PHLPost printing of Iglesia ni Cristo stamp 'not unconstitutional'

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine Postal Corporation (PHLPost) did not violate the 1987 Constitution when it printed and sold 1.2 million postage stamps for the 100th anniversary of the Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) in 2014, ruled the Supreme Court (SC).

In a 26-page ruling penned by Associate Justice Noel Tijam, the SC said there was no basis for the argument of petitioner Renato Peralta, who claimed that public funds were illegally used to print the centennial stamp.

The SC said PHLPost did not violate Section 29 (2), Article VI of the Constitution, which bars the use of public funds to support a religious sect.

Peralta, who filed the suit in his capacity as taxpayer, insisted that the issuance of the INC centennial stamp was "free advertisement" for the religious group. Only 50,000 pieces were covered in a deal between the INC and PHLPost.

But the SC said the printing was a mere "acknowledgment" of the INC's existence and "does not necessarily equate to the State sponsoring the INC."

The Court noted that PHLPost had also issued stamps for events like the Catholic Church's International Eucharistic Congress and the visit of Pope Francis. It also printed stamps to commemorate 300 years of Islam.

"Based on the foregoing, this Court is not convinced that PHLPost has actually used its resources to endorse, nor encourage Filipinos to join INC or observe the latter's doctrines. On the contrary, this Court agrees with the respondents that the printing of the INC commemorative stamp was endeavored merely as part of PHLPost's ordinary business," the SC said.

The SC's decision affirmed its earlier ruling on July 24, 2015, as well as a Court of Appeals resolution dated March 8, 2016. – Rappler.com