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Case Digest: Martin Centeno vs. Judge Villalon-Pornillos

Case Title: Centeno vs. Villalon-Pornillos  

Case Number: G.R. No. 113092, September 1, 1994  

Doctrine/Relevant Topic: Pro Reo Doctrine


In 1985, the officers of a civic organization known as the Samahang Katandaan ng Nayon ng Tikay launched a fund drive for the purpose of renovating the chapel of Barrio Tikay, Malolos, Bulacan. The then chairman of the group, Petitioner Martin Centeno, together with Vicente Yco, approached Judge Adoracion G. Angeles, a resident of Tikay, and solicited from her a contribution of P1,500.00. It is admitted that the solicitation was made without a permit from the Department of Social Welfare and Development.

As a consequence, based on the complaint of Judge Angeles, petitioner Martin Centeno, together with Religio Evaristo and Vicente Yco, were charged for violation of Presidential Decree No. 1564 (PD 1564), or the Solicitation Permit Law. The trial court found accused Vicente Yco and petitioner Centeno guilty beyond reasonable doubt and sentenced them to pay a fine of P200.00 each.

The trial court rendered judgment finding accused Vicente Yco and petitioner Centeno guilty beyond reasonable doubt and sentencing them to each pay a fine of P200.00. Nevertheless, the trial court recommended that the accused be pardoned on the basis of its finding that they acted in good faith.

Both accused Centeno and Yco appealed to the Regional Trial Court (RTC). However, accused Yco subsequently withdrew his appeal. Respondent Judge Villalon-Pornillos affirmed the decision of the lower court but modified the penalty to an increased penalty of imprisonment of 6 months and a fine of P1,000.00, without subsidiary imprisonment in case of insolvency. The subsequent motion for reconsideration was denied. Hence, this petition.


Whether or not solicitation for religious purposes is included to those contemplated by PD 1564.


       The Supreme Court, in deciding this case, invoked the rule expressed in the familiar maxim “expressio unius est exclusio alterius.” Accordingly, it is an elementary rule of statutory construction that the express mention of one person, thing, act, or consequence excludes all others. Where a statute, by its terms, is expressly limited to certain matters, it may not, by interpretation or construction, be extended to others. The rule proceeds from the premise that the legislature would not have made specified enumerations in a statute had the intention been not to restrict its meaning and to confine its terms to those expressly mentioned.

All contributions designed to promote the work of the church are “charitable” in nature, since religious activities depend for their support on voluntary contributions. However, “religious purpose” is not interchangeable with the expression “charitable purpose Accordingly, the term “charitable” should be strictly construed so as to exclude solicitations for “religious” purposes. The Court adhered to the fundamental doctrine underlying virtually all penal legislations that such interpretation should be adopted as would favor the accused It does not follow, therefore from the constitutional guaranties of the free exercise of religion that everything which may be so called can be tolerated. It has been said that a law advancing a legitimate governmental interest is not necessarily invalid as one interfering with the “free exercise” of religion merely because it also incidentally has a detrimental effect on the adherents of one or more religion.

Thus, the general regulation, in the public interest, of solicitation, which does not involve any religious test and does not unreasonably obstruct or delay the collection of funds, is not open to any constitutional objection, even though the collection be for a religious purpose. Such regulation would not constitute a prohibited previous restraint on the free exercise of religion or interpose an inadmissible obstacle to its exercise.

To conclude, solicitation for religious purposes may be subject to proper regulation by the State in the exercise of police power. However, in the case at bar, considering that solicitations intended for a religious purpose are not within the coverage of Presidential Decree No. 1564, as earlier demonstrated, petitioner cannot be held criminally liable therefor.

Justice Mendoza, in his concurring Opinion cited his three-fold reasons; First, solicitation of contributions for the construction of a church is not solicitation for “charitable or public welfare purpose” but for a religious purpose, and a religious purpose is not necessarily a charitable or public welfare purpose; Second, the purpose of the Decree is to protect the public against fraud in view of the proliferation of fund campaigns for charity and other civic projects; and Third, to require a government permit before solicitation for religious purpose may be allowed is to lay a prior restraint on the free exercise of religion.

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