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The People of the Philippines, plaintiff and appellee, vs. Jose Mandoriao, Jr.

defendant and appellant

1955-02-25 | CA-G.R. No. 12114

DE LEON, J.:

At about 6:00 in the evening of March 31, 1953, the Iglesia Ni Cristo held a religious rally at a public place in
the City Camp, City of Baguio. Approximately 200 people attended the meeting, about 50 of whom were
members of the Iglesia Ni Cristo and the rest were outsiders and curious listeners. While Plutarco Salvio, a
minister of the congregation, was expounding on his topic to the effect that Jesus Christ is not God, but only a
man, the crowd became unruly and many of them shouted and made noise. They were some people the
gathering who urged the appellant, Jose Mandoriao, Jr., to go up the stage and have a debate with Salvio.
Among those who were shouting were the appellant’s father, Jose Mandoriao, Sr., and co-defendant Alipio
Rivera. Appellant went up the stage and challenged Salvio to a debate. Said appellant, however, was not able
to speak before the microphone because the wire connecting it was abruptly disconnected.

Jose Mandoriao, Jr., and Alipio Rivera, were accused of a violation of Article 133 of the Revised Penal Code
in the Court of First Instance of Baguio under the following information:

“The undersigned accuses Jose Mandoriao, Jr. and Alipio Rivera of the violation of Article 133 of the
Revised Penal Code, committed as follows:

“That on or about the 31st day of March, 1953, in the City of Baguio, Philippines and with the
jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, and while the devotees of the ‘Iglesia ni Christo Church’ were
holding a religious service or rally at City Camp, Baguio, with proper permit, the said accused,
corispiring, confederating and mutually aiding each other, did then and then willfully, unlawfully and
feloniously disturb the same, that is, the accused Jose Mandoriao went up the stage and grabbed the
mike from the preacher. Mr. Plutarco Salvio, and the accused Alipio Rivera uttering derogatory
remarks against said Igiesia ni Christo and threatening to shoot the preacher, all of which were
notoriously offensive to the feelings of the devotees therein."

After due trial, Alipio Rivera was acquitted, while Jose Mandoriao, Jr., was found guilty of the crime
charged and sentenced to suffer imprisonment of 4 months and 1 day of arresto mayor and to pay the
costs.

After due trial, Alipio Rivera was acquitted, while Jose Mandoriao, Jr., was found guilty of the crime charged
and sentenced to suffer imprisonment of 4 months and 1 day of arresto mayor and to pay the costs.

Mandoriao’s counsel contends that the lower court erred in finding that the religious rally in question was a
religious ceremony within the purview of Article 133 of the Revised Code, and that the acts ascribed to the
appellant were notoriously offensive to the feelings of the faithful.

Article 133 of the Revised Penal Code provides:

“ART. 133. Offending the religious feelings.-The penalty of arresto mayor in its maximum period to
prison correcional in its minimum period shall be imposed upon anyone who, in a place devoted to
religious worship or during the celebration of any religious ceremony shall perform acts notoriously
offensive to the feelings of the faithful.”

The law punishes “acts notoriously offensive to the feelings of the faithful” performed “in a place devoted to
religious worship or during the celebration of any religious ceremony.” There is no question that the place,
where the rally was held is not a place devoted to religious worship. But was the meeting held a celebration of
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a religious ceremony within the meaning of the phrase employed in the above-quoted provision of the law
While Plutarco Salvio claims that the meeting in question was a religious ceremony of his sect, yet the
application of the Church of Christ to hold the meeting (Exhibit 1) and the permit (Exhibit 2 or A) expressly
state that the purpose was to hold a religious rally. After carefully examining the evidence of record before us,
we cannot see our Way clear in declaring that what was held on that occasion was a religious ceremony. A
religious meeting has been defined as “an assemblage of people met for the purpose of performing acts of
adoration to the Supreme-Being, or to perform religious services in recognition of God as an object of worship,
love and obedience, it matters not the faith with respect to the Deity entertained by the persons so
assembled.” (27 C. J. S. 497). By this definition, it seems that a person attends a religious ceremony, like a
procession during a religious holiday or the saying of special prayers for burying the dead, not because he is
invited to attend, but because it is his duty or obligation to his religion to do so. Salvio testified that the
meeting was not limited to the members of his congregation. This statement of Salvio corraborates the
declaration of the appellant who said that he joined the rally because it was broadcast through a loud speaker
installed at the place of the meeting that the people were invited to attend the same. According to Salvio, out
of the 200 people approximated by him to be present in the meeting, only about 50 were members of his sect.
Ambroio Daludado, another State witness, testified that the meeting was held with the end in view of acquiring
new members of his church. We surmise that Daludado is a ranking member of the Iglesia Ni Cristo. In fact,
he was the one who secured the permit for the meeting from the proper City authorities. He knows, therefore,
what he is talking about.

