G.R. No. L-14078 – 39 Phil. 660 – Political Law – Basic Principles – Due Process of Law – Religious Discrimination
In 1917, the Manguianes (Mangyans) of Mindoro were ordered by the governor to stay within an established reservation in Tigbao, Mindoro. The Mangyans were ordered to stay in the reservation and if they were to escape, they will be imprisoned. Rubi, a Mangyan, through a petition for habeas corpus questioned the order as he alleged that by being forced to remain in the reservation, they are being deprived of their liberty and such deprivation was without due process of law.
The governor justified his order as he said it was in accordance with Section 2145 and 2759 of the Administrative Code which provide:
Sec. 2145. Establishment of non-Christian sites selected by provincial governor. — With the prior approval of the Department Head, the provincial governor of any province in which non-Christian inhabitants are found is authorized, when such a course is deemed necessary in the interest of law and order, to direct such inhabitants to take up their habitation on sites on unoccupied public lands to be selected by him an approved by the provincial board.
Sec. 2759. Refusal of a non-Christian to take up appointed habitation. — Any non-Christian who shall refuse to comply with the directions lawfully given by a provincial governor, pursuant to section two thousand one hundred and forty-five of this Code, to take up habitation upon a site designated by said governor shall upon conviction be imprisonment for a period not exceeding sixty days.
Rubi and the other Mangyans challenged the constitutionality of Sec. 2145 on the ground that the same is a violation of the constitutional prohibition against religious discrimination and that the Mangyans being forced to stay in a reservation is a deprivation of liberty without due process.
ISSUE: Whether or not Section 2145 is void for religious discrimination. Whether or not Section 2145 is void for violation of the due process clause.
I. No. The law does not discriminate. There is a valid classification between Mangyans and other citizens. (Note that this case happened after the Americans took over from Spain). At that time, the Mangyans were defined as a nomadic tribe, had no desire for community life, engaged in kaingin, and were considered as very low in culture.
Other tribes were also defined that way. But the term “non-Christian” which was used to describe the Mangyans and other tribes should not be given a literal meaning or a religious signification. The Supreme Court cited various government issuances which tend to relate the term to degrees of civilization. The term “non-Christian” refers not to religious belief, but in a way to geographical area, and more directly to natives of the Philippine Islands of a low grade of civilization. This distinction has to be made in order to determine the best manner by which these tribes may be governed and which laws may be applicable or not applicable to them (i.e., there was a tax circular which exempted non-Christians from cedula tax but the term non-Christian does not include Jews, Muslims, and other members of religious sects living in towns).
In the case of the Mangyans, the intent of the law was to restrain them in a reservation so that they may be forced to learn the ways of a civilized life, i.e., they are being persuaded to abandon their nomadic habits / wild habitat and settle in organized settlements. They are being made to understand that it is the purpose of the Government to organize them politically into fixed and permanent communities, thus bringing them under the control of the Government, to aid them to live and work, protect them from involuntary servitude and abuse, educate their children, and show them the advantages of leading a civilized life with their civilized brothers. In short, they are being impressed with the purposes and objectives of the Government of leading them to economic, social, and political equality, and unification with the more highly civilized inhabitants of the country.
“Theoretically, one may assert that all men are created free and equal. Practically, we know that the axiom is not precisely accurate. The Mangyans, for instance, are not free, as civilized men are free, and they are not the equals of their more fortunate brothers. True, indeed, they are citizens, with many but not all the rights which citizenship implies. And true, indeed, they are Filipinos. But just as surely, the Mangyans are citizens of a low degree of intelligence, and Filipinos who are a drag upon the progress of the State.”
Certainly then, the term “non-Christian” as used in the law was not meant to discriminate on the basis of religion. The term non-Christian has relation to a person’s degree of civilization.
II. No. It is true that as per the U.S. President’s instructions, the Philippine Bill, and the Jones Law: “no law shall be enacted in the Philippine Islands which shall deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law, or deny to any person therein the equal protection of the laws.” This was also rooted from the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.
However, due process is not always a judicial proceeding. Rubi et al. cannot argue that since there was no judicial proceeding before they were placed in the reservation, their right to due process was already violated. In some instances, even a hearing and notice are not requisite a rule which is especially true where much must be left to the discretion of the administrative officers in applying a law to particular cases. Neither is due process a stationary and blind sentinel of liberty. Any legal proceeding enforced by public authority, whether sanctioned by age and customs, or newly devised in the discretion of the legislative power, in furtherance of the public good, which regards and preserves these principles of liberty and justice, must be held to be due process of law.
The Supreme Court also compared the situation of the Mangyans with that of the Indians in America. Indian reservations do exist in the United States, that Indians have been taken from different parts of the country and placed on these reservation, without any previous consultation as to their own wishes, and that, when once so located, they have been made to remain on the reservation for their own good and for the general good of the country. If any lesson can be drawn from the Indian policy of the United States, it is that the determination of this policy is for the legislative and executive branches of the government and that when once so decided upon, the courts should not interfere to upset a carefully planned governmental system. Perhaps, just as may forceful reasons exists for the segregation as existed for the segregation of the different Indian tribes in the United States.
NOTE: Read the full text. It is interesting and quite informative as to how things were way back then. Of course, this ruling is an outrage by today’s standards.