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INTRAMURAL RELIGIOUS DISPUTES Corollary to the State-Church separation is the Intramural Religious Dispute.

This refers to disputes domestic within any religious organization which the court does not usually take cognizance as long as the dispute is internal and purely ecclesiastical in respect to the wall of separation. The case in point here is Fonacier v CA and De los Reyes [GR No. L-5197]. It is very interesting to note that this case is almost identical to the present crisis of PGCAG. The Supreme Court applied the churchs CBL in arriving at their decision. The antecedent facts are as follows: After the death of Gregorio Aglipay, founder of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente otherwise known as Aglipayan Church, Monsignor Fonacier was elected as the Supreme Bishop of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente [IFI]. The dispute begun when Bishop Fonacier excommunicated Bishop Aguilar and others for insubordination. The decree of expulsion of Bishop Aguilar was signed by the Board Secretary and by six others Bishops members of the board. The expulsion was not immediately executed because of some Bishops who sought for reconciliation and have asked Aguilar to write a letter of apology but the latters refusal to comply made the decree of expulsion operative. Furthermore, Bishop Aguilar had the right to appeal from the decree of expulsion to the Curia de Apelaciones which had jurisdiction to review and render final judgment thereon, but that Bishop Aguilar and others did not avail themselves of this remedy and, hence, this decree became final and executory. A coup detat against Fonacier aggravated the situation when Bishop Fonacier was removed as Head Bishop by the board and thereafter elected Bishop Bacaya as the new Supreme Bishop. Bishop Bacaya then notified Fonaciers removal and ordered him to make an accounting of the Church during his term and turn over to the present leadership all assets, finances and properties of the church. Shortly after this, a convention was held and Bishop De los Reyes was elected as the new Head Bishop. Fonancier also held a convention in Manila Hotel and Bishop Jamias was elected as Supreme Bishop. Thus two factions were created. The faction of De los Reyes has 19 Bishops and 252 priests while Fonaciers faction has 10 Bishops and 40 priests. The new Supreme Bishop demanded for an accounting but Fonacier refused to do so as he already submitted said accounting to Bishop Jamias. The then Court of First Instance [now RTC] declared Bishop De los Reyes as the sole Head Bishop of the Church. The Appellate Court affirmed the trial courts decision. The issues recognized by the Supreme Court to be settled are: whether or not civil court has jurisdiction over ecclesiastical matters; whether or not the expulsion of Aguilar was valid; and the legitimacy of De los Reyes as Supreme Bishop. How the Supreme Court arrived at their decision? On the first and second assigned issues, the Supreme Court reiterates the ruling of the Court of Appeals that civil courts may look into the propriety of the decree of

ouster because Aguilar pleaded that his ouster was not in accordance to the CBL of the Church as they were not informed of the charges against them and were not afforded an opportunity to be heard. Thus civil courts has jurisdiction to review such action. What is not subject to courts review is the wisdom of the ecclesiastical tribunals in reaching a decision. What the court can review is only the process at how the decision was reached. On the last issue, Fonacier argued that it was Aguilar [head of the board] who called the Board meeting in order to decide on the complaints and charges he filed against Fornacier and that Aguilar has no authority to call for a meeting since he was already ousted. The Supreme Court ruled that Aguilar has the authority to call for the meeting since his ouster was illegal and therefore null and void. Consequently because of the removal of Fonacier as Supreme Bishop, the board elected Bishop Bacaya as the new Supreme Bishop and thereafter called for a convention and elected Bishop De los Reyes as new Supreme Bishop. Therefore the legitimacy of Bishop De los Reyes is unquestionably legal.