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, APRIL 25, 2016


The first petitioners, Bayan, et al., allege that they are citizens and taxpayers of the Philippines
and that their rights as organizations and individuals were violated when the rally they
participated in on October 6, 2005 was violently dispersed by policemen implementing Batas
Pambansa (B.P.) No. 880.

The second group consists of 26 individual petitioners, Jess del Prado, et al., who alleged that
they were injured, arrested and detained when a peaceful mass action they held on September
26, 2005 was preempted and violently dispersed by the police. They further assert that on
October 5, 2005, a group they participated in marched to Malacañang to protest issuances of
the Palace which, they claim, put the country under an “undeclared” martial rule, and the
protest was likewise dispersed violently and many among them were arrested and suffered

The third group, Kilusang Mayo Uno, et al., allege that they conduct peaceful mass actions and
that their rights as organizations and those of their individual members as citizens, specifically the
right to peaceful assembly, are affected by Batas Pambansa No. 880 and the policy of
“Calibrated Preemptive Response” being followed to implement it.

KMU, et al., claim that on October 4, 2005, a rally KMU co-sponsored was to be conducted at
the Mendiola bridge but police blocked them along C.M. Recto and Lepanto Streets and
forcibly dispersed them, causing injuries to several of their members. They further allege that on
October 6, 2005, a multi-sectoral rally which KMU also co-sponsored was scheduled to proceed
along España Avenue in front of the University of Santo Tomas and going towards Mendiola
bridge. Police officers blocked them along Morayta Street and prevented them from
proceeding further. They were then forcibly dispersed, causing injuries on one of them. Three
other rallyists were arrested.

All petitioners assail Batas Pambansa No. 880, some of them in toto and others only Sections 4, 5,
6, 12, 13(a), and 14(a), as well as the policy of CPR. They seek to stop violent dispersals of rallies
under the “no permit, no rally” policy and the CPR policy recently announced.

Petitioners Bayan, et al., contend 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 for 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.

Petitioners Jess del Prado, et al., in turn, argue that B.P. No. 880 is unconstitutional as it is a
curtailment of the right to peacefully assemble and petition for redress of grievances because it
puts a condition for the valid exercise of that right. It also characterizes public assemblies without
a permit as illegal and penalizes them and allows their dispersal. Thus, its provisions are not mere
regulations but are actually prohibitions.

Furthermore, the law delegates powers to the Mayor without providing clear standards. The two
standards stated in the laws (clear and present danger and imminent and grave danger) are


Whether or not B.P. No, 880 which delegates powers to the Mayor provides clear standards.


Yes. As to the delegation of powers to the mayor, the law provides a precise and sufficient
standard – the clear and present danger test stated in Sec. 6 (a). The reference to “imminent
and grave danger of a substantive evil” in Sec. 6 (c) substantially means the same thing and is
not an inconsistent standard. As to whether respondent Mayor has the same power
independently under Republic Act No. 7160 is thus not necessary to resolve in these
proceedings, and was not pursued by the parties in their arguments.

The so-called calibrated preemptive response policy has no place in our legal firmament and
must be struck down as a darkness that shrouds freedom. It merely confuses our people and is
used by some police agents to justify abuses. On the other hand, B.P. No. 880 cannot be
condemned as unconstitutional; it does not curtail or unduly restrict freedoms; it merely regulates
the use of public places as to the time, place and manner of assemblies. Far from being
insidious, “maximum tolerance” is for the benefit of rallyists, not the government. The delegation
to the mayors of the power to issue rally “permits” is valid because it is subject to the
constitutionally-sound “clear and present danger” standard.

RATIO: Examples of standards held sufficient. – The following are legislative specifications are
among those which have been held to state a sufficiently definite standard for administrative
action in specific fields… “a clear and present danger,” and “imminent and grave danger of a
substantive evil.”



In 2006, the IBP, through its then National President Jose Anselmo Cadiz, filed an application with
the Office of the City Mayor of Manila for a permit to rally at the foot of Mendiola Bridge to be
participated in by IBP officers and members, law students and multi-sectoral organizations.
Respondent Mayor Atienza issued a permit allowing the IBP to stage a rally on given date but
indicated Plaza Miranda as the venue, instead of the Mendiola Bridge. Aggrieved, petitioners
filed before the CA a petition for certiorari but having been unresolved within 24 hours from its
filing, petitioners again, filed before the SC assailing the appellate court’s inaction or refusal to
resolve the petition within the period provided under the Public Assembly Act of 1985.

