heard on the matter. (d) The action on the permit shall be in writing and served on the application within twenty-four hours.

(a) "Public assembly" means any rally, demonstration, march, parade, procession or any other form of mass or concerted action held in a public place for the purpose of presenting a lawful cause; or expressing an opinion to the general public on any particular issue; or protesting or influencing any state of affairs whether political, economic or social; or petitioning the government for redress of grievances. The processions, rallies, parades, demonstrations, public meetings and assemblages for religious purposes shall be governed by local ordinances: Provided, however, That the declaration of policy as provided in Section 2 of this Act shall be faithfully observed.

(e) If the mayor or any official acting in his behalf denies the application or modifies the terms thereof in his permit, the applicant may contest the decision in an appropriate court of law. (f) In case suit is brought before the Metropolitan Trial Court, the Municipal Trial Court, the Municipal Circuit Trial Court, the Regional Trial Court, or the Intermediate Appellate Court, its decisions may be appealed to the appropriate court within forty-eight (48) hours after receipt of the same. No appeal bond and record on appeal shall be required. A decision granting such permit or modifying it in terms satisfactory to the applicant shall, be immediately executory. (g) All cases filed in court under this Section shall be decided within twenty-four (24) hours from date of filing. Cases filed hereunder shall be immediately endorsed to the executive judge for disposition or, in his absence, to the next in rank. (h) In all cases, any decision may be appealed to the Supreme Court. (i) Telegraphic appeals to be followed by formal appeals are hereby allowed. Section 7. Use of public thoroughfare - Should the proposed public assembly involve the use, for an appreciable length of time, of any public highway, boulevard, avenue, road or street, the mayor or any official acting in his behalf may, to prevent grave public inconvenience, designate the route thereof which is convenient to the participants or reroute the vehicular traffic to another direction so that there will be no serious or undue interference with the free flow of commerce and trade. Section 8. Responsibility of applicant - It shall be the duty and responsibility of the leaders and organizers of a public assembly to take all reasonable measures and steps to the end that the intended public assembly shall be conducted peacefully in accordance with the terms of the permit. These shall include but not be limited to the following:

(a) To inform the participants of their responsibility under the permit; (b) To police the ranks of the demonstrators in order to prevent non-demonstrators from disrupting the lawful activities of the public assembly; (c) To confer with local government officials concerned and law enforcers to the end that the public assembly may be held peacefully; (d) To see to it that the public assembly undertaken shall not go beyond the time stated in the permit; and (e) To take positive steps that demonstrators do not molest any person or do any act unduly interfering with the rights of other persons not participating in the public assembly. Section 9. Non-interference by law enforcement authorities - Law enforcement agencies shall not interfere with the holding of a public assembly. However, to adequately ensure public safety, a law enforcement contingent under the command of a responsible police officer may be detailed and stationed in a place at least one hundred (100) meter away from the area of activity ready to maintain peace and order at all times. Section 10. Police assistance when requested - It shall be imperative for law enforcement agencies, when their assistance is requested by the leaders or organizers, to perform their duties always mindful that their responsibility to provide proper protection to those exercising their right peaceably to assemble and the freedom of expression is primordial. Towards this end, law enforcement agencies shall observe the following guidelines: (a) Members of the law enforcement contingent who deal with the demonstrators shall be in complete uniform with their nameplates and units to which they belong displayed prominently on the front and dorsal parts of their uniform and must observe the policy of "maximum tolerance" as herein defined;

(b) The members of the law enforcement contingent shall not carry any kind of firearms but may be equipped with baton or riot sticks, shields, crash helmets with visor, gas masks, boots or ankle high shoes with shin guards; (c) Tear gas, smoke grenades, water cannons, or any similar anti-riot device shall not be used unless the public assembly is attended by actual violence or serious threats of violence, or deliberate destruction of property. Section 11. Dispersal of public assembly with permit No public assembly with a permit shall be dispersed. However, when an assembly becomes violent, the police may disperse such public assembly as follows: (a) At the first sign of impending violence, the ranking officer of the law enforcement contingent shall call the attention of the leaders of the public assembly and ask the latter to prevent any possible disturbance; (b) If actual violence starts to a point where rocks or other harmful objects from the participants are thrown at the police or at the non-participants, or at any property causing damage to such property, the ranking officer of the law enforcement contingent shall audibly warn the participants that if the disturbance persists, the public assembly will be dispersed; (c) If the violence or disturbances prevailing as stated in the preceding subparagraph should not stop or abate, the ranking officer of the law enforcement contingent shall audibly issue a warning to the participants of the public assembly, and after allowing a reasonable period of time to lapse, shall immediately order it to forthwith disperse; (d) No arrest of any leader, organizer or participant shall also be made during the public assembly unless he violates during the assembly a law, statute, ordinance or any provision of this Act. Such arrest shall be governed by Article 125 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended:

(e) Isolated acts or incidents of disorder or branch of the peace during the public assembly shall not constitute a group for dispersal. Section 12. Dispersal of public assembly without permit - When the public assembly is held without a permit where a permit is required, the said public assembly may be peacefully dispersed. Section 13. Prohibited acts - The following shall constitute violations of this Act: (a) The holding of any public assembly as defined in this Act by any leader or organizer without having first secured that written permit where a permit is required from the office concerned, or the use of such permit for such purposes in any place other than those set out in said permit: Provided, however, That no person can be punished or held criminally liable for participating in or attending an otherwise peaceful assembly; (b) Arbitrary and unjustified denial or modification of a permit in violation of the provisions of this Act by the mayor or any other official acting in his behalf. (c) The unjustified and arbitrary refusal to accept or acknowledge receipt of the application for a permit by the mayor or any official acting in his behalf; (d) Obstructing, impeding, disrupting or otherwise denying the exercise of the right to peaceful assembly; (e) The unnecessary firing of firearms by a member of any law enforcement agency or any person to disperse the public assembly; (f) Acts in violation of Section 10 hereof; (g) Acts described hereunder if committed within one hundred (100) meters from the area of activity of the public assembly or on the occasion thereof;

1. the carrying of a deadly or offensive weapon or device such as firearm, pillbox, bomb, and the like; 2. the carrying of a bladed weapon and the like; 3 the malicious burning of any object in the streets or thoroughfares; 4. the carrying of firearms by members of the law enforcement unit; 5. the interfering with or intentionally disturbing the holding of a public assembly by the use of a motor vehicle, its horns and loud sound systems. Section 14. Penalties - Any person found guilty and convicted of any of the prohibited acts defined in the immediately preceding Section shall be punished as follows: (a) violation of subparagraph (a) shall be punished by imprisonment of one month and one day to six months; (b) violations of subparagraphs (b), (c), (d), (e), (f), and item 4, subparagraph (g) shall be punished by imprisonment of six months and one day to six years; (c) violation of item 1, subparagraph (g) shall be punished by imprisonment of six months and one day to six years without prejudice to prosecution under Presidential Decree No. 1866; (d) violations of item 2, item 3, or item 5 of subparagraph (g) shall be punished by imprisonment of one day to thirty days. Section 15. Freedom parks - Every city and municipality in the country shall within six months after the effectivity of this Act establish or designate at least one suitable "freedom park" or mall in their respective jurisdictions which, as far as practicable, shall be centrally located within the poblacion where demonstrations and meetings may be held at any time without the need of any prior permit.

In the cities and municipalities of Metropolitan Manila, the respective mayors shall establish the freedom parks within the period of six months from the effectivity of this Act. Section 16. Constitutionality - Should any provision of this Act be declared invalid or unconstitutional, the validity or constitutionality of the other provisions shall not be affected thereby. Section 17. Repealing clause - All laws, decrees, letters of instructions, resolutions, orders, ordinances or parts thereof which are inconsistent with the provisions of this Act are hereby repealed, amended, or modified accordingly. Section 18. its approval. Effectivity - This Act shall take effect upon

Approved, October 22, 1985. FREEDOM OF RELIGION Alejandro Estrada vs. Soledad Escritor A.M. No. P-02-1651 June 22, 2006 BILL OF RIGHTS Alejandro Estrada vs. Soledad EscritorA.M. No. P-02-1651June 22, 2006 FACTS: An administrative complaint was filed by Estrada against Escritor before Branch 253 of the RTC of Las Pinas City for living with a man not her husband and having borne a child within this live-in arrangement. Escritor is the court interpreter of RTC Branch 253. Estrada believes that Escritor is committing an immoral act that tarnishes the image of the court, thus she should not be allowed to remain employed therein as it might appear that the court condones her act. She was charged with committing disgraceful and immoral conduct under Book V, Title I, Section 46 (b) (5) of the Revised Administrative Code. Escritor was already a widow when she entered the judiciary in 1999. She started living with Luciano Quilapio, Jr. without the benefit of marriage more than twenty years ago

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when her husband was still alive but living with another woman. They have a son. After ten years of living together, she executed on July 28, 1991 a Declaration of Pledging Faithfulness in conformity with their religious beliefs and has the approval of her congregation, the Jehovahs Witnesses and the Watch Tower and Bible Tract Society. Once all legal impediments for the couple are lifted, the validity of the declarations ceases and the couple should legalize their union. Insofar as the congregation is concerned, there is nothing immoral about the conjugal arrangement and they remain members in good standing in the congregation. Escritor appears to be sincere in her religious belief and practice and is not merely using the Declaration of Pledging Faithfulness to avoid punishment for immorality. Ministers from her congregation testified on the authenticity of this practice and that this is to make the union of their members under such circumstances honorable before God and men. The court could not rule on the issue of whether or not Escritor was to be held administratively liable so the case was remanded to the Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) and ordered the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) to intervene in the case. ISSUE: Whether or not Escritors religious belief and practice should warrant her claim of religious freedom under Article III, Section 5 of the Constitution. HELD: The administrative complaint was dismissed. The OSG categorically concedes that the sincerity and centrality of Escritors claimed religious belief and practice are beyond serious doubt. Her request to be exempt from attending the flag ceremony on the ground of the Jehovahs Witnesses contrary belief and practice was duly noted. The OSG failed to demonstrate the gravest abuses, endangering paramount interests which could limit or override Escritors fundamental right to religious freedom. In this particular case and under these distinct circumstances, Escritors conjugal arrangement cannot be penalized as she has made out a case for exemption from the

law based on her fundamental right to freedom of religion. Man stands accountable to an authority higher than the state.

Soriano vs. La Guardia Soriano vs. La Guardia G.R. No. 164785. April 29, 2009 Facts: On August 10, 2004, at around 10:00 p.m., petitioner, as host of the program Ang Dating Daan, aired on UNTV 37, made obscene remarks against INC. Two days after, before the MTRCB, separate but almost identical affidavit-complaints were lodged by Jessie L. Galapon and seven other private respondents, all members of the Iglesia ni Cristo (INC), against petitioner in connection with the above broadcast. Respondent Michael M. Sandoval, who felt directly alluded to in petitioners remark, was then a minister of INC and a regular host of the TV program Ang Tamang Daan. Issue: Whether or not Sorianos statements during the televised Ang Dating Daan part of the religious discourse and within the protection of Section 5, Art.III. Held: No. Under the circumstances obtaining in this case, therefore, and considering the adverse effect of petitioners utterances on the viewers fundamental rights as well as petitioners clear violation of his duty as a public trustee, the MTRCB properly suspended him from appearing in Ang Dating Daan for three months. Furthermore, it cannot be properly asserted that petitioners suspension was an undue curtailment of his right to free speech either as a prior restraint or as a subsequent punishment. Aside from the reasons given above (re the paramount of viewers rights, the public trusteeship character of a broadcasters role and the power of the State to regulate broadcast media), a requirement that indecent language be avoided has its primary effect on the form, rather than the content, of serious communication. There are few, if any, thoughts that cannot be expressed by the use of less offensive language. G.R. No. 164785 March 15, 2010

ELISEO F. SORIANO, Petitioner, vs. MA. CONSOLIZA P. LAGUARDIA, in her capacity as Chairperson of the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board, MOVIE AND TELEVISION REVIEW AND CLASSIFICATION BOARD, JESSIE L. GALAPON, ANABEL M. DELA CRUZ, MANUEL M. HERNANDEZ, JOSE L. LOPEZ, CRISANTO SORIANO, BERNABE S. YARIA, JR., MICHAEL M. SANDOVAL, and ROLDAN A. GAVINO, Respondents. x - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -x G.R. No. 165636 ELISEO F. SORIANO, Petitioner, vs. MOVIE AND TELEVISION REVIEW AND CLASSIFICATION BOARD, ZOSIMO G. ALEGRE, JACKIE AQUINO-GAVINO, NOEL R. DEL PRADO, EMMANUEL BORLAZA, JOSE E. ROMERO IV, and FLORIMONDO C. ROUS, in their capacity as members of the Hearing and Adjudication Committee of the MTRCB, JESSIE L. GALAPON, ANABEL M. DELA CRUZ, MANUEL M. HERNANDEZ, JOSE L. LOPEZ, CRISANTO SORIANO, BERNABE S. YARIA, JR., MICHAEL M. SANDOVAL, and ROLDAN A. GAVINO, in their capacity as complainants before the MTRCB, Respondents. In these two petitions for certiorari and prohibition under Rule 65, petitioner Eliseo F. Soriano seeks to nullify and set aside an order and a decision of the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) in connection with certain utterances he made in his television show, Ang Dating Daan. Facts of the Case On August 10, 2004, at around 10:00 p.m., petitioner, as host of the program Ang Dating Daan, aired on UNTV 37, made the following remarks: Lehitimong anak ng demonyo; sinungaling;

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Gago ka talaga Michael, masahol ka pa sa putang babae o di ba. Yung putang babae ang gumagana lang doon yung ibaba, [dito] kay Michael ang gumagana ang itaas, o di ba! O, masahol pa sa putang babae yan. Sabi ng lola ko masahol pa sa putang babae yan. Sobra ang kasinungalingan ng mga demonyong ito.[1] x x x Two days after, before the MTRCB, separate but almost identical affidavit-complaints were lodged by Jessie L. Galapon and seven other private respondents, all members of the Iglesia ni Cristo (INC),[2] against petitioner in connection with the above broadcast. Respondent Michael M. Sandoval, who felt directly alluded to in petitioners remark, was then a minister of INC and a regular host of the TV program Ang Tamang Daan.[3] Forthwith, the MTRCB sent petitioner a notice of the hearing on August 16, 2004 in relation to the alleged use of some cuss words in the August 10, 2004 episode of Ang Dating Daan.[4] After a preliminary conference in which petitioner appeared, the MTRCB, by Order of August 16, 2004, preventively suspended the showing of Ang Dating Daan program for 20 days, in accordance with Section 3(d) of Presidential Decree No. (PD) 1986, creating the MTRCB, in relation to Sec. 3, Chapter XIII of the 2004 Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of PD 1986 and Sec. 7, Rule VII of the MTRCB Rules of Procedure.[5] The same order also set the case for preliminary investigation. The following day, petitioner sought reconsideration of the preventive suspension order, praying that Chairperson Consoliza P. Laguardia and two other members of the adjudication board recuse themselves from hearing the case.[6] Two days after, however, petitioner sought to withdraw[7] his motion for reconsideration, followed by the filing with this Court of a petition for certiorari and prohibition,[8] docketed as G.R. No. 164785, to nullify the preventive suspension order thus issued. On September 27, 2004, in Adm. Case No. 01-04, the MTRCB issued a decision, disposing as follows:

