Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Ermita Malate v City of Manila 20 SCRA 849 (1967)

J. Fernando

Ermita-Malate Hotel and Motel Operators Association, and one of its members Hotel del Mar Inc. petitioned for the prohibition of Ordinance 4670 on June 14, 1963 to be applicable in the city of Manila.
They claimed that the ordinance was beyond the powers of the Manila City Board to regulate due to the fact that hotels were not part of its regulatory powers. They also asserted that Section 1 of the challenged ordinance was unconstitutional and void for being unreasonable and violative of due process insofar because it would impose P6,000.00 license fee per annum for first class motels and P4,500.00 for second class motels;  there was also the requirement that the guests would fill up a form specifying their personal information.
There was also a provision that the premises and facilities of such hotels, motels and lodging houses would be open for inspection from city authorites. They claimed this to be violative of due process for being vague.
The law also classified motels into two classes and required the maintenance of certain minimum facilities in first class motels such as a telephone in each room, a dining room or, restaurant and laundry. The petitioners also invoked the lack of due process on this for being arbitrary.
It was also unlawful for the owner to lease any room or portion thereof more than twice every 24 hours.
There was also a prohibition for persons below 18 in the hotel.
The challenged ordinance also caused the automatic cancellation of the license of the hotels that violated the ordinance.
The lower court declared the ordinance unconstitutional.
Hence, this appeal by the city of Manila.

Whether Ordinance No. 4760 of the City of Manila is violative of the due process clause?

Held: No. Judgment reversed.

"The presumption is towards the validity of a law.” However, the Judiciary should not lightly set aside legislative action when there is not a clear invasion of personal or property rights under the guise of police regulation.
O'Gorman & Young v. Hartford Fire Insurance Co- Case was in the scope of police power. As underlying questions of fact may condition the constitutionality of legislation of this character, the resumption of constitutionality must prevail in the absence of some factual foundation of record for overthrowing the statute." No such factual foundation being laid in the present case, the lower court deciding the matter on the pleadings and the stipulation of facts, the presumption of validity must prevail and the judgment against the ordinance set aside.”
There is no question but that the challenged ordinance was precisely enacted to minimize certain practices hurtful to public morals, particularly fornication and prostitution. Moreover, the increase in the licensed fees was intended to discourage "establishments of the kind from operating for purpose other than legal" and at the same time, to increase "the income of the city government."
Police power is the power to prescribe regulations to promote the health, morals, peace, good order, safety and general welfare of the people. In view of the requirements of due process, equal protection and other applicable constitutional guaranties, however, the power must not be unreasonable or violative of due process.
There is no controlling and precise definition of due process. It has a standard to which the governmental action should conform in order that deprivation of life, liberty or property, in each appropriate case, be valid. What then is the standard of due process which must exist both as a procedural and a substantive requisite to free the challenged ordinance from legal infirmity? It is responsiveness to the supremacy of reason, obedience to the dictates of justice. Negatively put, arbitrariness is ruled out and unfairness avoided.
 Due process is not a narrow or "technical conception with fixed content unrelated to time, place and circumstances," decisions based on such a clause requiring a "close and perceptive inquiry into fundamental principles of our society." Questions of due process are not to be treated narrowly or pedantically in slavery to form or phrase.
Nothing in the petition is sufficient to prove the ordinance’s nullity for an alleged failure to meet the due process requirement.
Cu Unjieng case: Licenses for non-useful occupations are also incidental to the police power and the right to exact a fee may be implied from the power to license and regulate, but in fixing amount of the license fees the municipal corporations are allowed a much wider discretion in this class of cases than in the former, and aside from applying the well-known legal principle that municipal ordinances must not be unreasonable, oppressive, or tyrannical, courts have, as a general rule, declined to interfere with such discretion. Eg. Sale of liquors.
Lutz v. Araneta- Taxation may be made to supplement the state’s police power.
In one case- “much discretion is given to municipal corporations in determining the amount," here the license fee of the operator of a massage clinic, even if it were viewed purely as a police power measure.
On the impairment of freedom to contract by limiting duration of use to twice every 24 hours- It was not violative of due process. 'Liberty' as understood in democracies, is not license; it is 'liberty regulated by law.' Implied in the term is restraint by law for the good of the individual and for the greater good of the peace and order of society and the general well-being.
Laurel- The citizen should achieve the required balance of liberty and authority in his mind through education and personal discipline, so that there may be established the resultant equilibrium, which means peace and order and happiness for all.
The freedom to contract no longer "retains its virtuality as a living principle, unlike in the sole case of People v Pomar. The policy of laissez faire has to some extent given way to the assumption by the government of the right of intervention even in contractual relations affected with public interest.
What may be stressed sufficiently is that if the liberty involved were freedom of the mind or the person, the standard for the validity of governmental acts is much more rigorous and exacting, but where the liberty curtailed affects at the most rights of property, the permissible scope of regulatory measure is wider.
On the law being vague on the issue of personal information, the maintenance of establishments, and the “full rate of payment”- Holmes- “We agree to all the generalities about not supplying criminal laws with what they omit but there is no canon against using common sense in construing laws as saying what they obviously mean."

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