Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Balacuit v CFI G.R. No. L-38429 June 30, 1988

J. Gancayo

Petitioners, theater owners, assailed the constitutionality of Ordinance No. 640 passed by the Municipal Board of the City of Butuan on April 21, 1969. This called for a reduction to ½ of the ticket price given to minors from 7-12 years old. There was a fine from 200-600 pesos or a 2-6 month imprisonment
The complaint was issued in the trial court. A TRO was then issued to prevent the law from being enforced.  The respondent court entered its decision declaring the law valid.
Petitioners attack the validity and constitutionality of Ordinance No. 640 on the grounds that it is ultra vires and an invalid exercise of police power. Petitioners contend that Ordinance No. 640 is not within the power of' the Municipal Board to enact as provided for in Section 15(n) of Republic Act No. 523 where it states that the Muncipal board can only fix license fees for theaters and not admission rates.
The respondent attempts to justify the enactment of the ordinance by invoking the general welfare clause embodied in Section 15 (nn) of the cited law.

Does this power to regulate include the authority to interfere in the fixing of prices of admission to these places of exhibition and amusement whether under its general grant of power or under the general welfare clause as invoked by the City?

Held: The ordinance is under neither and thus unconstitutional. Petition granted.

1. Kwong Sing v. City of Manila- the word "regulate" was interpreted to include the power to control, to govern and to restrain, it would seem that under its power to regulate places of exhibitions and amusement, the Municipal Board of the City of Butuan could make proper police regulations as to the mode in which the business shall be exercised.
In this jurisdiction, it is already settled that the operation of theaters, cinematographs and other places of public exhibition are subject to regulation by the municipal council in the exercise of delegated police power by the local government.
People v. Chan- an ordinance of the City of Manila prohibiting first run cinematographs from selling tickets beyond their seating capacity was upheld as constitutional for being a valid exercise of police power.
The City of Butuan, apparently realizing that it has no authority to enact the ordinance in question under its power to regulate embodied in Section 15(n), now invokes the police power as delegated to it under the general welfare clause to justify the enactment of said ordinance
To invoke the exercise of police power, not only must it appear that the interest of the public generally requires an interference with private rights, but the means adopted must be reasonably necessary for the accomplishment of the purpose and not unduly oppressive upon individuals.
The legislature may not, under the guise of protecting the public interest, arbitrarily interfere with private business, or impose unusual and unnecessary restrictions upon lawful occupations. In other words, the determination as to what is a proper exercise of its police power is not final or conclusive, but is subject to the supervision of the courts.
Petitioners maintain that Ordinance No. 640 violates the due process clause of the Constitution for being oppressive, unfair, unjust, confiscatory, and an undue restraint of trade, and violative of the right of persons to enter into contracts, considering that the theater owners are bound under a contract with the film owners for just admission prices for general admission, balcony and lodge.
Homeowners Association- the exercise of police power is necessarily subject to a qualification, limitation or restriction demanded by the regard, the respect and the obedience due to the prescriptions of the fundamental law
The court agreed with petitioners that the ordinance is not justified by any necessity for the public interest. The police power legislation must be firmly grounded on public interest and welfare, and a reasonable relation must exist between purposes and means.
The evident purpose of the ordinance is to help ease the burden of cost on the part of parents who have to shell out the same amount of money for the admission of their children, as they would for themselves. A reduction in the price of admission would mean corresponding savings for the parents; however, the petitioners are the ones made to bear the cost of these savings. The ordinance does not only make the petitioners suffer the loss of earnings but it likewise penalizes them for failure to comply with it. Furthermore, as petitioners point out, there will be difficulty in its implementation because as already experienced by petitioners since the effectivity of the ordinance, children over 12 years of age tried to pass off their age as below 12 years in order to avail of the benefit of the ordinance. The ordinance does not provide a safeguard against this undesirable practice and as such, the respondent City of Butuan now suggests that birth certificates be exhibited by movie house patrons to prove the age of children. This is, however, not at all practicable. We can see that the ordinance is clearly unreasonable if not unduly oppressive upon the business of petitioners. Moreover, there is no discernible relation between the ordinance and the promotion of public health, safety, morals and the general welfare.
Respondent further alleges that by charging the full price, the children are being exploited by movie house operators. We fail to see how the children are exploited if they pay the full price of admission. They are treated with the same quality of entertainment as the adults.
Moreover, as a logical consequence of the ordinance, movie house and theater operators will be discouraged from exhibiting wholesome movies for general patronage, much less children's pictures if only to avoid compliance with the ordinance and still earn profits for themselves.
A theater ticket has been described to be either a mere license, revocable at the will of the proprietor of the theater or it may be evidence of a contract whereby, for a valuable consideration, the purchaser has acquired the right to enter the theater and observe the performance on condition that he behaves properly.  Such ticket, therefore, represents a right, Positive or conditional, as the case may be, according to the terms of the original contract of sale. This right is clearly a right of property. The ticket which represents that right is also, necessarily, a species of property. As such, the owner thereof, in the absence of any condition to the contrary in the contract by which he obtained it, has the clear right to dispose of it, to sell it to whom he pleases and at such price as he can obtain.
In no sense could theaters be considered public utilities. The State has not found it appropriate as a national policy to interfere with the admission prices to these performances. This does not mean however, that theaters and exhibitions are not affected with public interest even to a certain degree. Motion pictures have been considered important both as a medium for the communication of Ideas and expression of the artistic impulse. Their effects on the perceptions by our people of issues and public officials or public figures as well as the prevailing cultural traits are considerable.
While it is true that a business may be regulated, it is equally true that such regulation must be within the bounds of reason, that is, the regulatory ordinance must be reasonable, and its provisions cannot be oppressive amounting to an arbitrary interference with the business or calling subject of regulation. A lawful business or calling may not, under the guise of regulation, be unreasonably interfered with even by the exercise of police power.
A police measure for the regulation of the conduct, control and operation of a business should not encroach upon the legitimate and lawful exercise by the citizens of their property rights. 34 The right of the owner to fix a price at which his property shall be sold or used is an inherent attribute of the property itself and, as such, within the protection of the due process clause.
Although the presumption is always in favor of the validity or reasonableness of the ordinance, such presumption must nevertheless be set aside when the invalidity or unreasonableness appears on the face of the ordinance itself or is established by proper evidence

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