WHEREFORE, in view of all the foregoing, a Decision is hereby rendered, finding respondent Soriano liable for his utterances and thereby imposing on him a penalty of three (3) months suspension from his program, Ang Dating Daan. Co-respondents Joselito Mallari, Luzviminda Cruz and UNTV Channel 37 and its owner, PBC, are hereby exonerated for lack of evidence. SO ORDERED.[9] Petitioner then filed this petition for certiorari and prohibition with prayer for injunctive relief, docketed as G.R. No. 165636. In a Resolution dated April 4, 2005, the Court consolidated G.R. No. 164785 with G.R. No. 165636. In G.R. No. 164785, petitioner raises the following issues: THE ORDER OF PREVENTIVE SUSPENSION PROMULGATED BY RESPONDENT [MTRCB] DATED 16 AUGUST 2004 AGAINST THE TELEVISION PROGRAM ANG DATING DAAN x x x IS NULL AND VOID FOR BEING ISSUED WITH GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION AMOUNTING TO LACK OR EXCESS OF JURISDICTION (A) BY REASON THAT THE [IRR] IS INVALID INSOFAR AS IT PROVIDES FOR THE ISSUANCE OF PREVENTIVE SUSPENSION ORDERS; (B) BY REASON OF LACK OF DUE HEARING IN THE CASE AT BENCH; (C) FOR BEING VIOLATIVE OF EQUAL PROTECTION UNDER THE LAW; (D) FOR BEING VIOLATIVE OF FREEDOM OF RELIGION; AND

(E) FOR BEING VIOLATIVE OF FREEDOM OF SPEECH AND EXPRESSION.[10] In G.R. No. 165636, petitioner relies on the following grounds:

SECTION 3(C) OF [PD] 1986, IS PATENTLY UNCONSTITUTIONAL AND ENACTED WITHOUT OR IN EXCESS OF JURISDICTION x x x CONSIDERING THAT: I SECTION 3(C) OF [PD] 1986, AS APPLIED TO PETITIONER, UNDULY INFRINGES ON THE CONSTITUTIONAL GUARANTEE OF FREEDOM OF RELIGION, SPEECH, AND EXPRESSION AS IT PARTAKES OF THE NATURE OF A SUBSEQUENT PUNISHMENT CURTAILING THE SAME; CONSEQUENTLY, THE IMPLEMENTING RULES AND REGULATIONS, RULES OF PROCEDURE, AND OFFICIAL ACTS OF THE MTRCB PURSUANT THERETO, I.E. DECISION DATED 27 SEPTEMBER 2004 AND ORDER DATED 19 OCTOBER 2004, ARE LIKEWISE CONSTITUTIONALLY INFIRM AS APPLIED IN THE CASE AT BENCH; II SECTION 3(C) OF [PD] 1986, AS APPLIED TO PETITIONER, UNDULY INFRINGES ON THE CONSTITUTIONAL GUARANTEE OF DUE PROCESS OF LAW AND EQUAL PROTECTION UNDER THE LAW; CONSEQUENTLY, THE [IRR], RULES OF PROCEDURE, AND OFFICIAL ACTS OF THE MTRCB PURSUANT THERETO, I.E., DECISION DATED 27 SEPTEMBER 2004 AND ORDER DATED 19 OCTOBER 2004, ARE LIKEWISE CONSTITUTIONALLY INFIRM AS APPLIED IN THE CASE AT BENCH; AND III [PD] 1986 IS NOT COMPLETE IN ITSELF AND DOES NOT PROVIDE FOR A SUFFICIENT STANDARD FOR ITS IMPLEMENTATION THEREBY RESULTING IN AN UNDUE DELEGATION OF LEGISLATIVE POWER BY REASON THAT IT DOES NOT PROVIDE FOR THE PENALTIES FOR VIOLATIONS OF ITS PROVISIONS. CONSEQUENTLY, THE [IRR], RULES OF PROCEDURE, AND OFFICIAL ACTS OF THE MTRCB PURSUANT THERETO, I.E. DECISION DATED 27 SEPTEMBER 2004 AND ORDER DATED 19 OCTOBER 2004, ARE LIKEWISE

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CONSTITUTIONALLY INFIRM AS APPLIED IN THE CASE AT BENCH[11] G.R. No. 164785 We shall first dispose of the issues in G.R. No. 164785, regarding the assailed order of preventive suspension, although its implementability had already been overtaken and veritably been rendered moot by the equally assailed September 27, 2004 decision. It is petitioners threshold posture that the preventive suspension imposed against him and the relevant IRR provision authorizing it are invalid inasmuch as PD 1986 does not expressly authorize the MTRCB to issue preventive suspension. Petitioners contention is untenable. Administrative agencies have powers and functions which may be administrative, investigatory, regulatory, quasilegislative, or quasi-judicial, or a mix of the five, as may be conferred by the Constitution or by statute.[12] They have in fine only such powers or authority as are granted or delegated, expressly or impliedly, by law.[13] And in determining whether an agency has certain powers, the inquiry should be from the law itself. But once ascertained as existing, the authority given should be liberally construed.[14] A perusal of the MTRCBs basic mandate under PD 1986 reveals the possession by the agency of the authority, albeit impliedly, to issue the challenged order of preventive suspension. And this authority stems naturally from, and is necessary for the exercise of, its power of regulation and supervision. Sec. 3 of PD 1986 pertinently provides the following: Section 3. Powers and Functions.The BOARD shall have the following functions, powers and duties: xxxx

c) To approve or disapprove, delete objectionable portions from and/or prohibit the x x x production, x x x exhibition and/or television broadcast of the motion pictures, television programs and publicity materials subject of the preceding paragraph, which, in the judgment of the board applying contemporary Filipino cultural values as standard, are objectionable for being immoral, indecent, contrary to law and/or good customs, injurious to the prestige of the Republic of the Philippines or its people, or with a dangerous tendency to encourage the commission of violence or of wrong or crime such as but not limited to: xxxx vi) Those which are libelous or defamatory to the good name and reputation of any person, whether living or dead; xxxx (d) To supervise, regulate, and grant, deny or cancel, permits for the x x x production, copying, distribution, sale, lease, exhibition, and/or television broadcast of all motion pictures, television programs and publicity materials, to the end that no such pictures, programs and materials as are determined by the BOARD to be objectionable in accordance with paragraph (c) hereof shall be x x x produced, copied, reproduced, distributed, sold, leased, exhibited and/or broadcast by television; xxxx k) To exercise such powers and functions as may be necessary or incidental to the attainment of the purposes and objectives of this Act x x x. (Emphasis added.) The issuance of a preventive suspension comes well within the scope of the MTRCBs authority and functions expressly set forth in PD 1986, more particularly under its Sec. 3(d), as quoted above, which empowers the MTRCB to supervise, regulate, and grant, deny or cancel, permits for the x x x exhibition, and/or television broadcast of all motion pictures, television programs and publicity materials, to the end that no such pictures, programs and materials as are determined by the BOARD to be objectionable in accordance with paragraph (c) hereof shall be x x x exhibited and/or broadcast by television.

Surely, the power to issue preventive suspension forms part of the MTRCBs express regulatory and supervisory statutory mandate and its investigatory and disciplinary authority subsumed in or implied from such mandate. Any other construal would render its power to regulate, supervise, or discipline illusory. Preventive suspension, it ought to be noted, is not a penalty by itself, being merely a preliminary step in an administrative investigation.[15] And the power to discipline and impose penalties, if granted, carries with it the power to investigate administrative complaints and, during such investigation, to preventively suspend the person subject of the complaint.[16] To reiterate, preventive suspension authority of the MTRCB springs from its powers conferred under PD 1986. The MTRCB did not, as petitioner insinuates, empower itself to impose preventive suspension through the medium of the IRR of PD 1986. It is true that the matter of imposing preventive suspension is embodied only in the IRR of PD 1986. Sec. 3, Chapter XIII of the IRR provides: Sec. 3. PREVENTION SUSPENSION ORDER.Any time during the pendency of the case, and in order to prevent or stop further violations or for the interest and welfare of the public, the Chairman of the Board may issue a Preventive Suspension Order mandating the preventive x x x suspension of the permit/permits involved, and/or closure of the x x x television network, cable TV station x x x provided that the temporary/preventive order thus issued shall have a life of not more than twenty (20) days from the date of issuance. But the mere absence of a provision on preventive suspension in PD 1986, without more, would not work to deprive the MTRCB a basic disciplinary tool, such as preventive suspension. Recall that the MTRCB is expressly empowered by statute to regulate and supervise television programs to obviate the exhibition or broadcast of, among others, indecent or immoral materials and to impose sanctions for violations and, corollarily, to prevent further violations as it investigates. Contrary to petitioners assertion,

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the aforequoted Sec. 3 of the IRR neither amended PD 1986 nor extended the effect of the law. Neither did the MTRCB, by imposing the assailed preventive suspension, outrun its authority under the law. Far from it. The preventive suspension was actually done in furtherance of the law, imposed pursuant, to repeat, to the MTRCBs duty of regulating or supervising television programs, pending a determination of whether or not there has actually been a violation. In the final analysis, Sec. 3, Chapter XIII of the 2004 IRR merely formalized a power which PD 1986 bestowed, albeit impliedly, on MTRCB. Sec. 3(c) and (d) of PD 1986 finds application to the present case, sufficient to authorize the MTRCBs assailed action. Petitioners restrictive reading of PD 1986, limiting the MTRCB to functions within the literal confines of the law, would give the agency little leeway to operate, stifling and rendering it inutile, when Sec. 3(k) of PD 1986 clearly intends to grant the MTRCB a wide room for flexibility in its operation. Sec. 3(k), we reiterate, provides, To exercise such powers and functions as may be necessary or incidental to the attainment of the purposes and objectives of this Act x x x. Indeed, the power to impose preventive suspension is one of the implied powers of MTRCB. As distinguished from express powers, implied powers are those that can be inferred or are implicit in the wordings or conferred by necessary or fair implication of the enabling act.[17] As we held in Angara v. Electoral Commission, when a general grant of power is conferred or a duty enjoined, every particular power necessary for the exercise of one or the performance of the other is also conferred by necessary implication.[18] Clearly, the power to impose preventive suspension pending investigation is one of the implied or inherent powers of MTRCB. We cannot agree with petitioners assertion that the aforequoted IRR provision on preventive suspension is applicable only to motion pictures and publicity materials. The scope of the MTRCBs authority extends beyond motion pictures. What the acronym MTRCB stands for would suggest as much. And while the law makes specific reference to the closure of a television network, the suspension of a television

program is a far less punitive measure that can be undertaken, with the purpose of stopping further violations of PD 1986. Again, the MTRCB would regretfully be rendered ineffective should it be subject to the restrictions petitioner envisages. Just as untenable is petitioners argument on the nullity of the preventive suspension order on the ground of lack of hearing. As it were, the MTRCB handed out the assailed order after petitioner, in response to a written notice, appeared before that Board for a hearing on private respondents complaint. No less than petitioner admitted that the order was issued after the adjournment of the hearing,[19] proving that he had already appeared before the MTRCB. Under Sec. 3, Chapter XIII of the IRR of PD 1986, preventive suspension shall issue *a+ny time during the pendency of the case. In this particular case, it was done after MTRCB duly apprised petitioner of his having possibly violated PD 1986[20] and of administrative complaints that had been filed against him for such violation.[21] At any event, that preventive suspension can validly be meted out even without a hearing.[22] Petitioner next faults the MTRCB for denying him his right to the equal protection of the law, arguing that, owing to the preventive suspension order, he was unable to answer the criticisms coming from the INC ministers. Petitioners position does not persuade. The equal protection clause demands that all persons subject to legislation should be treated alike, under like circumstances and conditions both in the privileges conferred and liabilities imposed.*23+ It guards against undue favor and individual privilege as well as hostile discrimination.[24] Surely, petitioner cannot, under the premises, place himself in the same shoes as the INC ministers, who, for one, are not facing administrative complaints before the MTRCB. For another, he offers no proof that the said ministers, in their TV programs, use language similar to that which he used in his own, necessitating the MTRCBs disciplinary action. If the immediate result of the preventive suspension order is that

petitioner remains temporarily gagged and is unable to answer his critics, this does not become a deprivation of the equal protection guarantee. The Court need not belabor the fact that the circumstances of petitioner, as host of Ang Dating Daan, on one hand, and the INC ministers, as hosts of Ang Tamang Daan, on the other, are, within the purview of this case, simply too different to even consider whether or not there is a prima facie indication of oppressive inequality. Petitioner next injects the notion of religious freedom, submitting that what he uttered was religious speech, adding that words like putang babae were said in exercise of his religious freedom. The argument has no merit. The Court is at a loss to understand how petitioners utterances in question can come within the pale of Sec. 5, Article III of the 1987 Constitution on religious freedom. The section reads as follows: No law shall be made respecting the establishment of a 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. There is nothing in petitioners statements subject of the complaints expressing any particular religious belief, nothing furthering his avowed evangelical mission. The fact that he came out with his statements in a televised bible exposition program does not automatically accord them the character of a religious discourse. Plain and simple insults directed at another person cannot be elevated to the status of religious speech. Even petitioners attempts to place his words in context show that he was moved by anger and the need to seek retribution, not by any religious conviction. His claim, assuming its veracity, that some INC ministers distorted his statements respecting amounts Ang Dating Daan owed to a TV station does not convert the foul language used in retaliation as religious speech. We cannot accept that

14

petitioner made his statements in defense of his reputation and religion, as they constitute no intelligible defense or refutation of the alleged lies being spread by a rival religious group. They simply illustrate that petitioner had descended to the level of name-calling and foul-language discourse. Petitioner could have chosen to contradict and disprove his detractors, but opted for the low road. Petitioner, as a final point in G.R. No. 164785, would have the Court nullify the 20-day preventive suspension order, being, as insisted, an unconstitutional abridgement of the freedom of speech and expression and an impermissible prior restraint. The main issue tendered respecting the adverted violation and the arguments holding such issue dovetails with those challenging the three-month suspension imposed under the assailed September 27, 2004 MTRCB decision subject of review under G.R. No. 165636. Both overlapping issues and arguments shall be jointly addressed. G.R. No. 165636 Petitioner urges the striking down of the decision suspending him from hosting Ang Dating Daan for three months on the main ground that the decision violates, apart from his religious freedom, his freedom of speech and expression guaranteed under Sec. 4, Art. III of the Constitution, which reads: No law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition the government for redress of grievance. He would also have the Court declare PD 1986, its Sec. 3(c) in particular, unconstitutional for reasons articulated in this petition. We are not persuaded as shall be explained shortly. But first, we restate certain general concepts and principles underlying the freedom of speech and expression.