The rally pushed through at Mendiola Bridge, and as alleged by the Petitioners, the participants
voluntarily dispersed after the peaceful conduct of the program. A few days later, the MPD
instituted a criminal action,against Cadiz for violating the Public Assembly Act in staging a rally
at a venue not indicated in the permit.


Whether the partial grant of the application runs contrary to the Pubic Assembly Act and
violates the constitutional right to freedom of expression and public assembly.


The Court finds for petitioners.

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.



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. Definition of terms - For purposes of this Act:

(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.

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

(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

(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

(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 -

(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

(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

(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

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

(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

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. Effectivity - This Act shall take effect upon its approval.

Approved, October 22, 1985.


ALEJANDRO ESTRADA, petitioner v. SOLEDAD S. ESCRITOR, respondent

A.M. No. P-02-1651 August 4, 2003


Escritor is a court interpreter since 1999 in the RTC of Las Pinas City. She has been living
with Quilapio, a man who is not her husband, for more than twenty five years and had a son
with him as well. Respondent’s husband died a year before she entered into the judiciary while
Quilapio is still legally married to another woman.

Complainant Estrada requested the Judge of said RTC to investigate respondent. According
to complainant, respondent should not be allowed to remain employed therein for it
will appear as if the court allows such act.

Respondent claims that their conjugal arrangement is permitted by her religion—the Jehovah’s
Witnesses and the Watch Tower and the Bible Trace Society. They allegedly have a ‘Declaration
of Pledging Faithfulness’ under the approval of their congregation. Such a declaration is
effective when legal impediments render it impossible for a couple to legalize their union.


Whether or Not the State could penalize respondent for such conjugal arrangement.

No. The State could not penalize respondent for she is exercising her right to freedom of religion.
The free exercise of religion is specifically articulated as one of the fundamental rights in our
Constitution. As Jefferson put it, it is the most inalienable and sacred of human rights. The State’s
interest in enforcing its prohibition cannot be merely abstract or symbolic in order to be
sufficiently compelling to outweigh a free exercise claim. In the case at bar, the State has not
evinced any concrete interest in enforcing the concubinage or bigamy chargesagainst
respondent or her partner. Thus the State’s interest only amounts to the symbolic preservation of
an unenforced prohibition. Furthermore, a distinction between public and secular morality and
religious morality should be kept in mind. The jurisdiction of the Court extends only to public and
secular morality.

The Court further states that our Constitution adheres the benevolent neutrality approach that
gives room for accommodation of religious exercises as required by the Free Exercise Clause.
This benevolent neutrality could allow for accommodation of morality based on religion,
provided it does not offend compelling state interests. Assuming arguendo that the OSG has
proved a compelling state interest, it has to further demonstrate that the state has used the least
intrusive means possible so that the free exercise is not infringed any more than necessary to
achieve the legitimate goal of the state. Thus the conjugal arrangement cannot be penalized
for it constitutes an exemption to the law based on her right to freedom of religion.

Soriano vs. La Guardia G.R. No. 164785 April 29, 2009 Freedom of Speech

JANUARY 26, 2018


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 petitioner’s remark, was then a minister of INC and a regular host of the TV program
Ang Tamang Daan.


Are Soriano’s statements during the televised “Ang Dating Daan” part of the religious discourse
and within the protection of Section 5, Art.III?


No. Under the circumstances obtaining in this case, therefore, and considering the adverse
effect of petitioner’s utterances on the viewers’ fundamental rights as well as petitioner’s 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 petitioner’s 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 paramountcy of viewers rights, the public trusteeship
character of a broadcaster’s 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.

Austria v. NLRC G.R. No. 124382 August 16, 1999

Austria v. NLRC

G.R. No. 124382 August 16, 1999

KTA: Relationship of the church as an employer and the minister as an employee is purely
secular in nature because it has no relation with the practice of faith, worship or doctrines of the
church, such affairs are governed by labor laws. The Labor Code applies to all establishments,
whether religious or not.


The Seventh Day Adventists(SDA) is a religious corporation under Philippine law. The petitioner
was a pastor of the SDA for 28 years from 1963 until 1991, when his services were terminated.

On various occasions from August to October 1991, Austria received several communications
form Ibesate, the treasurer of the Negros Mission, asking him to admit accountability and
responsibility for the church tithes and offerings collected by his wife, Thelma Austria, in his district
and to remit the same to the Negros Mission.

