Aglipay v. Ruiz [GR 45459, 13 March 1937]

First Division, Laurel (p): 5 concur.

Facts: In May 1936, the Director of Posts announced in the dailies of Manila that he would order the issuance of postage stamps commemorating the celebration in the City of Manila of the 33rd International Eucharistic Congress, organized by the Roman Catholic Church. The petitioner, Mons. Gregorio Aglipay, Supreme Head of the Philippine Independent Church, in the fulfillment of what he considers to be a civic duty, requested Vicente Sotto, Esq., member of the Philippine Bar, to denounce the matter to the President of the Philippines. In spite of the protest of the petitioner’s attorney, the Director of Posts publicly announced having sent to the United States the designs of the postage for printing. The said stamps were actually issued and sold though the greater part thereof remained unsold. The further sale of the stamps was sought to be prevented by the petitioner.

The Supreme Court denied the petition for a writ of prohibition, without pronouncement as to costs.


  1. Writ of prohibition as a legal remedy
    While, generally, prohibition as an extraordinary legal writ will not issue to restrain or control the performance of other than judicial or quasi-judicial functions (50 C. J., 658), its issuance and enforcement are regulated by statute and in this jurisdiction may issue to “inferior tribunals, corporations, boards, or persons, whether exercising functions judicial or ministerial, which are without or in excess of the jurisdiction of such tribunal, corporation, board, or person” (Secs. 516 and 226, Code of Civil Procedure.) The writ of prohibition is not confined exclusively to courts or tribunals to keep them within the limits of their own jurisdiction and to prevent them from encroaching upon the jurisdiction of other tribunals but will issue, in appropriate cases, to an officer or person whose acts are without or in excess of his authority. Not infrequently, the writ is granted, where it is necessary for the orderly administration of justice, or to prevent the use of the strong arm of the law in an oppressive or vindictive manner, or a multiplicity of actions.
  2. Prohibition on the use of public money or property for benefit of a religion or its minister a direct corollary of separation of church and state
    Section 13, Article VI, of the Constitution provides that “no public money or property shall ever be appropriated, applied, or used, directly or indirectly, for the use, benefit, or support of any sect, church, denomination, sectarian institution, or system of religion, or for the use, benefit, or support of any priest, preacher, minister, or other religious teacher or dignitary as such, except when such priest, preacher, minister, or dignitary is assigned to the armed forces or to any penal institution, orphanage, or leprosarium.” The prohibition is a direct corollary of the principle of separation of church and state.
  3. Historical perspective of separation of Church and State in the Philippines
    History has taught us that the union of church and state is prejudicial to both, for occasions might arise when the state will use the church, and the church the state, as a weapon in the furtherance of their respective ends and aims. The Malolos Constitution recognized this principle of separation of church and state in the early stages of our constitutional development; it was inserted in the Treaty of Paris between the United States and Spain of 10 December 1898, reiterated in President McKinley’s Instructions to the Philippine Commission, reaffirmed in the Philippine Bill of 1902 and in the Autonomy Act of 29 August 1916, and finally embodied in the Constitution of the Philippines as the supreme expression of the Filipino People.
  4. Religious freedom is not inhibition of profound reverence for religion and not a denial of its influence in human affairs
    Religious freedom as a constitutional mandate is not inhibition of profound reverence for religion and is not a denial of its influence in human affairs. Religion as a profession of faith to an active power that binds and elevates man to his Creator is recognized. And, in so far as it instills into the minds the purest principles of morality, its influence is deeply felt and highly appreciated. When the Filipino people, in the preamble of their Constitution, implored “the aid of Divine Providence, in order to establish a government that shall embody their ideals, conserve and develop the patrimony of the nation, promote the general welfare, and secure to themselves and their posterity the blessings of independence under a regime of justice, liberty and democracy,” they thereby manifested their intense religious nature and placed unfaltering reliance upon Him who guides the destinies of men and nations. The elevating influence of religion in human society is recognized here as elsewhere.
  5. Examples of general concessions accorded to religious sects and denominations
    Certain general concessions are indiscriminately accorded to religious sects and denominations. Our Constitution and laws exempt from taxation properties devoted exclusively to religious purposes (sec. 14, subsec. 3, Art. VI, Constitution of the Philippines and sec. 1, subsec. Ordinance appended thereto; Assessment Law, sec. 344, par [c], Adm. Code) sectarian aid is not prohibited when a priest, preacher, minister or other religious teacher or dignitary as such is assigned to the armed forces or to any penal institution, orphanage or leprosarium (sec. 13, subsec. 3 Art. VI, Constitution of the Philippines). Optional religious instruction in the public schools is by constitutional mandate allowed (sec. 5, Art. XIII, Constitution of the Philippines, in relation to sec. 928, Ad. Code). Thursday and Friday of Holy Week, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and Sundays are made legal holidays (sec. 29, Adm. Code) because of the secular idea that their observance is conducive to beneficial moral results. The law allows divorce but punishes polygamy and bigamy; and certain crimes against religious worship are considered crimes against the fundamental laws of the state (see arts. 132 and 133, Revised Penal Code).
  6. Act 4052 does not contemplate any religious purpose
    Act No. 4052 contemplates no religious purpose in view. What it gives the Director of Posts is the discretionary power to determine when the issuance of special postage stamps would be “advantageous to the Government.” Of course, the phrase “advantageous to the Government” does not authorize the violation of the Constitution; i.e. to appropriate, use or apply of public money or property for the use, benefit or support of a particular sect or church. In the case at bar, the issuance of the postage stamps was not inspired by any sectarian feeling to favor a particular church or religious denominations. The stamps were not issued and sold for the benefit of the Roman Catholic Church, nor were money derived from the sale of the stamps given to that church. The purpose of the issuing of the stamps was to take advantage of an event considered of international importance to give publicity to the Philippines and its people and attract more tourists to the country. Thus, instead of showing a Catholic chalice, the stamp contained a map of the Philippines, the location of the City of Manila, and an inscription that reads “Seat XXXIII International Eucharistic Congress, Feb. 3-7, 1937.”
  7. Purpose must not be frustrated by incidental results
    While the issuance and sale of the stamps may be said to be inseparably linked with an event of a religious character, the resulting propaganda received by the Roman Catholic Church, was not the aim and purpose of the Government. The Government should not be embarrassed in its activities simply because of incidental results, more or less religious in character, if the purpose had in view is one which could legitimately be undertaken by appropriate legislation. The main purpose should not be frustrated by its subordination to mere incidental results not contemplated.