It is settled that expressions by means of newspapers, radio, television, and motion pictures come within the broad protection of the free speech and expression clause.[25] Each method though, because of its dissimilar presence in the lives of people and accessibility to children, tends to present its own problems in the area of free speech protection, with broadcast media, of all forms of communication, enjoying a lesser degree of protection.[26] Just as settled is the rule that restrictions, be it in the form of prior restraint, e.g., judicial injunction against publication or threat of cancellation of license/franchise, or subsequent liability, whether in libel and damage suits, prosecution for sedition, or contempt proceedings, are anathema to the freedom of expression. Prior restraint means official government restrictions on the press or other forms of expression in advance of actual publication or dissemination.[27] The freedom of expression, as with the other freedoms encased in the Bill of Rights, is, however, not absolute. It may be regulated to some extent to serve important public interests, some forms of speech not being protected. As has been held, the limits of the freedom of expression are reached when the expression touches upon matters of essentially private concern.[28] In the oft-quoted expression of Justice Holmes, the constitutional guarantee obviously was not intended to give immunity for every possible use of language.*29+ From Lucas v. Royo comes this line: *T+he freedom to express ones sentiments and belief does not grant one the license to vilify in public the honor and integrity of another. Any sentiments must be expressed within the proper forum and with proper regard for the rights of others.*30+ Indeed, as noted in Chaplinsky v. State of New Hampshire,*31+ there are certain well-defined and narrowly limited classes of speech that are harmful, the prevention and punishment of which has never been thought to raise any Constitutional problems. In net effect, some forms of speech are not protected by the Constitution, meaning that restrictions on unprotected speech may be decreed without running afoul of the freedom of speech clause.[32] A speech would fall under the unprotected type if the utterances involved are no essential part of any exposition of ideas, and are of such slight social value as a step of truth that any

benefit that may be derived from them is clearly outweighed by the social interest in order and morality.*33+ Being of little or no value, there is, in dealing with or regulating them, no imperative call for the application of the clear and present danger rule or the balancing-of-interest test, they being essentially modes of weighing competing values,[34] or, with like effect, determining which of the clashing interests should be advanced. Petitioner asserts that his utterance in question is a protected form of speech. The Court rules otherwise. It has been established in this jurisdiction that unprotected speech or low-value expression refers to libelous statements, obscenity or pornography, false or misleading advertisement, insulting or fighting words, i.e., those which by their very utterance inflict injury or tend to incite an immediate breach of peace and expression endangering national security. The Court finds that petitioners statement can be treated as obscene, at least with respect to the average child. Hence, it is, in that context, unprotected speech. In Fernando v. Court of Appeals, the Court expressed difficulty in formulating a definition of obscenity that would apply to all cases, but nonetheless stated the ensuing observations on the matter: There is no perfect definition of obscenity but the latest word is that of Miller v. California which established basic guidelines, to wit: (a) whether to the average person, applying contemporary standards would find the work, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest; (b) whether the work depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by the applicable state law; and (c) whether the work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value. But, it would be a serious misreading of Miller to conclude that the trier of facts has the unbridled discretion in determining what is patently offensive. x x x What remains clear is that obscenity is an issue proper for judicial determination and should be treated on a case to case basis and on the judges sound discretion.[35]

15

Following the contextual lessons of the cited case of Miller v. California,[36] a patently offensive utterance would come within the pale of the term obscenity should it appeal to the prurient interest of an average listener applying contemporary standards. A cursory examination of the utterances complained of and the circumstances of the case reveal that to an average adult, the utterances Gago ka talaga x x x, masahol ka pa sa putang babae x x x. Yung putang babae ang gumagana lang doon yung ibaba, [dito] kay Michael ang gumagana ang itaas, o di ba! may not constitute obscene but merely indecent utterances. They can be viewed as figures of speech or merely a play on words. In the context they were used, they may not appeal to the prurient interests of an adult. The problem with the challenged statements is that they were uttered in a TV program that is rated G or for general viewership, and in a time slot that would likely reach even the eyes and ears of children. While adults may have understood that the terms thus used were not to be taken literally, children could hardly be expected to have the same discernment. Without parental guidance, the unbridled use of such language as that of petitioner in a television broadcast could corrupt impressionable young minds. The term putang babae means a female prostitute, a term wholly inappropriate for children, who could look it up in a dictionary and just get the literal meaning, missing the context within which it was used. Petitioner further used the terms, ang gumagana lang doon yung ibaba, making reference to the female sexual organ and how a female prostitute uses it in her trade, then stating that Sandoval was worse than that by using his mouth in a similar manner. Children could be motivated by curiosity and ask the meaning of what petitioner said, also without placing the phrase in context. They may be inquisitive as to why Sandoval is different from a female prostitute and the reasons for the dissimilarity. And upon learning the meanings of the words used, young minds, without the guidance of an adult, may, from their end, view this kind of indecent speech as obscene, if they take these words literally and use them in

their own speech or form their own ideas on the matter. In this particular case, where children had the opportunity to hear petitioners words, when speaking of the average person in the test for obscenity, we are speaking of the average child, not the average adult. The average child may not have the adults grasp of figures of speech, and may lack the understanding that language may be colorful, and words may convey more than the literal meaning. Undeniably the subject speech is very suggestive of a female sexual organ and its function as such. In this sense, we find petitioners utterances obscene and not entitled to protection under the umbrella of freedom of speech. Even if we concede that petitioners remarks are not obscene but merely indecent speech, still the Court rules that petitioner cannot avail himself of the constitutional protection of free speech. Said statements were made in a medium easily accessible to children. With respect to the young minds, said utterances are to be treated as unprotected speech. No doubt what petitioner said constitutes indecent or offensive utterances. But while a jurisprudential pattern involving certain offensive utterances conveyed in different mediums has emerged, this case is veritably one of first impression, it being the first time that indecent speech communicated via television and the applicable norm for its regulation are, in this jurisdiction, made the focal point. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) v. Pacifica Foundation,[37] a 1978 American landmark case cited in Eastern Broadcasting Corporation v. Dans, Jr.[38] and Chavez v. Gonzales,[39] is a rich source of persuasive lessons. Foremost of these relates to indecent speech without prurient appeal component coming under the category of protected speech depending on the context within which it was made, irresistibly suggesting that, within a particular context, such indecent speech may validly be categorized as unprotected, ergo, susceptible to restriction. In FCC, seven of what were considered filthy words[40] earlier recorded in a monologue by a satiric humorist later aired in the afternoon over a radio station

owned by Pacifica Foundation. Upon the complaint of a man who heard the pre-recorded monologue while driving with his son, FCC declared the language used as patently offensive and indecent under a prohibiting law, though not necessarily obscene. FCC added, however, that its declaratory order was issued in a special factual context, referring, in gist, to an afternoon radio broadcast when children were undoubtedly in the audience. Acting on the question of whether the FCC could regulate the subject utterance, the US Supreme Court ruled in the affirmative, owing to two special features of the broadcast medium, to wit: (1) radio is a pervasive medium and (2) broadcasting is uniquely accessible to children. The US Court, however, hastened to add that the monologue would be protected speech in other contexts, albeit it did not expound and identify a compelling state interest in putting FCCs contentbased regulatory action under scrutiny. The Court in Chavez[41] elucidated on the distinction between regulation or restriction of protected speech that is content-based and that which is content-neutral. A contentbased restraint is aimed at the contents or idea of the expression, whereas a content-neutral restraint intends to regulate the time, place, and manner of the expression under well-defined standards tailored to serve a compelling state interest, without restraint on the message of the expression. Courts subject content-based restraint to strict scrutiny. With the view we take of the case, the suspension MTRCB imposed under the premises was, in one perspective, permissible restriction. We make this disposition against the backdrop of the following interplaying factors: First, the indecent speech was made via television, a pervasive medium that, to borrow from Gonzales v. Kalaw Katigbak,[42] easily reaches every home where there is a set *and where+ [c]hildren will likely be among the avid viewers of the programs therein shown; second, the broadcast was aired at the time of the day when there was a reasonable risk that children might be in the audience; and third, petitioner uttered his speech on a G or for general patronage rated program. Under Sec. 2(A) of Chapter IV of the IRR of the MTRCB, a show for general patronage is *s+uitable for all

16

ages, meaning that the material for television x x x in the judgment of the BOARD, does not contain anything unsuitable for children and minors, and may be viewed without adult guidance or supervision. The words petitioner used were, by any civilized norm, clearly not suitable for children. Where a language is categorized as indecent, as in petitioners utterances on a general-patronage rated TV program, it may be readily proscribed as unprotected speech. A view has been advanced that unprotected speech refers only to pornography,[43] false or misleading advertisement,[44] advocacy of imminent lawless action, and expression endangering national security. But this list is not, as some members of the Court would submit, exclusive or carved in stone. Without going into specifics, it may be stated without fear of contradiction that US decisional law goes beyond the aforesaid general exceptions. As the Court has been impelled to recognize exceptions to the rule against censorship in the past, this particular case constitutes yet another exception, another instance of unprotected speech, created by the necessity of protecting the welfare of our children. As unprotected speech, petitioners utterances can be subjected to restraint or regulation. Despite the settled ruling in FCC which has remained undisturbed since 1978, petitioner asserts that his utterances must present a clear and present danger of bringing about a substantive evil the State has a right and duty to prevent and such danger must be grave and imminent.[45] Petitioners invocation of the clear and present danger doctrine, arguably the most permissive of speech tests, would not avail him any relief, for the application of said test is uncalled for under the premises. The doctrine, first formulated by Justice Holmes, accords protection for utterances so that the printed or spoken words may not be subject to prior restraint or subsequent punishment unless its expression creates a clear and present danger of bringing about a substantial evil which the government has the power to prohibit.[46] Under the doctrine, freedom of speech and of press is susceptible of restriction when and only when necessary to prevent grave and immediate danger to

interests which the government may lawfully protect. As it were, said doctrine evolved in the context of prosecutions for rebellion and other crimes involving the overthrow of government.[47] It was originally designed to determine the latitude which should be given to speech that espouses antigovernment action, or to have serious and substantial deleterious consequences on the security and public order of the community.[48] The clear and present danger rule has been applied to this jurisdiction.[49] As a standard of limitation on free speech and press, however, the clear and present danger test is not a magic incantation that wipes out all problems and does away with analysis and judgment in the testing of the legitimacy of claims to free speech and which compels a court to release a defendant from liability the moment the doctrine is invoked, absent proof of imminent catastrophic disaster.[50] As we observed in Eastern Broadcasting Corporation, the clear and present danger test does not lend itself to a simplistic and all embracing interpretation applicable to all utterances in all forums.*51+ To be sure, the clear and present danger doctrine is not the only test which has been applied by the courts. Generally, said doctrine is applied to cases involving the overthrow of the government and even other evils which do not clearly undermine national security. Since not all evils can be measured in terms of proximity and degree the Court, however, in several casesAyer Productions v. Capulong[52] and Gonzales v. COMELEC,[53] applied the balancing of interests test. Former Chief Justice Fred Ruiz Castro, in Gonzales v. COMELEC, elucidated in his Separate Opinion that where the legislation under constitutional attack interferes with the freedom of speech and assembly in a more generalized way and where the effect of the speech and assembly in terms of the probability of realization of a specific danger is not susceptible even of impressionistic calculation,*54+ then the balancing of interests test can be applied. The Court explained also in Gonzales v. COMELEC the balancing of interests test:

When particular conduct is regulated in the interest of public order, and the regulation results in an indirect, conditional, partial abridgment of speech, the duty of the courts is to determine which of the two conflicting interests demands the greater protection under the particular circumstances presented. x x x We must, therefore, undertake the delicate and difficult task x x x to weigh the circumstances and to appraise the substantiality of the reasons advanced in support of the regulation of the free enjoyment of rights x x x. In enunciating standard premised on a judicial balancing of the conflicting social values and individual interests competing for ascendancy in legislation which restricts expression, the court in Douds laid the basis for what has been called the balancing-of-interests test which has found application in more recent decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court. Briefly stated, the balancing test requires a court to take conscious and detailed consideration of the interplay of interests observable in a given situation or type of situation. xxxx Although the urgency of the public interest sought to be secured by Congressional power restricting the individuals freedom, and the social importance and value of the freedom so restricted, are to be judged in the concrete, not on the basis of abstractions, a wide range of factors are necessarily relevant in ascertaining the point or line of equilibrium. Among these are (a) the social value and importance of the specific aspect of the particular freedom restricted by the legislation; (b) the specific thrust of the restriction, i.e., whether the restriction is direct or indirect, whether or not the persons affected are few; (c) the value and importance of the public interest sought to be secured by the legislation the reference here is to the nature and gravity of the evil which Congress seeks to prevent; (d) whether the specific restriction decreed by Congress is reasonably appropriate and necessary for the protection of such public interest; and (e) whether the necessary safeguarding of the public interest involved may be achieved by some other measure less restrictive of the protected freedom.[55]

17

This balancing of interest test, to borrow from Professor Kauper,*56+ rests on the theory that it is the courts function in a case before it when it finds public interests served by legislation, on the one hand, and the free expression clause affected by it, on the other, to balance one against the other and arrive at a judgment where the greater weight shall be placed. If, on balance, it appears that the public interest served by restrictive legislation is of such nature that it outweighs the abridgment of freedom, then the court will find the legislation valid. In short, the balance-of-interests theory rests on the basis that constitutional freedoms are not absolute, not even those stated in the free speech and expression clause, and that they may be abridged to some extent to serve appropriate and important interests.[57] To the mind of the Court, the balancing of interest doctrine is the more appropriate test to follow. In the case at bar, petitioner used indecent and obscene language and a three (3)-month suspension was slapped on him for breach of MTRCB rules. In this setting, the assertion by petitioner of his enjoyment of his freedom of speech is ranged against the duty of the government to protect and promote the development and welfare of the youth. After a careful examination of the factual milieu and the arguments raised by petitioner in support of his claim to free speech, the Court rules that the governments interest to protect and promote the interests and welfare of the children adequately buttresses the reasonable curtailment and valid restraint on petitioners prayer to continue as program host of Ang Dating Daan during the suspension period. No doubt, one of the fundamental and most vital rights granted to citizens of a State is the freedom of speech or expression, for without the enjoyment of such right, a free, stable, effective, and progressive democratic state would be difficult to attain. Arrayed against the freedom of speech is the right of the youth to their moral, spiritual, intellectual, and social being which the State is constitutionally tasked to promote and protect. Moreover, the State is also mandated to recognize and support the vital role of the youth in nation

building as laid down in Sec. 13, Art. II of the 1987 Constitution. The Constitution has, therefore, imposed the sacred obligation and responsibility on the State to provide protection to the youth against illegal or improper activities which may prejudice their general well-being. The Article on youth, approved on second reading by the Constitutional Commission, explained that the State shall extend social protection to minors against all forms of neglect, cruelty, exploitation, immorality, and practices which may foster racial, religious or other forms of discrimination.*58+ Indisputably, the State has a compelling interest in extending social protection to minors against all forms of neglect, exploitation, and immorality which may pollute innocent minds. It has a compelling interest in helping parents, through regulatory mechanisms, protect their childrens minds from exposure to undesirable materials and corrupting experiences. The Constitution, no less, in fact enjoins the State, as earlier indicated, to promote and protect the physical, moral, spiritual, intellectual, and social wellbeing of the youth to better prepare them fulfill their role in the field of nation-building.[59] In the same way, the State is mandated to support parents in the rearing of the youth for civic efficiency and the development of moral character.[60] Petitioners offensive and obscene language uttered in a television broadcast, without doubt, was easily accessible to the children. His statements could have exposed children to a language that is unacceptable in everyday use. As such, the welfare of children and the States mandate to protect and care for them, as parens patriae,[61] constitute a substantial and compelling government interest in regulating petitioners utterances in TV broadcast as provided in PD 1986. FCC explains the duty of the government to act as parens patriae to protect the children who, because of age or interest capacity, are susceptible of being corrupted or prejudiced by offensive language, thus: [B]roadcasting is uniquely accessible to children, even those too young to read. Although Cohens written message,