The petitioner answered saying that he should not be made accountable since it was Pastor
Buhat and Ibesate who authorized his wife to collect the tithes and offerings since he was very ill
to be able to do the collecting.

A fact-finding committee was created to investigate. The petitioner received a letter of dismissal

1) Misappropriation of denominational funds;

2) Willful breach of trust;

3) Serious misconduct;

4) Gross and habitual neglect of duties; and

5) Commission of an offense against the person of
 employer's duly authorized representative
as grounds for the termination of his services.

Petitioner filed a complaint with the Labor Arbiter for illegal dismissal, and sued the SDA
for reinstatement and backwages plus damages. Decision was rendered in favor of petitioner.

SDA appealed to the NLRC. Decision was rendered in favor of respondent.


1. Whether or not the termination of the services of the petitioner is an ecclesiastical affair, and,
as such, involves the separation of church and state.

2. Whether or not the Labor Arbiter/NLRC has jurisdiction to try and decide the complaint filed by
petitioner against the SDA.


1. No. The matter at hand relates to the church and its religious ministers but what is involved
here is the relationship of the church as an employer and the minister as an employee, which
is purely secular because it has no relationship with the practice of faith, worship or
doctrines. The grounds invoked for petitioner’s dismissal are all based on Art. 282 of Labor Code.

2. Yes. SDA was exercising its management prerogative (not religious prerogative) to fire an
employee which it believes is unfit for the job. It would have been a different case if Austria was
expelled or excommunicated from the SDA.

Islamic Da’wah Council of the Philippines, INC.,


Office of the Executive Secretary

(G.R. No. 153888, July 9, 2003)

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

On October 26, 2001, respondent Office of the Executive Secretary issued Executive Order (EO)
46, 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.

Petitioner contends that the subject EO violated the constitutional provision on the separation of
Church and State abd 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
organization, entity or scholars can lawfully and validly perform for the Muslims.


Whether the Executive Order (EO) violated the constitutional provision as to freedom of


Yes, 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

In the case at bar, we find no compelling justification for the government to deprive
Muslim organizations of their religious right to classify a product as halal, even on the premise
that the health of Muslim Filipinos can be effectively protected. The protection and promotion of
the Muslim Filipinos’ right to health are already provided for in the existing laws and ministered to
by government agencies charged with ensuring that food products released in the market are
fit for human consumption, probably labeled and safe.
Velarde vs. Social Justice Society (SJS)

G.R. No. 159357

April 28, 2004


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 ff:

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 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.

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 endorsement of specific
candidates in an election to any public office is a clear violation of the separation clause

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.

On April 13, 2004, the Court en banc conducted an Oral Argument.


Procedural Issues

WON the Petition for Declaratory Relief raised a justiciable controversy

WON the Petition stated a cause of action

WON the respondent have any legal standing to file the Petition for Declaratory Relief

Substantive Issues

WON the RTC Decision conform to the form and substance required by the Constitution, the law
and the Rules of Court
WON religious leaders like herein petitioner, Bro. Mike Velarde, may be prohibited from endorsing
candidates for public office? Corollarily, may they be banned from campaigning against said


WON the SJS Petition for Declaratory Relief raised a justiciable controversy

NO. Its Petition for Declaratory Relief failed to raise a justiciable controversy. A justiciable
controversy refers to an existing case or controversy that is appropriate or ripe for judicial
determination, not one that is conjectural or merely anticipatory. An initiatory complaint or
petition filed with the trial court should contain a plain, concise and direct statement of the
ultimate facts on which the party pleading relies for his claim x x x.[20]Yet, the SJS Petition stated
no ultimate facts.

It merely sought an opinion of the trial court on whether the speculated acts of religious leaders
endorsing elective candidates for political offices violated the constitutional principle on the
separation of church and state. SJS did not ask for a declaration of its rights and duties; neither
did it pray for the stoppage of any threatened violation of its declared rights.

WON the Petition stated a cause of action

NO. The Petition did not state a cause of action.

A cause of action is an act or an omission of one party in violation of the legal right or rights of
another, causing injury to the latter. Its essential elements are the following:

(1) a right in favor of the plaintiff;

(2) an obligation on the part of the named defendant to respect or not to violate such right;
and (3) such defendants act or omission that is violative of the right of the plaintiff or constituting
a breach of the obligation of the former to the latter

A perusal of the Petition filed by SJS before the RTC discloses no explicit allegation that the
former had any legal right in its favor that it sought to protect. Indeed, the Court finds in the
Petition for Declaratory Relief no single allegation of fact upon which SJS could base a right of
relief from the named respondents.

