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G.R. No. 91649 – 197 SCRA 52 – Political Law – Constitutional Law – Bill of Rights – Equal Protection Clause
Municipal Corporation – Local Autonomy – Imperium in Imperio
In 1977, the Philippine Amusements and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) was created by Presidential Decree No. 1067-A. PD 1067-B meanwhile granted PAGCOR the power “to establish, operate and maintain gambling casinos on land or water within the territorial jurisdiction of the Philippines.” PAGCOR’s operation was a success hence in 1978, PD 1399 was passed which expanded PAGCOR’s power. In 1983, PAGCOR’s charter was updated through PD 1869. PAGCOR’s charter provides that PAGCOR shall regulate and centralize all games of chance authorized by existing franchise or permitted by law. Section 1 of PD 1869 provides:
Section 1. Declaration of Policy. It is hereby declared to be the policy of the State to centralize and integrate all games of chance not heretofore authorized by existing franchises or permitted by law.
Atty. Humberto Basco and several other lawyers assailed the validity of the law creating PAGCOR. They claim that PD 1869 is unconstitutional because a) it violates the equal protection clause and b) it violates the local autonomy clause of the constitution.
Basco et al argued that PD 1869 violates the equal protection clause because it legalizes PAGCOR-conducted gambling, while most other forms of gambling are outlawed, together with prostitution, drug trafficking and other vices.
Anent the issue of local autonomy, Basco et al contend that P.D. 1869 forced cities like Manila to waive its right to impose taxes and legal fees as far as PAGCOR is concerned; that Section 13 par. (2) of P.D. 1869 which exempts PAGCOR, as the franchise holder from paying any “tax of any kind or form, income or otherwise, as well as fees, charges or levies of whatever nature, whether National or Local” is violative of the local autonomy principle.
1. Whether or not PD 1869 violates the equal protection clause.
2. Whether or not PD 1869 violates the local autonomy clause.
1. No. Just how PD 1869 in legalizing gambling conducted by PAGCOR is violative of the equal protection is not clearly explained in Basco’s petition. The mere fact that some gambling activities like cockfighting (PD 449) horse racing (RA 306 as amended by RA 983), sweepstakes, lotteries and races (RA 1169 as amended by BP 42) are legalized under certain conditions, while others are prohibited, does not render the applicable laws, PD. 1869 for one, unconstitutional.
Basco’s posture ignores the well-accepted meaning of the clause “equal protection of the laws.” The clause does not preclude classification of individuals who may be accorded different treatment under the law as long as the classification is not unreasonable or arbitrary. A law does not have to operate in equal force on all persons or things to be conformable to Article III, Sec 1 of the Constitution. The “equal protection clause” does not prohibit the Legislature from establishing classes of individuals or objects upon which different rules shall operate. The Constitution does not require situations which are different in fact or opinion to be treated in law as though they were the same.
2. No. Section 5, Article 10 of the 1987 Constitution provides:
Each local government unit shall have the power to create its own source of revenue and to levy taxes, fees, and other charges subject to such guidelines and limitation as the congress may provide, consistent with the basic policy on local autonomy. Such taxes, fees and charges shall accrue exclusively to the local government.
A close reading of the above provision does not violate local autonomy (particularly on taxing powers) as it was clearly stated that the taxing power of LGUs are subject to such guidelines and limitation as Congress may provide.
Further, the City of Manila, being a mere Municipal corporation has no inherent right to impose taxes. The Charter of the City of Manila is subject to control by Congress. It should be stressed that “municipal corporations are mere creatures of Congress” which has the power to “create and abolish municipal corporations” due to its “general legislative powers”. Congress, therefore, has the power of control over Local governments. And if Congress can grant the City of Manila the power to tax certain matters, it can also provide for exemptions or even take back the power.
Further still, local governments have no power to tax instrumentalities of the National Government. PAGCOR is a government owned or controlled corporation with an original charter, PD 1869. All of its shares of stocks are owned by the National Government. Otherwise, its operation might be burdened, impeded or subjected to control by a mere Local government.
This doctrine emanates from the “supremacy” of the National Government over local governments.