*Fuck the Draft+, might have been incomprehensible to a first grader, Pacificas broadcast could have enlarged a childs vocabulary in an instant. Other forms of offensive expression may be withheld from the young without restricting the expression at its source. Bookstores and motion picture theaters, for example, may be prohibited from making indecent material available to children. We held in Ginsberg v. New York that the governments interest in the well -being of its youth and in supporting parents claim to authority in their own household justified the regulation of otherwise protected expression. The ease with which children may obtain access to broadcast material, coupled with the concerns recognized in Ginsberg, amply justify special treatment of indecent broadcasting. Moreover, Gonzales v. Kalaw Katigbak likewise stressed the duty of the State to attend to the welfare of the young: x x x It is the consensus of this Court that where television is concerned, a less liberal approach calls for observance. This is so because unlike motion pictures where the patrons have to pay their way, television reaches every home where there is a set. Children then will likely will be among the avid viewers of the programs therein shown. As was observed by Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Jerome Frank, it is hardly the concern of the law to deal with the sexual fantasies of the adult population. It cannot be denied though that the State as parens patriae is called upon to manifest an attitude of caring for the welfare of the young.[62] The compelling need to protect the young impels us to sustain the regulatory action MTRCB took in the narrow confines of the case. To reiterate, FCC justified the restraint on the TV broadcast grounded on the following considerations: (1) the use of television with its unique accessibility to children, as a medium of broadcast of a patently offensive speech; (2) the time of broadcast; and (3) the G rating of the Ang Dating Daan program. And in agreeing with MTRCB, the court takes stock of and cites with approval the following excerpts from FCC:

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It is appropriate, in conclusion, to emphasize the narrowness of our holding. This case does not involve a two-way radio conversation between a cab driver and a dispatcher, or a telecast of an Elizabethan comedy. We have not decided that an occasional expletive in either setting would justify any sanction. x x x The *FFCs+ decision rested entirely on a nuisance rationale under which context is all important. The concept requires consideration of a host of variables. The time of day was emphasized by the [FFC]. The content of the program in which the language is used will affect the composition of the audience x x x. As Mr. Justice Sutherland wrote a nuisance may be merely a right thing in the wrong place, like a pig in the parlor instead of the barnyard. We simply hold that when the [FCC] finds that a pig has entered the parlor, the exercise of its regulatory power does not depend on proof that the pig is obscene. (Citation omitted.) There can be no quibbling that the remarks in question petitioner uttered on prime-time television are blatantly indecent if not outright obscene. It is the kind of speech that PD 1986 proscribes necessitating the exercise by MTRCB of statutory disciplinary powers. It is the kind of speech that the State has the inherent prerogative, nay duty, to regulate and prevent should such action served and further compelling state interests. One who utters indecent, insulting, or offensive words on television when unsuspecting children are in the audience is, in the graphic language of FCC, a pig in the parlor. Public interest would be served if the pig is reasonably restrained or even removed from the parlor. Ergo, petitioners offensive and indecent language can be subjected to prior restraint. Petitioner theorizes that the three (3)-month suspension is either prior restraint or subsequent punishment that, however, includes prior restraint, albeit indirectly. After a review of the facts, the Court finds that what MTRCB imposed on petitioner is an administrative sanction or subsequent punishment for his offensive and obscene language in Ang Dating Daan.

To clarify, statutes imposing prior restraints on speech are generally illegal and presumed unconstitutional breaches of the freedom of speech. The exceptions to prior restraint are movies, television, and radio broadcast censorship in view of its access to numerous people, including the young who must be insulated from the prejudicial effects of unprotected speech. PD 1986 was passed creating the Board of Review for Motion Pictures and Television (now MTRCB) and which requires prior permit or license before showing a motion picture or broadcasting a TV program. The Board can classify movies and television programs and can cancel permits for exhibition of films or television broadcast. The power of MTRCB to regulate and even impose some prior restraint on radio and television shows, even religious programs, was upheld in Iglesia Ni Cristo v. Court of Appeals. Speaking through Chief Justice Reynato S. Puno, the Court wrote: We thus reject petitioners postulate that its religious program is per se beyond review by the respondent Board. Its public broadcast on TV of its religious program brings it out of the bosom of internal belief. Television is a medium that reaches even the eyes and ears of children. The Court iterates the rule that the exercise of religious freedom can be regulated by the State when it will bring about the clear and present danger of some substantive evil which the State is duty bound to prevent, i.e., serious detriment to the more overriding interest of public health, public morals, or public welfare. x x x x x x x While the thesis has a lot to commend itself, we are not ready to hold that [PD 1986] is unconstitutional for Congress to grant an administrative body quasi-judicial power to preview and classify TV programs and enforce its decision subject to review by our courts. As far back as 1921, we upheld this setup in Sotto vs. Ruiz, viz: The use of the mails by private persons is in the nature of a privilege which can be regulated in order to avoid its abuse. Persons possess no absolute right to put into the mail anything they please, regardless of its character.*63+

Bernas adds: Under the decree a movie classification board is made the arbiter of what movies and television programs or parts of either are fit for public consumption. It decides what movies are immoral, indecent, contrary to law and/or good customs, injurious to the prestige of the Republic of the Philippines or its people, and what tend to incite subversion, insurrection, rebellion or sedition, or tend to undermine the faith and confidence of the people in their government and/or duly constituted authorities, etc. Moreover, its decisions are executory unless stopped by a court.[64] Moreover, in MTRCB v. ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corporation,[65] it was held that the power of review and prior approval of MTRCB extends to all television programs and is valid despite the freedom of speech guaranteed by the Constitution. Thus, all broadcast networks are regulated by the MTRCB since they are required to get a permit before they air their television programs. Consequently, their right to enjoy their freedom of speech is subject to that requirement. As lucidly explained by Justice Dante O. Tinga, government regulations through the MTRCB became a necessary evil with the government taking the role of assigning bandwidth to individual broadcasters. The stations explicitly agreed to this regulatory scheme; otherwise, chaos would result in the television broadcast industry as competing broadcasters will interfere or co-opt each others signals. In this scheme, station owners and broadcasters in effect waived their right to the full enjoyment of their right to freedom of speech in radio and television programs and impliedly agreed that said right may be subject to prior restraintdenial of permit or subsequent punishment, like suspension or cancellation of permit, among others. The three (3) months suspension in this case is not a prior restraint on the right of petitioner to continue with the broadcast of Ang Dating Daan as a permit was already issued to him by MTRCB for such broadcast. Rather, the suspension is in the form of permissible administrative sanction or subsequent punishment for the offensive and obscene

19

remarks he uttered on the evening of August 10, 2004 in his television program, Ang Dating Daan. It is a sanction that the MTRCB may validly impose under its charter without running afoul of the free speech clause. And the imposition is separate and distinct from the criminal action the Board may take pursuant to Sec. 3(i) of PD 1986 and the remedies that may be availed of by the aggrieved private party under the provisions on libel or tort, if applicable. As FCC teaches, the imposition of sanctions on broadcasters who indulge in profane or indecent broadcasting does not constitute forbidden censorship. Lest it be overlooked, the sanction imposed is not per se for petitioners exercise of his freedom of speech via television, but for the indecent contents of his utterances in a G rated TV program. More importantly, petitioner is deemed to have yielded his right to his full enjoyment of his freedom of speech to regulation under PD 1986 and its IRR as television station owners, program producers, and hosts have impliedly accepted the power of MTRCB to regulate the broadcast industry. Neither can petitioners virtual inability to speak in his program during the period of suspension be plausibly treated as prior restraint on future speech. For viewed in its proper perspective, the suspension is in the nature of an intermediate penalty for uttering an unprotected form of speech. It is definitely a lesser punishment than the permissible cancellation of exhibition or broadcast permit or license. In fine, the suspension meted was simply part of the duties of the MTRCB in the enforcement and administration of the law which it is tasked to implement. Viewed in its proper context, the suspension sought to penalize past speech made on prime-time G rated TV program; it does not bar future speech of petitioner in other television programs; it is a permissible subsequent administrative sanction; it should not be confused with a prior restraint on speech. While not on all fours, the Court, in MTRCB,[66] sustained the power of the MTRCB to penalize a broadcast company for exhibiting/airing a pre-taped TV episode without Board authorization in violation of Sec. 7 of PD 1986.

Any simplistic suggestion, however, that the MTRCB would be crossing the limits of its authority were it to regulate and even restrain the prime-time television broadcast of indecent or obscene speech in a G rated program is not acceptable. As made clear in Eastern Broadcasting Corporation, the freedom of television and radio broadcasting is somewhat lesser in scope than the freedom accorded to newspaper and print media. The MTRCB, as a regulatory agency, must have the wherewithal to enforce its mandate, which would not be effective if its punitive actions would be limited to mere fines. Television broadcasts should be subject to some form of regulation, considering the ease with which they can be accessed, and violations of the regulations must be met with appropriate and proportional disciplinary action. The suspension of a violating television program would be a sufficient punishment and serve as a deterrent for those responsible. The prevention of the broadcast of petitioners television program is justified, and does not constitute prohibited prior restraint. It behooves the Court to respond to the needs of the changing times, and craft jurisprudence to reflect these times. Petitioner, in questioning the three-month suspension, also tags as unconstitutional the very law creating the MTRCB, arguing that PD 1986, as applied to him, infringes also upon his freedom of religion. The Court has earlier adequately explained why petitioners undue reliance on the religious freedom cannot lend justification, let alone an exempting dimension to his licentious utterances in his program. The Court sees no need to address anew the repetitive arguments on religious freedom. As earlier discussed in the disposition of the petition in G.R. No. 164785, what was uttered was in no way a religious speech. Parenthetically, petitioners attempt to characterize his speech as a legitimate defense of his religion fails miserably. He tries to place his words in perspective, arguing evidently as an afterthought that this was his method of refuting the alleged distortion of his statements by the INC hosts of Ang Tamang Daan. But on the night he uttered them in his television program, the word simply came out as profane

language, without any warning or guidance for undiscerning ears. As to petitioners other argument about having been denied due process and equal protection of the law, suffice it to state that we have at length debunked similar arguments in G.R. No. 164785. There is no need to further delve into the fact that petitioner was afforded due process when he attended the hearing of the MTRCB, and that he was unable to demonstrate that he was unjustly discriminated against in the MTRCB proceedings. Finally, petitioner argues that there has been undue delegation of legislative power, as PD 1986 does not provide for the range of imposable penalties that may be applied with respect to violations of the provisions of the law. The argument is without merit. In Edu v. Ericta, the Court discussed the matter of undue delegation of legislative power in the following wise: It is a fundamental principle flowing from the doctrine of separation of powers that Congress may not delegate its legislative power to the two other branches of the government, subject to the exception that local governments may over local affairs participate in its exercise. What cannot be delegated is the authority under the Constitution to make laws and to alter and repeal them; the test is the completeness of the statute in all its term and provisions when it leaves the hands of the legislature. To determine whether or not there is an undue delegation of legislative power, the inquiry must be directed to the scope and definiteness of the measure enacted. The legislature does not abdicate its functions when it describes what job must be done, who is to do it, and what is the scope of his authority. For a complex economy, that may indeed be the only way in which the legislative process can go forward. A distinction has rightfully been made between delegation of power to make laws which necessarily involves a discretion as to what it shall be, which constitutionally may not be done, and delegation of authority or discretion as to its execution to be

20

exercised under and in pursuance of the law, to which no valid objection can be made. The Constitution is thus not to be regarded as denying the legislature the necessary resources of flexibility and practicability. To avoid the taint of unlawful delegation, there must be a standard, which implies at the very least that the legislature itself determines matters of principle and lays down fundamental policy. Otherwise, the charge of complete abdication may be hard to repel. A standard thus defines legislative policy, marks its limits, maps out its boundaries and specifies the public agency to apply it. It indicates the circumstances under which the legislative command is to be effected. It is the criterion by which legislative purpose may be carried out. Thereafter, the executive or administrative office designated may in pursuance of the above guidelines promulgate supplemental rules and regulations.[67] Based on the foregoing pronouncements and analyzing the law in question, petitioners protestation about undue delegation of legislative power for the sole reason that PD 1986 does not provide for a range of penalties for violation of the law is untenable. His thesis is that MTRCB, in promulgating the IRR of PD 1986, prescribing a schedule of penalties for violation of the provisions of the decree, went beyond the terms of the law. Petitioners posture is flawed by the erroneous assumptions holding it together, the first assumption being that PD 1986 does not prescribe the imposition of, or authorize the MTRCB to impose, penalties for violators of PD 1986. As earlier indicated, however, the MTRCB, by express and direct conferment of power and functions, is charged with supervising and regulating, granting, denying, or canceling permits for the exhibition and/or television broadcast of all motion pictures, television programs, and publicity materials to the end that no such objectionable pictures, programs, and materials shall be exhibited and/or broadcast by television. Complementing this provision is Sec. 3(k) of the decree authorizing the MTRCB to exercise such powers and functions as may be necessary or incidental to the attainment of the purpose and objectives of *the law+.

