BILL OF RIGHTS 33. Alejandro Estrada vs. Soledad Escritor A.M. No.

P-02-1651 June 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 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 Jehovah’s 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 Escritor’s 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 Escritor’s claimed religious belief and practice are beyond serious doubt. Her request to be exempt from attending the flag ceremony on the ground of the Jehovah’s Witnesses contrary belief and practice was duly noted. The OSG failed to demonstrate “the gravest abuses, endangering paramount interests” which could limit or override Escritor’s fundamental right to religious freedom. In this particular case and under these distinct circumstances, Escritor’s 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.

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful