THE City Council Monday decided to refer back to the Committee Tourism, Special Events, Parks and Playgrounds, chaired by City Councilor Elmer Datuin, a proposed ordinance introduced by City Councilor Isabelo Cosalan Jr. for the institutionalization of the conduct of the Easter Sunday Sunrise Celebration in the City of Baguio, creating a committee for the purpose and appropriating the necessary funds for the activity.
In the discussion of the proposed legislative measure which was initially approved on Second Reading and for Publication, concerns on the legality and appropriateness of the measure were raised by some members of the august body which led to the matter being reconsidered after its previous approval.
Among those who requested that the committee further study the matter is City Councilor Peter Fianza who suggested that after the proposed ordinance has been published the committee should consider the issue regarding the non-establishment clause as provided in the 1987 Philippine Constitution which says in Section 5 of Article III thereof that, "No law shall be made respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. The free exercise and enjoyment of religious profession and worship, without discrimination or preference shall forever be allowed. No religious test shall be required for the exercise of civil or political rights, and in Section 6 which states that, "The separation of Church and State shall be inviolable."
Councilor Datuin, as chairman of the committee on Tourism that recommended approval of the measure, explained that the purpose of the proposal has to do with the tourism aspect of the event considering that for the past five years it has been conducted as part of the Holy Week and that it has attracted tourists who attended the activity. Datuin also mentioned that the event is participated in by various religious groups and it is similar to the Misa de Gallo being conducted during the month of December.
City Councilor Leandro Yangot also gave the observation that as contained in the said proposed ordinance, particularly in Section 4 thereof, the event is to be deemed part of the Summer Vacation in Baguio program of the City and can be considered as a summer event and not as a religious activity. Yangot also pointed out that the proposed measure sees the event as a non-sectarian and non-denominational activity. On the part of City Councilor Olowan he mentioned of a Supreme Court Decision which allowed the use of government funds by a religious group since it is only incidental to its operation while City Councilor Isabelo Cosalan who is the proponent of the proposed ordinance also explained that the event is more of a tourism activity taking advantage of the Holy Week and the influx of tourists to the City.
Councilor Fianza then reiterated to the committee concerned that it should also consider the decision of the Supreme Court in the case of Rope Workers Union vs Elizalde Rope Factory concerning a prohibition against some members of the Iglesia ni Cristo for which the court decided is a valid limitation, also Fianza added that some religious groups do not observe Easter.
The presiding officer and City Vice Mayor Edison Bilog then offered the suggestion that the proposed ordinance be referred to the City Legal Office to seek its legal opinion on the matter before it is finally approved on Second Reading and published thru posting.
After discussion the members of the august body decided to have the matter referred back to the committee for its appropriate action and to consider all attendant issues raised such as the matter being forwarded to the City Legal Officer for its legal opinion.