By the admissions of the prosecution witnesses themselves, it would show that the supposed prayers and
singing Of hymns were merely incidental-to attract the inquisitive ‘to attend the rally-and that the principal
object thereof was to persuade new converts to their religious belief and creed. This seems to be the most
logical explanation for the holding of the meeting because, according to Salvio, the Iglesia Ni Cristo had 2
chapels located in Guisad and Pacdal, of the. City of Baguio, besides other chapels outside said City. As such,
the congregation could have celebrated its religious rituals solemnly and without any possible interruption in
any of these chapels and without the necessity of obtaining a permit from the authorities or of constructing a
temporary stage in an open space, as it did in this case.

It has been held that the reading of the Bible, or any incidental “religious service, in a public schoolhouse,
does not transform such schoolhouse into a place of worship (People vs. Fernandez, CA-G. R. No. 1128-R,
May 29, 1948). By analogy, we believe that the mere saying of prayers and the singing of hymn in an open
space do not render such place as one devoted to religious worship and much less make such an occasion a
religious ceremony within the purview of Article 133 of the Revised Penal Code. While it is not our desire to
deny to any one the right to free speech and the right of a religious sect to preach its church doctrine or
gospel and seek new followers, it must be borne in mind that “religion and religious worship are not so placed
under the ban of the Constitution that they may not be allowed to become the recipient of any incidental
benefit whatsoever from the public bodies or authorities of the State.” (People vs. Fernandez, supra). If we
were to hold that the meeting in question was a religious ceremony, entitled to protection under Article 133,
said provision of the Code is apt to be abused. Other religious denominations in this country, whose early
history was marked by a bitter struggle between Church and State and whose early people suffered and died
by reason of religious intolerance, would follow the instant incident of the Iglesia Ni Cristo and hold open
meetings under the guise of religious ceremonies and avail themselves of the opportunity to criticize and villify
rival sects, their Deities and teachings, and make every inch of the country a place to celebrate their so-called
religious ceremonies, without fear of interruption and without reverence for the religious leanings of others.
We believe such a case, where disagreements are bound to crop up and passions to run high among those in
the audience who hold views contrary to those who might compose the negligible few, is not within the
constitutional guaranty of freedom of religion, which inspired our legislators to make the offense defined under
Articles 132 and 133 of the Revised Penal Code punishable as crimes against religious worship.

But assuming, arguendo, that the rally in question was a religious ceremony, did the appellant perform “acts
notoriously offensive to the feelings of the faithful?” His Honor, the trial judge, said: “It must be stated here
that said accused Mandariao had not then stated any notorious offensive words. At least, there is no clear
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evidence that he had pronounced any insulting word.” To this, we fully agree. Even the information filed by the
City Attorney does not charge the appellant with having uttered any offensive word. The information merely
accuses Mandoriao of disturbing the meeting by going up the stage and grabbing the mike from the preacher,
”which acts the City Attorney alleges were notoriously offensive to the feelings of the devotees therein. His
Honor, the trial judge, concurred in this View of the City Attorney. To this, we beg to disagree.

Justice Albert has this to say: “An act is said to be notoriously offensive to the religious feelings of the faithful
when a person ridicules or makes light of anything constituting a religious dogma ; mocks or scoffs at
anything devoted to religious ceremonies; plays with or damages or destroys any object of veneration by the
faithful” (People vs. Baes, 68 Phil., 203). Justice Laurel, in his dissenting Opinion in People vs. Baes, supra,
said: “I believe that an act, in order to be considered as notoriously” offensive to the religious feelings, must
be one directed against religious practice or dogma or ritual for the purpose of ridicule; the offender, for
instance, mocks, scoffs at or attempts to damage an object of religious venaration; it must be abusive,
insulting and obnoxious (Viada, Cemen-tarios al Codigo Penal, 707, 708; vide also Pacheco, Codigo Penal,
359).” The act complained of must be directed against a dogma or ritual, or upon an object of veneration.
There was no object of veneration at the meeting. The mere fact that Mandoriao ascended the stage,
challenged Salvio to a debate, and allegedly grabbed the microphone do not constitute acts calculated to
ridicule or make light of a religious ritual. They might be punishable as a public disturbance, under Article 153
of the Revised Penal Code, but we cannot consider them as acts notoriously offensive to the feelings of the
faithful.

