THE REGISTER OF DEEDS OF RIZAL, petitioner-appellee, vs. UNG SIU SI TEMPLE, respondent-appellant. G.R. No. L-6776, May 21, 1955.
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We are of the opinion that the Court below has correctly held that in view of the absolute terms of section 5, Title XIII, of the Constitution, the provisions of Act No. 271 of the old Philippine Commission must be deemed repealed since the Constitution was enacted, in so far as incompatible therewith. In providing that, —
Save in cases of hereditary succession, no private agricultural land shall be transferred or assigned except to individuals, corporations or associations qualified to acquire or hold lands of the public domain in the Philippines,
the Constitution makes no exception in favor of religious associations.
Neither is there any such saving found in sections 1 and 2 of Article XIII, restricting the acquisition of public agricultural lands and other natural resources to "corporations or associations at least sixty per centum of the capital of which is owned by such citizens" (of the Philippines).
The fact that the appellant religious organization has no capital stock does not suffice to escape the Constitutional inhibition, since it is admitted that its members are of foreign nationality. The purpose of the sixty per centum requirement is obviously to ensure that corporations or associations allowed to acquire agricultural land or to exploit natural resources shall be controlled by Filipinos; and the spirit of the Constitution demands that in the absence of capital stock, the controlling membership should be composed of Filipino citizens.
To permit religious associations controlled by non-Filipinos to acquire agricultural lands would be to drive the opening wedge to revive alien religious land holdings in this country. We can not ignore the historical fact that complaints against land holdings of that kind were among the factors that sparked the revolution of 1896.
As to the complaint that the disqualification under article XIII is violative of the freedom of religion guaranteed by Article III of the Constitution, we are by no means convinced (nor has it been shown) that land tenure is indispensable to the free exercise and enjoyment of religious profession or worship; or that one may not worship the Deity according to the dictates of his own conscience unless upon land held in fee simple.
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