SC upholds INC's anti-unionism doctrine

FERNANDO, J, concurring in the case of Victoriano v. Elizalde Rope Factory (G.R. No. L-25246 September 12, 1974).

The decision arrived at unanimously by [the Supreme] Court that Republic Act No. 3350 is free from the constitutional infirmities imputed to it was demonstrated in a manner wellnigh conclusive in the learned, scholarly, and comprehensive opinion so typical of the efforts of the ponente, Justice Zaldivar. Like the rest of my brethren, I concur fully. Considering moreover, the detailed attention paid to each and every objection raised as to its validity and the clarity and persuasiveness with which it was shown to be devoid of support in authoritative doctrines, it would appear that the last word has been written on this particular subject. Nonetheless, I deem it proper to submit this brief expression of my views on the transcendent character of religious freedom and its primacy even as against the claims of protection to labor, also one of the fundamental principles of the Constitution. (G.R. No. L-25246 September 12, 1974)

1. Religious freedom is identified with the liberty every individual possesses to worship or not a Supreme Being, and if a devotee of any sect, to act in accordance with its creed. Thus is constitutionally safeguarded, according to Justice Laurel, that "profession of faith to an active power that binds and elevates man to his Creator..." The choice of what a man wishes to believe in is his and his alone. That is a domain left untouched, where intrusion is not allowed, a citadel to which the law is denied entry, whatever be his thoughts or hopes. In that sphere, what he wills reigns supreme. The doctrine to which he pays fealty may for some be unsupported by evidence, devoid of rational foundation. No matter. There is no requirement as to its conformity to what has found acceptance. It suffices that for him such a concept holds undisputed sway. That is a recognition of man's freedom. That for him is one of the ways of self- realization. It would be to disregard the dignity that attaches to every human being to deprive him of such an attribute. The "fixed star on our constitutional constellation," to borrow the felicitous phrase of Justice Jackson, is that no official, not excluding the highest, has it in his power to prescribe what shall be orthodox in matters of conscience — or to mundane affairs, for that matter. (G.R. No. L-25246 September 12, 1974)

Gerona v. Secretary of Education speaks similarly. In the language of its ponente, Justice Montemayor: "The realm of belief and creed is infinite and limitless bounded only by one's imagination and thought. So is the freedom of belief, including religious belief, limitless and without bounds. One may believe in most anything, however strange, bizarre and unreasonable the same may appear to others, even heretical when weighed in the scales of orthodoxy or doctrinal standards."

There was this qualification though: "But between the freedom of belief and the exercise of said belief, there is quite a stretch of road to travel. If the exercise of said religious belief clashes with the established institutions of society and with the law, then the former must yield and give way to the latter. The Government steps in and either restrains said exercise or even prosecutes the one exercising it."

It was on that basis that the daily compulsory flag ceremony in accordance with a statute was found free from the constitutional objection on the part of a religious sect, the Jehovah's Witnesses, whose members alleged that their participation would be offensive to their religious beliefs. In a case not dissimilar, West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, the American Supreme Court reached a contrary conclusion. Justice Jackson's eloquent opinion is, for this writer, highly persuasive. Thus: "The case is made difficult not because the principles of its decision are obscure but because the flag involved is our own. Nevertheless, we apply the limitations of the Constitution with no fear that freedom to be intellectually and spiritually diverse or even contrary will disintegrate the social organization. To believe that patriotism will not flourish if patriotic ceremonies are voluntary and spontaneous instead of a compulsory routine is to make an unflattering estimate of the appeal of our institutions to free minds. We can have intellectual individualism and the rich cultural diversities that we owe to exceptional minds only at the price of occasional eccentricity and abnormal attitudes. When they are so harmless to others or to the State as those we deal with here, the price is not too great. But freedom to differ is not limited to things that do not matter much. That would be a mere shadow of freedom. The test of its substance is the right to differ as to things that touch the heart of the existing order." (G.R. No. L-25246 September 12, 1974)

There is moreover this ringing affirmation by Chief Justice Hughes of the primacy of religious freedom in the forum of conscience even as against the command of the State itself: "Much has been said of the paramount duty to the state, a duty to be recognized, it is urged, even though it conflicts with convictions of duty to God. Undoubtedly that duty to the state exists within the domain of power, for government may enforce obedience to laws regardless of scruples. When one's belief collides with the power of the state, the latter is supreme within its sphere and submission or punishment follows. But, in the forum of conscience, duty to a moral power higher than the state has always been maintained. The reservation of that supreme obligation, as a matter of principle, would unquestionably be made by many of our conscientious and law-abiding citizens. The essence of religion is belief in a relation to God involving duties superior to those arising from any human relation." The American Chief Justice spoke in dissent, it is true, but with him in agreement were three of the foremost jurists who ever sat in that Tribunal, Justices Holmes, Brandeis, and Stone.

2. As I view Justice Zaldivar's opinion in that light, my concurrence, as set forth earlier, is wholehearted and entire. With such a cardinal postulate as the basis of our polity, it has a message that cannot be misread. Thus is intoned with a reverberating clang, to paraphrase Cardozo, a fundamental principle that drowns all weaker sounds. The labored effort to cast doubt on the validity of the statutory provision in question is far from persuasive. It is attended by futility. It is not for this Court, as I conceive of the judicial function, to restrict the scope of a preferred freedom. (G.R. No. L-25246 September 12, 1974)

3. There is, however, the question of whether such an exception possesses an implication that lessens the effectiveness of state efforts to protect labor, likewise, as noted, constitutionally ordained. Such a view, on the surface, may not be lacking in plausibility, but upon closer analysis, it cannot stand scrutiny. Thought must be given to the freedom of association, likewise an aspect of intellectual liberty. For the late Professor Howe a constitutionalist and in his lifetime the biographer of the great Holmes, it even partakes of the political theory of pluralistic sovereignty. So great is the respect for the autonomy accorded voluntary societies. Such a right implies at the very least that one can determine for himself whether or not he should join or refrain from joining a labor organization, an institutional device for promoting the welfare of the working man. A closed shop, on the other hand, is inherently coercive. That is why, as is unmistakably reflected in our decisions, the latest of which is Guijarno v. Court of Industrial Relations, it is far from being a favorite of the law. For a statutory provision then to further curtail its operation, is precisely to follow the dictates of sound public policy. (G.R. No. L-25246 September 12, 1974)

The exhaustive and well-researched opinion of Justice Zaldivar thus is in the mainstream of constitutional tradition. That, for me, is the channel to follow. (G.R. No. L-25246 September 12, 1974)