INC stamps may be unconstitutional
I am intrigued by recent news reports disclosing that the government, through the Philippine Postal Corp., has authorized a special issue of commemorative postage stamps to mark the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Iglesia ni Cristo (INC). The design of the stamp shows a portrait of Felix Y. Manalo and the main temple building of the INC in Quezon City with the words “Iglesia ni Cristo Centennial and First Executive Minister” inscribed thereon.
An interesting constitutional question that is provoked is whether or not the issuing of said stamps violates the constitutional ban against the appropriation and payment of public funds for the benefit or support of any sect, church, sectarian institution or system of religion (Section 29(2), Article VI, 1987 Constitution) which is a direct corollary of the principle of separation of church and state (Section 6, Article II, 1987 Constitution).
The INC is unquestionably a religious sect, church or sectarian institution. As I see it, the issuance of the stamps in question is assailable on constitutional grounds insofar as it entails the appropriation and payment of public money that redound to the benefit and support of the INC. It is evidently the purpose of the stamp issue to focus attention on the INC religion. The publicity engendered and the resulting propaganda received by the INC are quite obvious.
I see no legitimate secular objective of the appropriation of public funds for issuing the stamps in question. Nor am I aware of any government event, occasion or activity of public interest or significance to be commemorated thereby. There is, in fact, every reason to assume that the issuance of the INC stamp is per se inspired by a sectarian feeling to favor or benefit the INC.
In all candor, I am intolerant of any attempt, such as the issuance of the stamps in question, to infringe a constitutional inhibition. I cannot relish the idea of our government undertaking an activity that may trigger the belief that it is taking sides or favoring a particular religious sect. I am even tempted to assume that the functionaries concerned made use of poor judgment or were ill-advised in issuing the stamps in question.
Given the acknowledged political clout of the INC, the suspicion that the issuance of the INC stamp is calculated to enhance the political aspirations of
certain ambitious personalities in or out of government cannot be helped.
Will some intrepid concerned citizen now dare to initiate the proper legal action in court to test the constitutionality of the issuance and printing of the commemorative INC stamps?
—BARTOLOME C. FERNANDEZ JR.,
Palanan, Makati City
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