WON the respondent have any legal standing to file the Petition for Declaratory Relief

NO. SJS has no legal standing to file the Petition for Declaratory Relief.
Legal standing or locus standi has been defined as a personal and substantial interest in the
case, such that the party has sustained or will sustain direct injury as a result of the challenged

Interest means a material interest in issue that is affected by the questioned act or instrument, as
distinguished from a mere incidental interest in the question involved.

Respondent SJS has no legal interest in the controversy. It has failed to establish how the
resolution of the proffered question would benefit or injure it. Parties bringing suits challenging
the constitutionality of a law, an act or a statute must show not only that the law [or act] is
invalid, but also that [they have] sustained or [are] in immediate or imminent danger of
sustaining some direct injury as a result of its enforcement, and not merely that [they] suffer
thereby in some indefinite way.

First, parties suing as taxpayers must specifically prove that they have sufficient interest in
preventing the illegal expenditure of money raised by taxation. In the present case, there is no
allegation, whether express or implied, that taxpayers money is being illegally disbursed.

Second, there was no showing in the Petition for Declaratory Relief that SJS as a political party or
its members as registered voters would be adversely affected by the alleged acts of the
respondents below, if the question at issue was not resolved. There was no allegation that SJS
had suffered or would be deprived of votes due to the acts imputed to the said respondents.

Finally, the allegedly keen interest of its thousands of members who are citizens-taxpayers-
registered voters is too general[44] and beyond the contemplation of the standards set by our
jurisprudence. Not only is the presumed interest impersonal in character; it is likewise too vague,
highly speculative and uncertain to satisfy the requirement of standing.

WON the RTC Decision conform to the form and substance required by the Constitution, the law
and the Rules of Court

NO. The RTC Decision did not conform to the form and substance required by the Constitution,
the law and the Rules of Court

The Constitution commands that [n]o decision shall be rendered by any court without expressing
therein clearly and distinctly the facts and the law on which it is based. No petition for review or
motion for reconsideration of a decision of the court shall be refused due course or denied
without stating the basis therefor.
In the present case, it is starkly obvious that the assailed Decision contains no statement of facts -
- much less an assessment or analysis thereof -- or of the courts findings as to the probable facts.

What were the antecedents that necessitated the filing of the Petition? What exactly were the
distinct facts that gave rise to the question sought to be resolved by SJS? More important, what
were the factual findings and analysis on which the trial court based its legal findings and
conclusions? None were stated or implied. Indeed, the RTCs Decision cannot be upheld for its
failure to express clearly and distinctly the facts on which it was based. Thus, the trial court
clearly transgressed the constitutional directive.

WON religious leaders like herein petitioner, Bro. Mike Velarde, may be prohibited from endorsing
candidates for public office? Corollarily, may they be banned from campaigning against said

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.

The said Petition, however, failed to state directly the ultimate facts that it relied upon for its
claim. 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 on the SJS Petition for Declaratory Relief 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

Taruc vs. Dela Cruz

G.R. No. 144801. March 10, 2005

Facts: Respondent Bishop de la Cruz petitioners expelled/excommunicated from the Philippine

Independent Church for disobedience to duly constituted authority in the Church; 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 for threatening to forcibly occupy the Parish Church causing anxiety and fear
among the general membershipreasons
Petitioners filed a complaint contending that their expulsion was illegal because it was done
without trial thus violating their right to due process of law.

Issue: Whether or not the courts have jurisdiction to hear a case involving the
expulsion/excommunication of members of a religious institution.

Held: The case at bar is purely ecclasiastical matters which is considered to be outside the
providence of the court due to the form of government where the complete separation of civil
and ecclesiastical authority is insisted upon. Hence, the civil courts must not allow themselves to
intrude unduly in matters of an ecclesiastical nature.

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.

Those who unite to an ecclasiastical body do so with implied consent to submit to the Church
government and they are bound to submit to it. The power to exclude membership from the
church of those considered unworthy lies solely to the Church thus it is outside the province of
the civil court.

The expulsion of membership of the petitioners was legally made. They have not violated the
due process of law because they were given apportunity to be heared when they were also
warned of the consequences of their actions.