As earlier explained, the investiture of supervisory, regulatory, and disciplinary power would surely be a meaningless grant if it did not carry with it the power to penalize the supervised or the regulated as may be proportionate to the offense committed, charged, and proved. As the Court said in Chavez v. National Housing Authority: x x x [W]hen a general grant of power is conferred or duty enjoined, every particular power necessary for the exercise of the one or the performance of the other is also conferred. x x x [W]hen the statute does not specify the particular method to be followed or used by a government agency in the exercise of the power vested in it by law, said agency has the authority to adopt any reasonable method to carry out its function.[68] Given the foregoing perspective, it stands to reason that the power of the MTRCB to regulate and supervise the exhibition of TV programs carries with it or necessarily implies the authority to take effective punitive action for violation of the law sought to be enforced. And would it not be logical too to say that the power to deny or cancel a permit for the exhibition of a TV program or broadcast necessarily includes the lesser power to suspend? The MTRCB promulgated the IRR of PD 1986 in accordance with Sec. 3(a) which, for reference, provides that agency with the power *to+ promulgate such rules and regulations as are necessary or proper for the implementation of this Act, and the accomplishment of its purposes and objectives x x x. And Chapter XIII, Sec. 1 of the IRR providing: Section 1. VIOLATIONS AND ADMINISTRATIVE SANCTIONS. Without prejudice to the immediate filing of the appropriate criminal action and the immediate seizure of the pertinent articles pursuant to Section 13, any violation of PD 1986 and its Implementing Rules and Regulations governing motion pictures, television programs, and related promotional materials shall be penalized with suspension or cancellation of permits and/or licenses issued by the Board and/or with

the imposition of fines and other administrative penalty/penalties. The Board recognizes the existing Table of Administrative Penalties attached without prejudice to the power of the Board to amend it when the need arises. In the meantime the existing revised Table of Administrative Penalties shall be enforced. (Emphasis added.) This is, in the final analysis, no more than a measure to specifically implement the aforequoted provisions of Sec. 3(d) and (k). Contrary to what petitioner implies, the IRR does not expand the mandate of the MTRCB under the law or partake of the nature of an unauthorized administrative legislation. The MTRCB cannot shirk its responsibility to regulate the public airwaves and employ such means as it can as a guardian of the public. In Sec. 3(c), one can already find the permissible actions of the MTRCB, along with the standards to be applied to determine whether there have been statutory breaches. The MTRCB may evaluate motion pictures, television programs, and publicity materials applying contemporary Filipino cultural values as standard, and, from there, determine whether these audio and video materials are objectionable for being immoral, indecent, contrary to law and/or good customs, *etc.+ x x x and apply the sanctions it dee ms proper. The lawmaking body cannot possibly provide for all the details in the enforcement of a particular statute.[69] The grant of the rule-making power to administrative agencies is a relaxation of the principle of separation of powers and is an exception to the non-delegation of legislative powers.[70] Administrative regulations or subordinate legislation calculated to promote the public interest are necessary because of the growing complexity of modern life, the multiplication of the subjects of governmental regulations, and the increased difficulty of administering the law.*71+ Allowing the MTRCB some reasonable elbow-room in its operations and, in the exercise of its statutory disciplinary functions, according it ample latitude in fixing, by way of an appropriate issuance, administrative penalties with due regard for the severity of the offense and attending mitigating or aggravating circumstances, as the case may be, would be consistent with its mandate to effectively and efficiently regulate the movie and television industry.

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But even as we uphold the power of the MTRCB to review and impose sanctions for violations of PD 1986, its decision to suspend petitioner must be modified, for nowhere in that issuance, particularly the power-defining Sec. 3 nor in the MTRCB Schedule of Administrative Penalties effective January 1, 1999 is the Board empowered to suspend the program host or even to prevent certain people from appearing in television programs. The MTRCB, to be sure, may prohibit the broadcast of such television programs or cancel permits for exhibition, but it may not suspend television personalities, for such would be beyond its jurisdiction. The MTRCB cannot extend its exercise of regulation beyond what the law provides. Only persons, offenses, and penalties clearly falling clearly within the letter and spirit of PD 1986 will be considered to be within the decrees penal or disciplinary operation. And when it exists, the reasonable doubt must be resolved in favor of the person charged with violating the statute and for whom the penalty is sought. Thus, the MTRCBs decision in Administrative Case No. 01-04 dated September 27, 2004 and the subsequent order issued pursuant to said decision must be modified. The suspension should cover only the television program on which petitioner appeared and uttered the offensive and obscene language, which sanction is what the law and the facts obtaining call for. In ending, what petitioner obviously advocates is an unrestricted speech paradigm in which absolute permissiveness is the norm. Petitioners flawed belief that he may simply utter gutter profanity on television without adverse consequences, under the guise of free speech, does not lend itself to acceptance in this jurisdiction. We repeat: freedoms of speech and expression are not absolute freedoms. To say any act that restrains speech should be greeted with furrowed brows is not to say that any act that restrains or regulates speech or expression is per se invalid. This only recognizes the importance of freedoms of speech and expression, and indicates the necessity to carefully scrutinize acts that may restrain or regulate speech.

WHEREFORE, the decision of the MTRCB in Adm. Case No. 0104 dated September 27, 2004 is hereby AFFIRMED with the MODIFICATION of limiting the suspension to the program Ang Dating Daan. As thus modified, the fallo of the MTRCB shall read as follows: WHEREFORE, in view of all the foregoing, a Decision is hereby rendered, imposing a penalty of THREE (3) MONTHS SUSPENSION on the television program, Ang Dating Daan, subject of the instant petition. Co-respondents Joselito Mallari, Luzviminda Cruz, and UNTV Channel 37 and its owner, PBC, are hereby exonerated for lack of evidence. Costs against petitioner. [G.R. No. 124382. August 16, 1999] PASTOR DIONISIO V. AUSTRIA, petitioner, vs. HON. NATIONAL LABOR RELATIONS COMMISSION (Fourth Division), CEBU CITY, CENTRAL PHILIPPINE UNION MISSION CORPORATION OF THE SEVENTH-DAY ADVENTIST, ELDER HECTOR V. GAYARES, PASTORS REUBEN MORALDE, OSCAR L. ALOLOR, WILLIAM U. DONATO, JOEL WALES, ELY SACAY, GIDEON BUHAT, ISACHAR GARSULA, ELISEO DOBLE, PROFIRIO BALACY, DAVID RODRIGO, LORETO MAYPA, MR. RUFO GASAPO, MR. EUFRONIO IBESATE, MRS. TESSIE BALACY, MR. ZOSIMO KARA-AN, and MR. ELEUTERIO LOBITANA, respondents. DECISION KAPUNAN, J.: Subject to the instant petition for certiorari under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court is the Resolution[1] of public respondent National Labor Relations Commission (the NLRC), rendered on 23 January 1996, in NLRC Case No. V-0120-93, entitled Pastor Dionisio V. Austria vs. Central Philippine Union Mission Corporation of Seventh Day Adventists, et. al., which

dismissed the case for illegal dismissal filed by the petitioner against private respondents for lack of jurisdiction. Private Respondent Central Philippine Union Mission Corporation of the Seventh-Day Adventists (hereinafter referred to as the SDA) is a religious corporation duly organized and existing under Philippine law and is represented in this case by the other private respondents, officers of the SDA. Petitioner, on the other hand, was a Pastor of the SDA until 31 October 1991, when his services were terminated. The records show that petitioner Pastor Dionisio V. Austria worked with the SDA for twenty eight (28) years from 1963 to 1991.[2] He began his work with the SDA on 15 July 1963 as a literature evangelist, selling literature of the SDA over the island of Negros. From then on, petitioner worked his way up the ladder and got promoted several times. In January, 1968, petitioner became the Assistant Publishing Director in the West Visayan Mission of the SDA. In July, 1972, he was elevated to the position of Pastor in the West Visayan Mission covering the island of Panay, and the provinces of Romblon and Guimaras. Petitioner held the same position up to 1988. Finally, in 1989, petitioner was promoted as District Pastor of the Negros Mission of the SDA and was assigned at Sagay, Balintawak and Toboso, Negros Occidental, with twelve (12) churches under his jurisdiction. In January, 1991, petitioner was transferred to Bacolod City. He held the position of district pastor until his services were terminated on 31 October 1991. On various occasions from August up to October, 1991, petitioner received several communications[3] from Mr. Eufronio Ibesate, the treasurer of the Negros Mission asking him to admit accountability and responsibility for the church tithes and offerings collected by his wife, Mrs. Thelma Austria, in his district which amounted to P15,078.10, and to remit the same to the Negros Mission. In his written explanation dated 11 October 1991,[4] petitioner reasoned out that he should not be made accountable for the unremitted collections since it was

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private respondents Pastor Gideon Buhat and Mr. Eufronio Ibesate who authorized his wife to collect the tithes and offerings since he was very sick to do the collecting at that time. Thereafter, on 16 October 1991, at around 7:30 a.m., petitioner went to the office of Pastor Buhat, the president of the Negros Mission. During said call, petitioner tried to persuade Pastor Buhat to convene the Executive Committee for the purpose of settling the dispute between him and the private respondent, Pastor David Rodrigo. The dispute between Pastor Rodrigo and petitioner arose from an incident in which petitioner assisted his friend, Danny Diamada, to collect from Pastor Rodrigo the unpaid balance for the repair of the latters motor vehicle which he failed to pay to Diamada.[5] Due to the assistance of petitioner in collecting Pastor Rodrigos debt, the latter harbored illfeelings against petitioner. When news reached petitioner that Pastor Rodrigo was about to file a complaint against him with the Negros Mission, he immediately proceeded to the office of Pastor Buhat on the date abovementioned and asked the latter to convene the Executive Committee. Pastor Buhat denied the request of petitioner since some committee members were out of town and there was no quorum. Thereafter, the two exchanged heated arguments. Petitioner then left the office of Pastor Buhat. While on his way out, petitioner overheard Pastor Buhat saying, Pastor daw inisog na ina iya (Pastor you are talking tough).*6+ Irked by such remark, petitioner returned to the office of Pastor Buhat, and tried to overturn the latters table, though unsuccessfully, since it was heavy. Thereafter, petitioner banged the attache case of Pastor Buhat on the table, scattered the books in his office, and threw the phone.[7] Fortunately, private respondents Pastors Yonilo Leopoldo and Claudio Montao were around and they pacified both Pastor Buhat and petitioner. On 17 October 1991, petitioner received a letter[8] inviting him and his wife to attend the Executive Committee meeting at the Negros Mission Conference Room on 21 October 1991, at nine in the morning. To be discussed in the meeting were the non-remittance of church collection and the events that

transpired on 16 October 1991. A fact-finding committee was created to investigate petitioner. For two (2) days, from October 21 and 22, the fact-finding committee conducted an investigation of petitioner. Sensing that the result of the investigation might be one-sided, petitioner immediately wrote Pastor Rueben Moralde, president of the SDA and chairman of the fact-finding committee, requesting that certain members of the fact-finding committee be excluded in the investigation and resolution of the case.[9] Out of the six (6) members requested to inhibit themselves from the investigation and decision-making, only two (2) were actually excluded, namely: Pastor Buhat and Pastor Rodrigo. Subsequently, on 29 October 1991, petitioner received a letter of dismissal[10] citing misappropriation of denominational funds, willful breach of trust, serious misconduct, gross and habitual neglect of duties, and commission of an offense against the person of employers duly authorized representative, as grounds for the termination of his services. Reacting against the adverse decision of the SDA, petitioner filed a complaint[11] on 14 November 1991, before the Labor Arbiter for illegal dismissal against the SDA and its officers and prayed for reinstatement with backwages and benefits, moral and exemplary damages and other labor law benefits. On 15 February 1993, Labor Arbiter Cesar D. Sideo rendered a decision in favor of petitioner, the dispositive portion of which reads thus: WHEREFORE, PREMISES CONSIDERED, respondents CENTRAL PHILIPPINE UNION MISSION CORPORATION OF THE SEVENTHDAY ADVENTISTS (CPUMCSDA) and its officers, respondents herein, are hereby ordered to immediately reinstate complainant Pastor Dionisio Austria to his former position as Pastor of Brgy. Taculing, Progreso and Banago, Bacolod City, without loss of seniority and other rights and backwages in the amount of ONE HUNDRED FIFTEEN THOUSAND EIGHT HUNDRED THIRTY PESOS (P115,830.00) without deductions and qualificatioons.

Respondent CPUMCSDA is further ordered to pay complainant the following: A. B. C. 13th month pay Allowance Service Incentive Leave Pay D. E. Moral Damages Exemplary Damages F. Attorneys Fee P25,000.00 P22,012.27 P 3,461.85 P50,000.00 P21,060.00 P 4,770.83

SO ORDERED.[12] The SDA, through its officers, appealed the decision of the Labor Arbiter to the National Labor Relations Commission, Fourth Division, Cebu City. In a decision, dated 26 August 1994, the NLRC vacated the findings of the Labor Arbiter. The decretal portion of the NLRC decision states: WHEREFORE, the Decision appealed from is hereby VACATED and a new one ENTERED dismissing this case for want of merit. SO ORDERED.[13] Petitioner filed a motion for reconsideration of the abovenamed decision. On 18 July 1995, the NLRC issued a Resolution reversing its original decision. The dispositive portion of the resolution reads: WHEREFORE, premises considered, Our decision dated August 26, 1994 is VACATED and the decision of the Labor Arbiter dated February 15, 1993 is REINSTATED.

