Taxpayer sues PHLPost over Iglesia ni Cristo postage stamp
MANILA, Philippines—A taxpayer has taken legal action against the Philippine Postal Corp. or PHLPost for its issuance of postage stamps marking the 100th founding anniversary of Iglesia ni Cristo, saying that public funds should not be used to benefit a religious group.
Renato Peralta of Las Piñas City filed for injunction last week in the Manila Regional Trial Court to stop PHLPost, a government-owned corporation, from paying for the printing of the INC centennial postage stamps and to stop their distribution.
“Coming up with the commemorative stamp of the INC is tantamount to sponsorship of a religious activity” which is prohibited by the Constitution, Peralta said.
Reached by the Inquirer for comment, Peralta said he was a court employee and a member of a Christian group. He said the issue was the use of public funds when “there is no legitimate government activity.”
There will be a hearing on July 4 at Branch 33 of the Manila Regional Trial Court, he said.
The INC will mark its 100th year of registration in the Philippines on July 27. The postage stamp shows the INC Central Temple and a portrait of the late Felix Manalo, founder and first executive minister.
PHLPost is set to issue 1.2 million pieces of the INC stamp, more than twice what it usually prints for a single design, and bigger-sized than regular postage stamps. Postmaster General Josefina dela Cruz is reported to have said that the issuance of the commemorative postage stamp passed through certification by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines.
“The disbursement of public funds by Philpost for the INC occasion is illegal,” Peralta told the court. “The postmaster general and all officers involved in the INC commemorative stamps must be restrained from proceeding with the issuance and distribution of the stamps all over the country on or before July 27, or thereafter.”
On May 10, an enlarged copy of the stamp was presented by Dela Cruz to INC Executive Minister Eduardo Manalo in a ceremony at the church’s Central Office in Quezon City.
Dela Cruz was former governor of Bulacan, where the INC has built a large multipurpose arena which will be unveiled on the centennial anniversary.
INC wields substantial political influence through its practice of bloc-voting during elections.
Sought for comment, Dela Cruz said in a text message, “We stand by our position that the INC commemorative stamps are not unconstitutional.”
“There has already been a Supreme Court ruling before pertaining to the issuance of stamps related to Manila’s hosting of the Eucharistic Assembly. The SC said it wasn’t a violation of the (separation) of church and state,” she said.
“And INC is not the only church-related stamps that we have produced. We have issued special stamps for Pope Francis, Pope John Paul II and Pope John XXIII, all heads of the Catholic Church, and there was no negative reaction,” Dela Cruz added.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.