Thursday, March 15, 2012

German v Barangan G.R. No. L-68828 March 27, 1985

J. Escolin

Petitioners, composed of about 50 businessmen, students and office employees converged at J.P. Laurel Street, Manila, for the purpose of hearing Mass at the St. Jude Chapel which adjoins the Malacañang grounds located in the same street.
 Wearing yellow T-shirts, they started to march down said street with raised clenched fists and shouts of anti-government invectives. Along the way, however, they were barred by respondent Major lsabelo Lariosa, from proceeding any further, on the ground that St. Jude Chapel was located within the Malacañang security area.
When petitioners' protestations and pleas to allow them to get inside the church proved unavailing, they decided to leave. However, because of the alleged warning given them by respondent Major Lariosa that any similar attempt by petitioners to enter the church in the future would likewise be prevented, petitioners took this present recourse.
Petitioners' alleged purpose in converging at J.P. Laurel Street was to pray and hear mass at St. Jude church. At the hearing of this petition, respondents assured petitioners and the Court that they have never restricted, and will never restrict, any person or persons from entering and worshipping at said church. They maintain, however, that petitioners' intention was not really to perform an act of religious worship, but to conduct an anti-government demonstration at a place close to the very residence and offices of the President of the Republic.
Respondents further lament petitioners' attempt to disguise their true motive with a ritual as sacred and solemn as the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Undoubtedly, the yellow T-shirts worn by some of the marchers, their raised clenched fists, and chants of anti-government slogans strongly tend to substantiate respondents allegatio
Invoking their constitutional freedom to religious worship and locomotion, petitioners seek the issuance of [1] a writ of mandamus to compel respondents to allow them to enter and pray inside St. Jude Chapel located at J.P. Laurel Street, Manila; and [2] a writ of injunction to enjoin respondents from preventing them from getting into and praying in said church.

Issue: Were the respondents’ acts violative of petitioners’ free exercise of religion?

Held: No. Petition dismissed.

While it is beyond debate that every citizen has the undeniable and inviolable right to religious freedom, the exercise thereof, and of all fundamental rights for that matter, must be done in good faith. As Article 19 of the Civil Code admonishes: "Every person must in the exercise of his rights and in the performance of his duties ... observe honesty and good faith."
Even assuming that petitioners' claim to the free exercise of religion is genuine and valid, still respondents reaction to the mass action may not be characterized as violative of the freedom of religious worship. Since 1972, when mobs of demonstrators crashed through the Malacañang gates and scaled its perimeter fence, the use by the public of J.P. Laurel Street and the streets approaching it have been restricted. While travel to and from the affected thoroughfares has not been absolutely prohibited, passers-by have been subjected to courteous, unobtrusive security checks. The reasonableness of this restriction is readily perceived and appreciated if it is considered that the same is designed to protect the lives of the President and his family, as well as other government officials, diplomats and foreign guests transacting business with Malacañang. The need to secure the safety of heads of state and other government officials cannot be overemphasized. The threat to their lives and safety is constant, real and felt throughout the world.
Said restriction is moreover intended to secure the several executive offices within the Malacañang grounds from possible external attacks and disturbances. These offices include communications facilities that link the central government to all places in the land.
Freedom of religious worship is guaranteed under Section 8, Article IV of the 1973 Constitution.
The scope of religious freedom was discussed in Cantwell v. Connecticut, where it said:
The constitutional inhibition on legislation on the subject of religion has a double aspect. On the one hand, it forestalls compulsion by law of the acceptance of any creed or the practice of any form of worship. Freedom of conscience and freedom to adhere to such religious organization or form of worship as the individual may choose cannot be restricted by law. On the other hand, it safeguards the free exercise of the chosen form of religion. Thus the amendment embraces two concepts-freedom to believe and freedom to act. The first is absolute, but in the nature of things, the second cannot be.
In the case at bar, petitioners are not denied or restrained of their freedom of belief or choice of their religion, but only in the manner by which they had attempted to translate the same into action. This curtailment is in accord with the pronouncement of this Court in Gerona v. Secretary of Education, thus:
The realm of belief and creed is infinite and limitless bounded only by one's imagination and thought. So is the freedom of belief, including religious belief, limitless and without bounds. One may believe in most anything, however strange, bizarre and unreasonable the same may appear to others, even heretical when weighed in the scales of orthodoxy or doctrinal standards. But between the freedom of belief and the exercise of said belief, there is quite a stretch of road to travel. If the exercise of said religious belief clashes with the established institutions of society and with the law, then the former must yield and give way to the latter. The government steps in and either restrains said exercise or even prosecutes the one exercising it.
On freedom of movement:
Petitioners likewise invoke their freedom of locomotion under Section 5, Article IV of the Constitution.
Suffice it to say that the restriction imposed on the use of J.P. Laurel Street, the wisdom and reasonableness of which have already been discussed, is allowed under the fundamental law, having been established in the interest of national security.

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