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SO ORDERED.[14] In view of the reversal of the original decision of the NLRC, the SDA filed a motion for reconsideration of the above resolution. Notable in the motion for reconsideration filed by private respondents is their invocation, for the first time on appeal, that the Labor Arbiter has no jurisdiction over the complaint filed by petitioner due to the constitutional provision on the separation of church and state since the case allegedly involved and ecclesiastical affair to which the State cannot interfere. The NLRC, without ruling on the merits of the case, reversed itself once again, sustained the argument posed by private respondents and, accordingly, dismissed the complaint of petitioner. The dispositive portion of the NLRC resolution dated 23 January 1996, subject of the present petition, is as follows: WHEREFORE, in view of all the foregoing, the instant motion for reconsideration is hereby granted. Accordingly, this case is hereby DISMISSED for lack of jurisdiction. SO ORDERED.[15] Hence, the recourse to this Court by petitioner. After the filing of the petition, the Court ordered the Office of the Solicitor General (the OSG) to file its comment on behalf of public respondent NLRC. Interestingly, the OSG filed a manifestation and motion in lieu of comment[16] setting forth its stand that it cannot sustain the resolution of the NLRC. In its manifestation, the OSG submits that the termination of petitioner of his employment may be questioned before the NLRC as the same is secular in nature, not ecclesiastical. After the submission of memoranda of all the parties, the case was submitted for decision. The issues to be resolved in this petition are:

1) Whether or not the Labor Arbiter/NLRC has jurisdiction to try and decide the complaint filed by petitioner against the SDA; 2) Whether or not the termination of the services of petitioner is an ecclesiastical affair, and, as such, involves the separation of church and state; and 3) Whether or not such termination is valid. The first two issues shall be resolved jointly, since they are related. Private respondents contend that by virtue of the doctrine of separation of church and state, the Labor Arbiter and the NLRC have no jurisdiction to entertain the complaint filed by petitioner. Since the matter at bar allegedly involves the discipline of a religious minister, it is to be considered a purely ecclesiastical affair to which the State has no right to interfere. The contention of private respondents deserves scant consideration. The principle of separation of church and state finds no application in this case. The rationale of the principle of the separation of church and state is summed up in the familiar saying, Strong fences make good neighbors.*17+ The idea advocated by this principle is to delineate the boundaries between the two institutions and thus avoid encroachments by one against the other because of a misunderstanding of the limits of their respective exclusive jurisdictions.[18] The demarcation line calls on the entities to render therefore unto Ceasar the things that are Ceasars and unto God the things that are Gods.*19+ While the State is prohibited from interfering in purely ecclesiastical affairs, the Church is likewise barred from meddling in purely secular matters.[20] The case at bar does not concern an ecclesiastical or purely religious affair as to bar the State from taking cognizance of the same. An ecclesiastical affair is one that concerns doctrine, creed, or form or worship of the church, or the

adoption and enforcement within a religious association of needful laws and regulations for the government of the membership, and the power of excluding from such associations those deemed unworthy of membership.[21] Based on this definition, an ecclesiastical affair involves the relationship between the church and its members and relate to matters of faith, religious doctrines, worship and governance of the congregation. To be concrete, examples of this so-called ecclesiastical affairs to which the State cannot meddle are proceedings for excommunication, ordinations of religious ministers, administration of sacraments and other activities with which attached religious significance. The case at bar does not even remotely concern any of the abovecited examples. While the matter at hand relates to the church and its religious minister it does not ipso facto give the case a religious significance. Simply stated, what is involved here is the relationship of the church as an employer and the minister as an employee. It is purely secular and has no relation whatsoever with the practice of faith, worship or doctrines of the church. In this case, petitioner was not excommunicated or expelled from the membership of the SDA but was terminated from employment. Indeed, the matter of terminating an employee, which is purely secular in nature, is different from the ecclesiastical act of expelling a member from the religious congregation. As pointed out by the OSG in its memorandum, the grounds invoked for petitioners dismissal, namely: misappropriation of denominational funds, willful breach of trust, serious misconduct, gross and habitual neglect of duties and commission of an offense against the person of his employers duly authorize representative, are all based on Article 282 of the Labor Code which enumerates the just causes for termination of employment.[22] By this alone, it is palpable that the reason for petitioners dismissal from the service is not religious in nature. Coupled with this is the act of the SDA in furnishing NLRC with a copy of petitioners letter of termination. As aptly stated by the OSG, this again is an eloquent admission by private respondents that NLRC has jurisdiction over the case. Aside from these, SDA admitted in a certification[23] issued by its officer, Mr. Ibesate, that petitioner has been its employee for twenty-eight (28) years.

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SDA even registered petitioner with the Social Security System (SSS) as its employee. As a matter of fact, the workers records of petitioner have been submitted by private respondents as part of their exhibits. From all of these it is clear that when the SDA terminated the services of petitioner, it was merely exercising its management prerogative to fire an employee which it believes to be unfit for the job. As such, the State, through the Labor Arbiter and the NLRC, has the right to take cognizance of the case and to determine whether the SDA, as employer, rightfully exercised its management prerogative to dismiss an employee. This is in consonance with the mandate of the Constitution to afford full protection to labor. Under the Labor Code, the provision which governs the dismissal of employees, is comprehensive enough to include religious corporations, such as the SDA, in its coverage. Article 278 of the Labor Code on post-employment states that the provisions of this Title shall apply to all establishments or undertakings, whether for profit or not. Obviously, the cited article does not make any exception in favor of a religious corporation. This is made more evident by the fact that the Rules Implementing the Labor Code, particularly, Section 1, Rule 1, Book VI on the Termination of Employment and Retirement, categorically includes religious institutions in the coverage of the law, to wit: Section 1. Coverage. This Rule shall apply to all establishments and undertakings, whether operated for profit or not, including educational, medical, charitable and religious institutions and organizations, in cases of regular employment with the exception of the Government and its political subdivisions including government-owned or controlled corporations.[24] With this clear mandate, the SDA cannot hide behind the mantle of protection of the doctrine of separation of church and state to avoid its responsibilities as an employer under the Labor Code. Finally, as correctly pointed out by petitioner, private respondents are estopped from raising the issue of lack of

jurisdiction for the first time on appeal. It is already too late in the day for private respondents to question the jurisdiction of the NLRC and the Labor Arbiter since the SDA had fully participated in the trials and hearings of the case from start to finish. The Court has already ruled that the active participation of a party against whom the action was brought, coupled with his failure to object to the jurisdiction of the court or quasi-judicial body where the action is pending, is tantamount to an invocation of that jurisdiction and a willingness to abide by the resolution of the case and will bar said party from later on impugning the court or bodys jurisdiction.[25] Thus, the active participation of private respondents in the proceedings before the Labor Arbiter and the NLRC mooted the question on jurisdiction. The jurisdictional question now settled, we shall now proceed to determine whether the dismissal of petitioner was valid. At the outset, we note that as a general rule, findings of fact of administrative bodies like the NLRC are binding upon this Court. A review of such findings is justified, however, in instances when the findings of the NLRC differ from those of the labor arbiter, as in this case.[26] When the findings of NLRC do not agree with those of the Labor Arbiter, this Court must of necessity review the records to determine which findings should be preferred as more comformable to the evidentiary facts.[27] We turn now to the crux of the matter. In termination cases, the settled rule is that the burden of proving that the termination was for a valid or authorized cause rests on the employer.[28] Thus, private respondents must not merely rely on the weaknesses of petitioners evidence but must stand on the merits of their own defense. The issue being the legality of petitioners dismissal, the same must be measured against the requisites for a valid dismissal, namely: (a) the employee must be afforded due process, i.e., he must be given an opportunity to be heard and to defend himself, and; (b) the dismissal must be for a valid cause as provided in Article 282 of the Labor Code.[29] Without the

concurrence of this twin requirements, the termination would, in the eyes of the law, be illegal.[30] Before the services of an employee can be validly terminated, Article 277 (b) of the Labor Code and Section 2, Rule XXIII, Book V of the Rules Implementing the Labor Code further require the employer to furnish the employee with two (2) written notices, to wit: (a) a written notice served on the employee specifying the ground or grounds for termination, and giving to said employee reasonable opportunity within which to explain his side; and, (b) a written notice of termination served on the employee indicating that upon due consideration of all the circumstances, grounds have been established to justify his termination. The first notice, which may be considered as the proper charge, serves to apprise the employee of the particular acts or omissions for which his dismissal is sought.[31] The second notice on the other hand seeks to inform the employee of the employers decision to dismiss him.*32+ This decision, however, must come only after the employee is given a reasonable period from receipt of the first notice within which to answer the charge and ample opportunity to be heard and defend himself with the assistance of a representative, if he so desires.[33] This is in consonance with the express provision of the law on the protection to labor and the broader dictates of procedural due process.[34] Noncompliance therewith is fatal because these requirements are conditions sine quo non before dismissal may be validly effected.[35] Private respondent failed to substantially comply with the above requirements. With regard to the first notice, the letter,[36] dated 17 October 1991, which notified petitioner and his wife to attend the meeting on 21 October 1991, cannot be construed as the written charge required by law. A perusal of the said letter reveals that it never categorically stated the particular acts or omissions on which petitioners impending termination was grounded. In fact, the letter never even mentioned that petitioner would be subject to investigation. The letter merely mentioned that petitioner and his wife were invited to a meeting wherein what would

25

be discussed were the alleged unremitted church tithes and the events that transpired on 16 October 1991. Thus, petitioner was surprised to find out that the alleged meeting turned out to be an investigation. From the tenor of the letter, it cannot be presumed that petitioner was actually on the verge of dismissal. The alleged grounds for the dismissal of petitioner from the service were only revealed to him when the actual letter of dismissal was finally issued. For this reason, it cannot be said that petitioner was given enough opportunity to properly prepare for his defense. While admittedly, private respondents complied with the second requirement, the notice of termination, this does not cure the initial defect of lack of the proper written charge required by law. In the letter of termination,[37] dated 29 October 1991, private respondents enumerated the following as grounds for the dismissal of petitioner, namely: misappropriation of denominational funds, willful breach of trust, serious misconduct, gross and habitual neglect of duties, and commission of an offense against the person of employers duly authorized representative. Breach of trust and misappropriation of denominational funds refer to the alleged failure of petitioner to remit to the treasurer of the Negros Mission tithes, collections and offerings amounting to P15,078.10 which were collected by his wife, Mrs. Thelma Austria, in the churches under his jurisdiction. On the other hand, serious misconduct and commission of an offense against the person of the employers duly authorized representative pertain to the 16 October 1991 incident wherein petitioner allegedly committed an act of violence in the office of Pastor Gideon Buhat. The final ground invoked by private respondents is gross and habitual neglect of duties allegedly committed by petitioner. We cannot sustain the validity of dismissal based on the ground of breach of trust. Private respondents allege that they have lost their confidence in petitioner for his failure, despite demands, to remit the tithes and offerings amounting to P15,078.10, which were collected in his district. A careful study of the voluminous records of the case reveals that there is simply no basis for the alleged loss of confidence and

breach of trust. Settled is the rule that under Article 282 (c) of the Labor Code, the breach of trust must be willful. A breach is willful if it is done intentionally, knowingly and purposely, without justifiable excuse, as distinguished from an act done carelessly, thoughtlessly, heedlessly or inadvertently.[38] It must rest on substantial grounds and not on the employers arbitrariness, whims, caprices or suspicion; otherwise, the employee would eternally remain at the mercy of the employer.[39] It should be genuine and not simulated.[40] This ground has never been intended to afford an occasion for abuse, because of its subjective nature. The records show that there were only six (6) instances when petitioner personally collected and received from the church treasurers the tithes, collections, and donations for the church.[41] The stenographic notes on the testimony of Naomi Geniebla, the Negros Mission Church Auditor and a witness for private respondents, show that Pastor Austria was able to remit all his collections to the treasurer of the Negros Mission.[42] Though private respondents were able to establish that petitioner collected and received tithes and donations several times, they were not able to establish that petitioner failed to remit the same to the Negros Mission, and that he pocketed the amount and used it for his personal purpose. In fact, as admitted by their own witness, Naomi Geniebla, petitioner remitted the amounts which he collected to the Negros Mission for which corresponding receipts were issued to him. Thus, the allegations of private respondents that petitioner breached their trust have no leg to stand on. In a vain attempt to support their claim of breach of trust, private respondents try to pin on petitioner the alleged nonremittance of the tithes collected by his wife. This argument deserves little consideration. First of all, as proven by convincing and substantial evidence consisting of the testimonies of the witnesses for private respondents who are church treasurers, it was Mrs. Thelma Austria who actually collected the tithes and donations from them, and, who failed to remit the same to the treasurer of the Negros Mission. The testimony of these church treasurers were corroborated and confirmed by Ms. Geniebla and Mr. Ibesate, officers of

the SDA. Hence, in the absence of conspiracy and collusion, which private respondents failed to demonstrate, between petitioner and his wife, petitioner cannot be made accountable for the alleged infraction committed by his wife. After all, they still have separate and distinct personalities. For this reason, the Labor Arbiter found it difficult to see the basis for the alleged loss of confidence and breach of trust. The Court does not find any cogent reason, therefore, to digress from the findings of the Labor Arbiter which is fully supported by the evidence on record. With respect to the grounds of serious misconduct and commission of an offense against the person of the employers duly authorized representative, we find the same unmeritorious and, as such, do not warrant petitioners dismissal from the service. Misconduct has been defined as improper or wrong conduct. It is the transgression of some established and definite rule of action, a forbidden act, a dereliction of duty, willful in character, and implies wrongful intent and not mere error in judgment.[43] For misconduct to be considered serious it must be of such grave and aggravated character and not merely trivial or unimportant.[44] Based on this standard, we believe that the act of petitioner in banging the attache case on the table, throwing the telephone and scattering the books in the office of Pastor Buhat, although improper, cannot be considered as grave enough to be considered as serious misconduct. After all, as correctly observed by the Labor Arbiter, though petitioner committed damage to property, he did not physically assault Pastor Buhat or any other pastor present during the incident of 16 October 1991. In fact, the alleged offense committed upon the person of the employers representatives was never really established or proven by private respondents. Hence, there is no basis for the allegation that petitioners act constituted serious misconduct or that the same was an offense against the person of the employers duly authorized representative. As such, the cited actuation of petitioner does not justify the ultimate penalty of dismissal from employment. While the Constitution does not condone wrongdoing by the employee, it nevertheless urges a moderation of the sanctions that may

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be applied to him in light of the many disadvantages that weigh heavily on him like an albatross on his neck.[45] Where a penalty less punitive would suffice, whatever missteps may have been committed by the worker ought not be visited with a consequence so severe such as dismissal from employment.[46] For the foregoing reasons, we believe that the minor infraction committed by petitioner does not merit the ultimate penalty of dismissal. The final ground alleged by private respondents in terminating petitioner, gross and habitual neglect of duties, does not requires an exhaustive discussion. Suffice it to say that all private respondents had were allegations but not proof. Aside from merely citing the said ground, private respondents failed to prove culpability on the part of petitioner. In fact, the evidence on record shows otherwise. Petitioners rise from the ranks disclose that he was actually a hard-worker. Private respondents evidence,*47+ which consisted of petitioners Workers Reports, revealed how petitioner travelled to different churches to attend to the faithful under his care. Indeed, he labored hard for the SDA, but, in return, he was rewarded with a dismissal from the service for a non-existent cause. In view of the foregoing, we sustain the finding of the Labor Arbiter that petitioner was terminated from service without just or lawful cause. Having been illegally dismissed, petitioner is entitled to reinstatement to his former position without loss of seniority right[48] and the payment of full backwages without any deduction corresponding to the period from his illegal dismissal up to actual reinstatement.[49] WHEREFORE, the petition for certiorari is GRANTED. The challenged Resolution of public respondent National Labor Relations Commission, rendered on 23 January 1996, is NULLIFIED and SET ASIDE. The Decision of the Labor Arbiter, dated 15 February 1993, is reinstated and hereby AFFIRMED. ISLAMIC DA'WAH COUNCIL OF THE PHILIPPINES, INC (IDCP) vs. Office of the Executive Secretary, et al (2003)