However, may the appellant be held criminally liable under Article 153 of the Revised Penal Code? While the
information in this case is a sufficient indictment, the evidence of record does not show the appellant’s guilt
beyond reasonable doubt under this provision of the Code. Antonio Dulay, who did not know the appellant
before the incident in question, declared that there was already a commotion before Mandoriao went up the
stage; and, that there were some people who urged the appellant, who is himself a minister of the Association
of Baptist Churches, gym-have a debate with Salvio. The lower court believed this claim of Dulay when it
found: “Some of those in the crowd asked and urged the accused Mandoriao, Jr., to go up the stage and
debate with Plutarco Salvio. Mandoriao went up the stage and challenged Plutarco Salvio to a debate.” Dulay
also said that the commotion came about because of the remarks of Salvio that Christ is not God, only a man;
that those who believed that Christ is God are anti-Christ; that all the members of the Roman Church, from
the highest official down to the last “Ember, are marked by the demon; and, that the Pope is The
commander-in-chief of Satan. If, therefore, on that occasion any one has, done or said , anything beyond the
limits of propriety and in clear abuse of his freedom of speech and religion, it, certainly, was not the appellant;
it was Plutarco Salvio who made those uncalled for remarks notoriously offensive to the feelings of the faithful.
We find that the meeting was interrupted because of those remarks of Plutarco Salvio which naturally sparked
indignant and antagonistic comments from the crowd. Even the lower court admitted that these dissertations
of Salvio irked and offended those of the audience who were not members of the Iglesia Ni Cristo so that the
crowd became unruly and many shouted and made noise. It was when the crowd was already indignant and
many were shouting and making noise that appellant Mandoriao went up the stage on the insistence of the
crowd.

Furthermore, the appellant denied that he grabbed the microphone from Salvio and said that he did not need
a loud speaker in order to be heard by a crowd of only 200 people because his voice was loud enough to
dominate such a small gathering. Antonio Dulay said that he did not see the appellant grab the microphone.
The lower court dubbed this testimony of Dulay as evasive and concluded that it was tantamount to a direct
admission that ‘Mandoriao grabbed the microphone Even as His Honor observed, while the appellant was on
the witness-stand, that said appellant had a powerful physique and lungs, with solid penetrating voice, His
Honor rejected the claim of appellant and Witness Dulay and said that “it is non-sensical and highly
impossible that Dulay, who was among the crowd in front of the stage, would not see an important happening
on that stage,” that is, the alleged grabbing of the microphone by the appellant. We find no plausible reason
why witness Dulay should tell the truth on some points and perjure himself on others in order to help the
appellant whom he did not know until the latter was charged in court. In a commotion or disturbance, it is hard
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for 2 witnesses to tell all the details that occurred. This is because one’s attention is not always focused at
one place or event. It might happen that, while one’s, attention is fixed at one place or event, others are
simultaneously taking place in another. It must be remembered that the crowd became unruly and indignant
because of the uncalled-for slurs made by Salvio against Christ. It is probable that, for some time, Dulay’s
attention was involuntarily switched to those behind him who were shouting and when he again reverted his
attention to the stage, Mandoriao already was holding the microphone. The rally had already ceased to be
peaceful when appellant went up the stage. Appellant was not able to talk before the microphone because the
wire connecting the said microphone with the loud speaker was already disconnected. If anyone was to blame
for the disturbance in that meeting, it was the principal speaker, Salvio, whose mocking and insulting remarks
about Jesus Christ had naturally irked the ire and indignance of the audience.

Wherefore, the decision appealed from is hereby reversed and the appellant, Jose Mandoriao, Jr., acquitted,
Without costs. So ordered.”

Dizon and Rodas, JJ., concur.


Judgment revised, appellant acquitted.

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