Political Law

Reli German vs Santiago Barangan

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G.R. No. L-68828 – 135 SCRA 514 – Political Law – Constitutional Law – Basic Principles – Religious Freedom vs Clear and Present Danger Doctrine

One afternoon in October 1984, Reli German et al went to JP Laurel Street to pray and worship at the St. Luke Chapel. But they were barred by General Santiago Barangan from entering the church because the same is within the vicinity of the Malacañang. And considering that German’s group were known as the August Twenty One Movement who were wearing yellow shirts with clench fists, Barangan deemed that they were not really there to worship but rather they were there to disrupt the ongoings within the Malacañang.

ISSUE: Whether or not disallowing German et al from worshipping and praying at St. Luke’s is a violation of their freedom to worship and locomotion.

HELD: No. In the case at bar, German et al were 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. There has been a clear manifestation by Barangan et al that they allow German et al to practice their religious belief but not in the manner that German et al impressed. Such manner impresses “clear and present danger” to the executive of the state hence the need to curtail it even at the expense of curtailing one’s freedom to worship.

But German et al already assured the military that they will only go to church?

Even assuming that German et al’s claim to the free exercise of religion is genuine and valid, still prior incidents at that time justified Barangan’s action. Since 1972 (which was twelve years ago that time yet the SC considered the same in determining the application of the clear and present danger test), 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. 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.

Dissenting Opinions

J. Fernando –  It would be an unwarranted departure then from what has been unanimously held in the J.B.L. Reyes decision if on such a basic right as religious freedom -clearly the most fundamental and thus entitled to the highest priority among human rights, involving as it does the relationship of man to his Creator -this Court will be less vigilant in upholding any rightful claim. More than ever, in times of stress -and much more so in times of crisis -it is that deeply-held faith that affords solace and comfort if not for everyone at least for the majority of mankind. Without that faith, man’s very existence is devoid of meaning, bereft of significance.

J. Teehankee –  The right to freely exercise one’s religion is guaranteed in Section 8 of our Bill of Rights. Freedom of worship, alongside with freedom of expression and speech and peaceable assembly along with the other intellectual freedoms, are highly ranked in our scheme of constitutional values. It cannot be too strongly stressed that on the judiciary -even more so than on the other departments -rests the grave and delicate responsibility of assuring respect for and deference to such preferred rights. No verbal formula, no sanctifying phrase can, of course, dispense with what has been so felicitously termed by Justice Holmes ‘as the sovereign prerogative of judgment.’ Nonetheless, the presumption must be to incline the weight of the scales of justice on the side of such rights, enjoying as they do precedence and primacy.

J. Makasiar – With the assurances aforestated given by both petitioners and respondents, there is no clear and present danger to public peace and order or to the security of persons within the premises of Malacañang and the adjacent areas, as the respondents has adopted measures and are prepared to insure against any public disturbance or violence.

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