FACTS: Petitioner IDCP, a corporation that operates under DSWD, is a non-governmental organization that extends voluntary services to the Filipino people, especially to Muslim communities. Among the functions petitioner carries out is to conduct seminars, orient manufacturers on halal food and issue halal certifications to qualified products and manufacturers. On October 26, 2001, respondent Office of the Executive Secretary issued EO 46 5 creating the Philippine Halal Certification Scheme and designating respondent Office on Muslim Affairs (OMA) to oversee its implementation. Under the EO, respondent OMA has the exclusive authority to issue halal certificates and perform other related regulatory activities. Petitioner contends that the subject EO violates the constitutional provision on the separation of Church and State and that it is unconstitutional for the government to formulate policies and guidelines on the halal certification scheme because said scheme is a function only religious organizations, entity or scholars can lawfully and validly perform for the Muslims. ISSUE: Whether the EO is violates the constitutional provision as to freedom of religion RULING: The Court grants the petition. OMA deals with the societal, legal, political and economic concerns of the Muslim community as a "national cultural community" and not as a religious group. Thus, bearing in mind the constitutional barrier between the Church and State, the latter must make sure that OMA does not intrude into purely religious matters lest it violate the non-establishment clause and the "free exercise of religion" provision found in Article III, Section 5 of the 1987 Constitution. Freedom of religion was accorded preferred status by the framers of our fundamental law. And this Court has consistently affirmed this preferred status, well aware that it is "designed to protect the broadest possible liberty of conscience, to allow each man to believe as his conscience directs, to profess his beliefs, and to live as he believes he ought to live, consistent with the liberty of others and with the common good." Without doubt, classifying a food product as halal is a religious function because the standards used are drawn from the Qur'an and Islamic beliefs. By giving OMA the exclusive power to classify food

products as halal, EO 46 encroached on the religious freedom of Muslim organizations like herein petitioner to interpret for Filipino Muslims what food products are fit for Muslim consumption. Also, by arrogating to itself the task of issuing halal certifications, the State has in effect forced Muslims to accept its own interpretation of the Qur'an and Sunnah on halal food. Only the prevention of an immediate and grave danger to the security and welfare of the community can justify the infringement of religious freedom. If the government fails to show the seriousness and immediacy of the threat, State intrusion is constitutionally unacceptable. In a society with a democratic framework like ours, the State must minimize its interference with the affairs of its citizens and instead allow them to exercise reasonable freedom of personal and religious activity. There is no compelling justification for the government to deprive Muslim organizations, like herein petitioner, of their religious right to classify a product as halal, even on the premise that the health of Muslim Filipinos can be effectively protected by assigning to OMA the exclusive power to issue halal certifications. The protection and promotion of the Muslim Filipinos' right to health are already provided for in existing laws and ministered to by government agencies charged with ensuring that food products released in the market are fit for human consumption, properly labeled and safe. Unlike EO 46, these laws do not encroach on the religious freedom of Muslims. With these regulatory bodies given detailed functions on how to screen and check the quality and safety of food products, the perceived danger against the health of Muslim and non-Muslim Filipinos alike is totally avoided. The halal certifications issued by petitioner and similar organizations come forward as the official religious approval of a food product fit for Muslim consumption. The petition is GRANTED. Executive Order 46, s. 2000, is hereby declared NULL AND VOID. [G.R. No. 153888. July 9, 2003] ISLAMIC DAWAH COUNCIL OF THE PHILIPPINES, INC., herein represented by PROF. ABDULRAFIH H. SAYEDY, petitioner, vs. OFFICE OF THE EXECUTIVE SECRETARY of the Office of the President of the Philippines, herein represented by

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HON. ALBERTO G. ROMULO, Executive Secretary, and the OFFICE ON MUSLIM AFFAIRS, herein represented by its Executive Director, HABIB MUJAHAB HASHIM, respondents. DECISION CORONA, J.: Before us is a petition for prohibition filed by petitioner Islamic Dawah Council of the Philippines, Inc. (IDCP) praying for the declaration of nullity of Executive Order (EO) 46, s. 2001 and the prohibition of herein respondents Office of the Executive Secretary and Office of Muslim Affairs (OMA) from implementing the subject EO. Petitioner IDCP, a corporation that operates under Department of Social Welfare and Development License No. SB-01-085, is a non-governmental organization that extends voluntary services to the Filipino people, especially to Muslim communities. It claims to be a federation of national Islamic organizations and an active member of international organizations such as the Regional Islamic Dawah Council of Southeast Asia and the Pacific (RISEAP)[1] and The World Assembly of Muslim Youth. The RISEAP accredited petitioner to issue halal[2] certifications in the Philippines. Thus, among the functions petitioner carries out is to conduct seminars, orient manufacturers on halal food and issue halal certifications to qualified products and manufacturers. Petitioner alleges that, on account of the actual need to certify food products as halal and also due to halal food producers request, petitioner formulated in 1995 internal rules and procedures based on the Quran*3+ and the Sunnah[4] for the analysis of food, inspection thereof and issuance of halal certifications. In that same year, petitioner began to issue, for a fee, certifications to qualified products and food manufacturers. Petitioner even adopted for use on its halal certificates a distinct sign or logo registered in the Philippine Patent Office under Patent No. 4-2000-03664. On October 26, 2001, respondent Office of the Executive Secretary issued EO 46[5] creating the Philippine Halal

Certification Scheme and designating respondent OMA to oversee its implementation. Under the EO, respondent OMA has the exclusive authority to issue halal certificates and perform other related regulatory activities. On May 8, 2002, a news article entitled OMA Warns NGOs Issuing Illegal Halal Certification was published in the Manila Bulletin, a newspaper of general circulation. In said article, OMA warned Muslim consumers to buy only products with its official halal certification since those without said certification had not been subjected to careful analysis and therefore could contain pork or its derivatives. Respondent OMA also sent letters to food manufacturers asking them to secure the halal certification only from OMA lest they violate EO 46 and RA 4109.[6] As a result, petitioner lost revenues after food manufacturers stopped securing certifications from it. Hence, this petition for prohibition. Petitioner contends that the subject EO violates the constitutional provision on the separation of Church and State.[7] It is unconstitutional for the government to formulate policies and guidelines on the halal certification scheme because said scheme is a function only religious organizations, entity or scholars can lawfully and validly perform for the Muslims. According to petitioner, a food product becomes halal only after the performance of Islamic religious ritual and prayer. Thus, only practicing Muslims are qualified to slaughter animals for food. A government agency like herein respondent OMA cannot therefore perform a religious function like certifying qualified food products as halal. Petitioner also maintains that the respondents violated Section 10, Article III of the 1987 Constitution which provides that (n)o law impairing the obligation of contracts, shall be passed. After the subject EO was implemented, food manufacturers with existing contracts with petitioner ceased to obtain certifications from the latter.

Moreover, petitioner argues that the subject EO violates Sections 15 and 16 of Article XIII of the 1987 Constitution which respectively provide: ROLE AND RIGHTS OF PEOPLES ORGANIZATIONS Sec. 15. The State shall respect the role of independent peoples organizations to enable the people to pursue and protect, within the democratic framework, their legitimate and collective interests and aspirations through peaceful and lawful means. Peoples organizations are bona fide associations of citizens with demonstrated capacity to promote the public interest and with identifiable leadership, membership, and structure. Sec. 16. The rights of the people and their organizations to effective and reasonable participation at all levels of social, political, and economic decision-making shall not be abridged. The State shall, by law, facilitate, the establishment of adequate consultation mechanisms. According to petitioner, the subject EO was issued with utter haste and without even consulting Muslim peoples organizations like petitioner before it became effective. We grant the petition. OMA was created in 1981 through Executive Order No. 697 (EO 697) to ensure the integration of Muslim Filipinos into the mainstream of Filipino society with due regard to their beliefs, customs, traditions, and institutions.*8+ OMA deals with the societal, legal, political and economic concerns of the Muslim community as a national cultural community and not as a religious group. Thus, bearing in mind the constitutional barrier between the Church and State, the latter must make sure that OMA does not intrude into purely religious matters lest it violate the non-establishment clause and the free exercise of religion provision found in Article III, Section 5 of the 1987 Constitution.[9]

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Freedom of religion was accorded preferred status by the framers of our fundamental law. And this Court has consistently affirmed this preferred status, well aware that it is "designed to protect the broadest possible liberty of conscience, to allow each man to believe as his conscience directs, to profess his beliefs, and to live as he believes he ought to live, consistent with the liberty of others and with the common good.*10+ Without doubt, classifying a food product as halal is a religious function because the standards used are drawn from the Quran and Islamic beliefs. By giving OMA the exclusive power to classify food products as halal, EO 46 encroached on the religious freedom of Muslim organizations like herein petitioner to interpret for Filipino Muslims what food products are fit for Muslim consumption. Also, by arrogating to itself the task of issuing halal certifications, the State has in effect forced Muslims to accept its own interpretation of the Quran and Sunnah on halal food. To justify EO 46s intrusion into the subject religious activity, the Solicitor General argues that the freedom of religion is subservient to the police power of the State. By delegating to OMA the authority to issue halal certifications, the government allegedly seeks to protect and promote the muslim Filipinos right to health, and to instill health consciousness in them. We disagree. Only the prevention of an immediate and grave danger to the security and welfare of the community can justify the infringement of religious freedom.[11] If the government fails to show the seriousness and immediacy of the threat, State intrusion is constitutionally unacceptable. In a society with a democratic framework like ours, the State must minimize its interference with the affairs of its citizens and instead allow them to exercise reasonable freedom of personal and religious activity. In the case at bar, we find no compelling justification for the government to deprive Muslim organizations, like herein

petitioner, of their religious right to classify a product as halal, even on the premise that the health of Muslim Filipinos can be effectively protected by assigning to OMA the exclusive power to issue halal certifications. The protection and promotion of the Muslim Filipinos right to health are already provided for in existing laws and ministered to by government agencies charged with ensuring that food products released in the market are fit for human consumption, properly labeled and safe. Unlike EO 46, these laws do not encroach on the religious freedom of Muslims. Section 48(4) of the Administrative Code of 1987 gives to the National Meat Inspection Commission (NMIC) of the Department of Agriculture (DOA) the power to inspect slaughtered animals intended for human consumption to ensure the safety of the meat released in the market. Another law, RA 7394, otherwise known as The Consumer Act of 1992, gives to certain government departments the duty to protect the interests of the consumer, promote his general welfare and to establish standards of conduct for business and industry.[12] To this end, a food product, before its distribution to the market, is required to secure the Philippine Standard Certification Mark after the concerned department inspects and certifies its compliance with quality and safety standards.[13] One such government agency designated by RA 7394 is the Bureau of Food and Drugs (BFD) of the Department of Health (DOH). Under Article 22 of said law, BFD has the duty to promulgate and enforce rules and regulations fixing and establishing a reasonable definition and standard of identity, a standard of quality and a standard of fill of containers for food. The BFD also ensures that food products released in the market are not adulterated.[14] Furthermore, under Article 48 of RA 7394, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) is tasked to protect the consumer against deceptive, unfair and unconscionable sales acts or practices as defined in Article 50.[15] DTI also enforces compulsory labeling and fair packaging to enable the consumer to obtain accurate information as to the nature, quality and quantity of the contents of consumer products

and to facilitate his comparison of the value of such products.[16] With these regulatory bodies given detailed functions on how to screen and check the quality and safety of food products, the perceived danger against the health of Muslim and nonMuslim Filipinos alike is totally avoided. Of great help are the provisions on labeling of food products (Articles 74 to 85)[17] of RA 7394. In fact, through these labeling provisions, the State ably informs the consuming public of the contents of food products released in the market. Stiff sanctions are imposed on violators of said labeling requirements. Through the laws on food safety and quality, therefore, the State indirectly aids Muslim consumers in differentiating food from non-food products. The NMIC guarantees that the meat sold in the market has been thoroughly inspected and fit for consumption. Meanwhile, BFD ensures that food products are properly categorized and have passed safety and quality standards. Then, through the labeling provisions enforced by the DTI, Muslim consumers are adequately apprised of the products that contain substances or ingredients that, according to their Islamic beliefs, are not fit for human intake. These are the non-secular steps put in place by the State to ensure that the Muslim consumers right to health is protected. The halal certifications issued by petitioner and similar organizations come forward as the official religious approval of a food product fit for Muslim consumption. We do not share respondents apprehension that the absence of a central administrative body to regulate halal certifications might give rise to schemers who, for profit, will issue certifications for products that are not actually halal. Aside from the fact that Muslim consumers can actually verify through the labels whether a product contains non-food substances, we believe that they are discerning enough to know who the reliable and competent certifying organizations in their community are. Before purchasing a product, they can easily avert this perceived evil by a diligent inquiry on the reliability of the concerned certifying organization.

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WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED. Executive Order 46, s. 2001, is hereby declared NULL AND VOID. Consequently, respondents are prohibited from enforcing the same. Velarde vs. Social Justice Society , GR 159357, April 28, 2004 The Petition prayed for the resolution of the question "whether or not the act of a religious leader like any of herein respondents, in endorsing the candidacy of a candidate for elective office or in urging or requiring the members of his flock to vote for a specified candidate, is violative of the letter or spirit of the constitutional provisions .They alleged that the questioned Decision did not contain a statement of facts and a dispositive portion. ISSUE: What is the standard form of a Decision? Did the challenge Decision comply with the aforesaid form? RULING: The decision shall be in writing, personally and directly prepared by the judge, stating clearly and distinctly the facts and the law on which it is based, signed by the issuing magistrate, and filed with the clerk of court. In general, the essential parts of a good decision consist of the following: (1) statement of the case; (2) statement of facts; (3) issues or assignment of errors; (4) court ruling, in which each issue is, as a rule, separately considered and resolved; and, finally, (5) dispositive portion. The ponente may also opt to include an introduction or a prologue as well as an epilogue, especially in cases in which controversial or novel issues are involved. No. Counsel for SJS has utterly failed to convince the Court that there are enough factual and legal bases to resolve the paramount issue. On the other hand, the Office of the Solicitor General has sided with petitioner insofar as there are no facts supporting the SJS Petition and the assailed Decision. The Petition failed to state directly the ultimate facts that it relied upon for its claim. During the Oral Argument, counsel for SJS candidly admitted that there were no factual allegations in its Petition for Declaratory Relief. Neither were there factual findings in the assailed Decision. At best, SJS merely asked the trial court to answer a hypothetical question. In effect, it merely sought an advisory opinion, the

rendition of which was beyond the courts constitutional mandate and jurisdiction. Indeed, the assailed Decision was rendered in clear violation of the Constitution, because it made no findings of facts and final disposition. [G.R. No. 159357. April 28, 2004] Brother MARIANO MIKE Z. VELARDE, petitioner, vs. SOCIAL JUSTICE SOCIETY, respondent. A decision that does not conform to the form and substance required by the Constitution and the law is void and deemed legally inexistent. To be valid, decisions should comply with the form, the procedure and the substantive requirements laid out in the Constitution, the Rules of Court and relevant circulars/orders of the Supreme Court. For the guidance of the bench and the bar, the Court hereby discusses these forms, procedures and requirements. The Case Before us is a Petition for Review[1] under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court, assailing the June 12, 2003 Decision[2] and July 29, 2003 Order[3] of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Manila (Branch 49).[4] The challenged Decision was the offshoot of a Petition for Declaratory Relief[5] filed before the RTC-Manila by herein Respondent Social Justice Society (SJS) against herein Petitioner Mariano Mike Z. Velarde, together with His Eminence, Jaime Cardinal Sin, Executive Minister Erao Manalo, Brother Eddie Villanueva and Brother Eliseo F. Soriano as co-respondents. The Petition prayed for the resolution of the question whether or not the act of a religious leader like any of herein respondents, in endorsing the candidacy of a candidate for elective office or in urging or requiring the members of his flock to vote for a specified candidate, is violative of the letter or spirit of the constitutional provisions x x x.*6+

Alleging that the questioned Decision did not contain a statement of facts and a dispositive portion, herein petitioner filed a Clarificatory Motion and Motion for Reconsideration before the trial court. Soriano, his co-respondent, similarly filed a separate Motion for Reconsideration. In response, the trial court issued the assailed Order, which held as follows: x x x *T+his Court cannot reconsider, because what it was asked to do, was only to clarify a Constitutional provision and to declare whether acts are violative thereof. The Decision did not make a dispositive portion because a dispositive portion is required only in coercive reliefs, where a redress from wrong suffered and the benefit that the prevailing party wronged should get. The step that these movants have to take, is direct appeal under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court, for a conclusive interpretation of the Constitutional provision to the Supreme Court.*7+ The Antecedent Proceedings On January 28, 2003, SJS filed a Petition for Declaratory Relief (SJS Petition) before the RTC-Manila against Velarde and his aforesaid co-respondents. SJS, a registered political party, sought the interpretation of several constitutional provisions,[8] specifically on the separation of church and state; and a declaratory judgment on the constitutionality of the acts of religious leaders endorsing a candidate for an elective office, or urging or requiring the members of their flock to vote for a specified candidate. The subsequent proceedings were recounted in the challenged Decision in these words: x x x. Bro. Eddie Villanueva submitted, within the original period [to file an Answer], a Motion to Dismiss. Subsequently, Executive Minister Erao Manalo and Bro. Mike Velarde, filed their Motions to Dismiss. While His Eminence Jaime Cardinal L. Sin, filed a Comment and Bro. Eli Soriano, filed an Answer within the extended period and similarly prayed for the dismissal of the Petition. All sought the dismissal of the Petition on the common grounds that it does not state a cause of action and that there is no justiciable controversy.

