The case is about the constitutionality of four resolutions of the barangay council of Valencia, Ormoc City, regarding the acquisition of the wooden image of San Vicente Ferrer to be used in the celebration of his annual feast day. That issue was spawned by the controversy as to whether the parish priest or a layman should have the custody of the image. On March 23, 1976, the said barangay council adopted Resolution No. 5, “reviving the traditional socio-religious celebration” every fifth day of April “of the feast day of Señor San Vicente Ferrer, the patron saint of Valencia”.
Is the holding of fiesta and having a patron saint for the barrio, valid and constitutional?
Yes. The wooden image was purchased in connection with the celebration of the barrio fiesta honoring the patron saint, San Vicente Ferrer, and not for the purpose of favoring any religion nor interfering with religious matters or the religious beliefs of the barrio residents. One of the highlights of the fiesta was the mass. Consequently, the image of the patron saint had to be placed in the church when the mass was celebrated.
If there is nothing unconstitutional or illegal in holding a fiesta and having a patron saint for the barrio, then any activity intended to facilitate the worship of the patron saint (such as the acquisition and display of his image) cannot be branded as illegal. As noted in the first resolution, the barrio fiesta is a socio-religious affair. Its celebration is an ingrained tradition in rural communities. The fiesta relieves the monotony and drudgery of the lives of the masses.
Not every governmental activity which involves the expenditure of public funds and which has some religious tint is violative of the constitutional provisions regarding separation of church and state, freedom of worship and banning the use of public money or property.
In Aglipay vs. Ruiz, 64 Phil. 201, what was involved was Act No. 4052 which appropriated sixty thousand pesos for the cost of plates and the printing of postage stamps with new designs. Under the law, the Director of Posts, with the approval of the Department Head and the President of the Philippines, issued in 1936 postage stamps to commemorate the celebration in Manila of the 33rd International Eucharistic Congress sponsored by the Catholic Church.
The purpose of the stamps was to raise revenue and advertise the Philippines. The design of the stamps showed a map of the Philippines and nothing about the Catholic Church. No religious purpose was intended.
Monsignor Gregorio Aglipay, the founder and head of the Philippine Independent Church, sought to enjoin the sale of those commemorative postage stamps.
It was held that the issuance of the stamps, while linked inseparably with an event of a religious character, was not designed as a propaganda for the Catholic Church. Aglipay’s prohibition suit was dismissed.
The instant case is easily distinguishable from Verzosa vs. Fernandez, 49 Phil., 627 and 55 Phil. 307, where a religious brotherhood, La Archicofradia del Santisimo Sacramento, organized for the purpose of raising funds to meet the expenses for the annual fiesta in honor of the Most Holy Sacrament and the Virgin Lady of Guadalupe, was held accountable for the funds which it held as trustee.