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They were ordered to submit a pleading by way of advisement, which was closely followed by another Order denying all the Motions to Dismiss. Bro. Mike Velarde, Bro. Eddie Villanueva and Executive Minister Erao Manalo moved to reconsider the denial. His Eminence Jaime Cardinal L. Sin, asked for extension to file memorandum. Only Bro. Eli Soriano complied with the first Order by submitting his Memorandum. x x x. x x x the Court denied the Motions to Dismiss, and the Motions for Reconsideration filed by Bro. Mike Velarde, Bro. Eddie Villanueva and Executive Minister Erao Manalo, which raised no new arguments other than those already considered in the motions to dismiss x x x.*9+ After narrating the above incidents, the trial court said that it had jurisdiction over the Petition, because in praying for a determination as to whether the actions imputed to the respondents are violative of Article II, Section 6 of the Fundamental Law, [the Petition] has raised only a question of law.*10+ It then proceeded to a lengthy discussion of the issue raised in the Petition the separation of church and state even tracing, to some extent, the historical background of the principle. Through its discourse, the court a quo opined at some point that the *e+ndorsement of specific candidates in an election to any public office is a clear violation of the separation clause.*11+ After its essay on the legal issue, however, the trial court failed to include a dispositive portion in its assailed Decision. Thus, Velarde and Soriano filed separate Motions for Reconsideration which, as mentioned earlier, were denied by the lower court. Hence, this Petition for Review.[12] This Court, in a Resolution[13] dated September 2, 2003, required SJS and the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) to submit their respective comments. In the same Resolution, the Court gave the other parties -- impleaded as respondents in the original case below --the opportunity to comment, if they so desired.

On April 13, 2004, the Court en banc conducted an Oral Argument.[14] Second Substantive Issue: Religious Leaders Endorsement of Candidates for Public Office The basic question posed in the SJS Petition -- WHETHER ENDORSEMENTS OF CANDIDACIES BY RELIGIOUS LEADERS IS UNCONSTITUTIONAL -- undoubtedly deserves serious consideration. As stated earlier, the Court deems this constitutional issue to be of paramount interest to the Filipino citizenry, for it concerns the governance of our country and its people. Thus, despite the obvious procedural transgressions by both SJS and the trial court, this Court still called for Oral Argument, so as not to leave any doubt that there might be room to entertain and dispose of the SJS Petition on the merits. Counsel for SJS has utterly failed, however, to convince the Court that there are enough factual and legal bases to resolve the paramount issue. On the other hand, the Office of the Solicitor General has sided with petitioner insofar as there are no facts supporting the SJS Petition and the assailed Decision. We reiterate that the said Petition failed to state directly the ultimate facts that it relied upon for its claim. During the Oral Argument, counsel for SJS candidly admitted that there were no factual allegations in its Petition for Declaratory Relief. Neither were there factual findings in the assailed Decision. At best, SJS merely asked the trial court to answer a hypothetical question. In effect, it merely sought an advisory opinion, the rendition of which was beyond the courts constitutional mandate and jurisdiction.[99] Indeed, the assailed Decision was rendered in clear violation of the Constitution, because it made no findings of facts and final disposition. Hence, it is void and deemed legally

inexistent. Consequently, there is nothing for this Court to review, affirm, reverse or even just modify. Regrettably, it is not legally possible for the Court to take up, on the merits, the paramount question involving a constitutional principle. It is a time-honored rule that the constitutionality of a statute [or act] will be passed upon only if, and to the extent that, it is directly and necessarily involved in a justiciable controversy and is essential to the protection of the rights of the parties concerned.*100+ WHEREFORE, the Petition for Review of Brother Mike Velarde is GRANTED. The assailed June 12, 2003 Decision and July 29, 2003 Order of the Regional Trial Court of Manila (Branch 49) are hereby DECLARED NULL AND VOID and thus SET ASIDE. The SJS Petition for Declaratory Relief is DISMISSED for failure to state a cause of action. Let a copy of this Decision be furnished the Office of the Court Administrator to evaluate and recommend whether the trial judge may, after observing due process, be held administratively liable for rendering a decision violative of the Constitution, the Rules of Court and relevant circulars of this Court. No costs. Taruc vs. Bishop Dela Cruz Facts: Petitioners were lay members of the Philippine Independent Church (PIC). On June 28, 1993, Bishop de la Cruz declared petitioners expelled/excommunicated from the Philippine Independent Church. Because of the order of expulsion/excommunication, petitioners filed a complaint for damages with preliminary injunction against Bishop de la Cruz before the Regional Trial Court.They contended that their expulsion was illegal because it was done without trial thus violating their right to due process of law. Issue: What is the role of the State, through the Courts, on matters of religious intramurals? Held: The expulsion/excommunication of members of a religious institution/organization is a matter best left to the

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discretion of the officials, and the laws and canons, of said institution/organization. It is not for the courts to exercise control over church authorities in the performance of their discretionary and official functions. Rather, it is for the members of religious institutions/organizations to conform to just church regulations. Civil Courts will not interfere in the internal affairs of a religious organization except for the protection of civil or property rights. Those rights may be the subject of litigation in a civil court, and the courts have jurisdiction to determine controverted claims to the title, use, or possession of church property. Obviously, there was no violation of a civil right in the present case. [G.R. No. 144801. March 10, 2005] DOMINADOR L. TARUC, WILBERTO DACERA, NICANOR GALANIDA, RENERIO CANTA, JERRY CANTA, CORDENCIO CONSIGNA, SUSANO ALCALA, LEONARDO DIZON, SALVADOR GELSANO and BENITO LAUGO, petitioners, vs. BISHOP PORFIRIO B. DE LA CRUZ, REV. FR. RUSTOM FLORANO and DELFIN BORDAS, respondents. This is an appeal under Rule 45 of the Revised Rules of Court of the decision of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 45480 which reversed and set aside the decision of the Regional Trial Court of Surigao City, Branch 32 in Civil Case No. 4907 and ordered said case dismissed for lack of jurisdiction. The antecedents show that petitioners were lay members of the Philippine Independent Church (PIC) in Socorro, Surigao del Norte. Respondents Porfirio de la Cruz and Rustom Florano were the bishop and parish priest, respectively, of the same church in that locality. Petitioners, led by Dominador Taruc, clamored for the transfer of Fr. Florano to another parish but Bishop de la Cruz denied their request. It appears from the records that the family of Fr. Floranos wife belonged to a political party opposed to petitioner Tarucs,

thus the animosity between the two factions with Fr. Florano being identified with his wifes political camp. Bishop de la Cruz, however, found this too flimsy a reason for transferring Fr. Florano to another parish. Meanwhile, hostility among the members of the PIC in Socorro, Surigao del Norte worsened when petitioner Taruc tried to organize an open mass to be celebrated by a certain Fr. Renato Z. Ambong during the town fiesta of Socorro. When Taruc informed Bishop de la Cruz of his plan, the Bishop tried to dissuade him from pushing through with it because Fr. Ambong was not a member of the clergy of the diocese of Surigao and his credentials as a parish priest were in doubt. The Bishop also appealed to petitioner Taruc to refrain from committing acts inimical and prejudicial to the best interests of the PIC. He likewise advised petitioners to air their complaints before the higher authorities of PIC if they believed they had valid grievances against him, the parish priest, the laws and canons of the PIC. Bishop de la Cruz, however, failed to stop Taruc from carrying out his plans. On June 19, 1993, at around 3:00 p.m., Taruc and his sympathizers proceeded to hold the open mass with Fr. Ambong as the celebrant. On June 28, 1993, Bishop de la Cruz declared petitioners expelled/excommunicated from the Philippine Independent Church for reasons of: (1) disobedience to duly constituted authority in the Church; (2) inciting dissension, resulting in division in the Parish of Our Mother of Perpetual Help, Iglesia Filipina Independiente, Socorro, Surigao del Norte when they celebrated an open Mass at the Plaza on June 19, 1996; and (3) for threatening to forcibly occupy the Parish Church causing anxiety and fear among the general membership.[1] Petitioners appealed to the Obispo Maximo and sought reconsideration of the above decision. In his letter to Bishop

de la Cruz, the Obispo Maximo opined that Fr. Florano should step down voluntarily to avert the hostility and enmity among the members of the PIC parish in Socorro but stated that: I do not intervene in your diocesan decision in asking Fr. Florano to vacate Socorro parish.*2+ In the meantime, Bishop de la Cruz was reassigned to the diocese of Odmoczan and was replaced by Bishop Rhee M. Timbang. Like his predecessor, Bishop Timbang did not find a valid reason for transferring Fr. Florano to another parish. He issued a circular denying petitioners persistent clamor for the transfer/re-assignment of Fr. Florano. Petitioners were informed of such denial but they continued to celebrate mass and hold other religious activities through Fr. Ambong who had been restrained from performing any priestly functions in the PIC parish of Socorro, Surigao del Norte. Because of the order of expulsion/excommunication, petitioners filed a complaint for damages with preliminary injunction against Bishop de la Cruz before the Regional Trial Court of Surigao City, Branch 32. They impleaded Fr. Florano and one Delfin T. Bordas on the theory that they conspired with the Bishop to have petitioners expelled and excommunicated from the PIC. They contended that their expulsion was illegal because it was done without trial thus violating their right to due process of law. Respondents filed a motion to dismiss the case before the lower court on the ground of lack of jurisdiction but it was denied. Their motion for reconsideration was likewise denied so they elevated the case to the Court of Appeals. The appellate court reversed and set aside the decision of the court a quo and ordered the dismissal of the case without prejudice to its being refiled before the proper forum. It held: We find it unnecessary to deal on the validity of the excommunication/expulsion of the private respondents (Taruc, et al.), said acts being purely ecclesiastical matters which this Court considers to be outside the province of the civil courts.

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Civil Courts will not interfere in the internal affairs of a religious organization except for the protection of civil or property rights. Those rights may be the subject of litigation in a civil court, and the courts have jurisdiction to determine controverted claims to the title, use, or possession of church property. (Ibid., p.466) Obviously, there was no violation of a civil right in the present case. Ergo, this Court is of the opinion and so holds that the instant case does not involve a violation and/or protection of a civil or property rights in order for the court a quo to acquire jurisdiction in the instant case.[3] Petitioners appealed from the above decision but their petition was denied. Their motion for reconsideration was likewise denied, hence, this appeal. The only issue to be resolved in this case is whether or not the courts have jurisdiction to hear a case involving the expulsion/excommunication of members of a religious institution. We rule that the courts do not. Section 5, Article III or the Bill of Rights of the 1987 Constitution specifically provides that: Sec. 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. In our jurisdiction, we hold the Church and the State to be separate and distinct from each other. Give to Ceasar what is Ceasars and to God what is Gods. We have, however, observed as early as 1928 that:

upon the examination of the decisions it will be readily apparent that cases involving questions relative to ecclesiastical rights have always received the profoundest attention from the courts, not only because of their inherent interest, but because of the far reaching effects of the decisions in human society. [However,] courts have learned the lesson of conservatism in dealing with such matters, it having been found that, in a form of government where the complete separation of civil and ecclesiastical authority is insisted upon, the civil courts must not allow themselves to intrude unduly in matters of an ecclesiastical nature.[4] (italics ours) We agree with the Court of Appeals that the expulsion/excommunication of members of a religious institution/organization is a matter best left to the discretion of the officials, and the laws and canons, of said institution/organization. It is not for the courts to exercise control over church authorities in the performance of their discretionary and official functions. Rather, it is for the members of religious institutions/organizations to conform to just church regulations. In the words of Justice Samuel F. Miller[5]: all who unite themselves to an ecclesiastical body do so with an implied consent to submit to the Church government and they are bound to submit to it. In the leading case of Fonacier v. Court of Appeals,[6] we enunciated the doctrine that in disputes involving religious institutions or organizations, there is one area which the Court should not touch: doctrinal and disciplinary differences.[7] Thus, The amendments of the constitution, restatement of articles of religion and abandonment of faith or abjuration alleged by appellant, having to do with faith, practice, doctrine, form of worship, ecclesiastical law, custom and rule of a church and having reference to the power of excluding from the church those allegedly unworthy of membership, are unquestionably ecclesiastical matters which are outside the province of the civil courts. (emphasis ours)

We would, however, like to comment on petitioners claim that they were not heard before they were expelled from their church. The records show that Bishop de la Cruz pleaded with petitioners several times not to commit acts inimical to the best interests of PIC. They were also warned of the consequences of their actions, among them their expulsion/excommunication from PIC. Yet, these pleas and warnings fell on deaf ears and petitioners went ahead with their plans to defy their Bishop and foment hostility and disunity among the members of PIC in Socorro, Surigao del Norte. They should now take full responsibility for the chaos and dissension they caused. WHEREFORE, the petition is herby DENIED for lack of merit.

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