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G.R. No. L-77194 March 15, 1988 MELENCIO-HERRERA, J.

: Petitioners are sugar producers, sugarcane planters and millers, who have come to this Court in their individual capacities and in representation of other sugar producers, planters and millers, said to be so numerous that it is impracticable to bring them all before the Court although the subject matter of the present controversy is of common interest to all sugar producers, whether parties in this action or not. Respondent Philippine Sugar Commission (PHILSUCOM, for short) was formerly the government office tasked with the function of regulating and supervising the sugar industry until it was superseded by its co-respondent Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA, for brevity) under Executive Order No. 18 on May 28, 1986. Although said Executive Order abolished the PHILSUCOM, its existence as a juridical entity was mandated to continue for three (3) more years "for the purpose of prosecuting and defending suits by or against it and enables it to settle and close its affairs, to dispose of and convey its property and to distribute its assets." Respondent Republic Planters Bank (briefly, the Bank) is a commercial banking corporation. Angel H. Severino, Jr., et al., who are sugarcane planters planting and milling their sugarcane in different mill districts of Negros Occidental, were allowed to intervene by the Court, since they have common cause with petitioners and respondents having interposed no objection to their intervention. Subsequently, on January 14,1988, the National Federation of Sugar Planters (NFSP) also moved to intervene, which the Court allowed on February 16,1988. Petitioners and Intervenors have come to this Court praying for a Writ of mandamus commanding respondents: TO IMPLEMENT AND ACCOMPLISH THE PRIVATIZATION OF REPUBLIC PLANTERS BANK BY THE TRANSFER AND DISTRIBUTION OF THE SHARES OF STOCK IN THE SAID BANK; NOW HELD BY AND STILL CARRIED IN THE NAME OF THE PHILIPPINE SUGAR COMMISSION, TO THE SUGAR PRODUCERS, PLANTERS AND MILLERS, WHO ARE THE TRUE BENEFICIAL OWNERS OF THE 761,416 COMMON SHARES VALUED AT P36,548.000.00, AND 53,005,045 PREFERRED SHARES (A, B & C) WITH A TOTAL PAR VALUE OF P254,424,224.72, OR A TOTAL INVESTMENT OF P290,972,224.72, THE SAID INVESTMENT HAVING BEEN FUNDED BY THE DEDUCTION OF Pl.00 PER PICUL FROM SUGAR PROCEEDS OF THE SUGAR PRODUCERS COMMENCING THE YEAR 1978-79 UNTIL THE PRESENT AS STABILIZATION FUND PURSUANT TO P.D. # 388.

Respondent Bank does not take issue with either petitioners or its correspondents as it has no beneficial or equitable interest that may be affected by the ruling in this Petition, but welcomes the filing of the Petition since it will settle finally the issue of legal ownership of the questioned shares of stock. Respondents PHILSUCOM and SRA, for their part, squarely traverse the petition arguing that no trust results from Section 7 of P.D. No. 388; that the stabilization fees collected are considered government funds under the Government Auditing Code; that the transfer of shares of stock from PHILSUCOM to the sugar producers would be irregular, if not illegal; and that this suit is barred by laches. The Solicitor General aptly summarizes the basic issues thus: (1) whether the stabilization fees collected from sugar planters and millers pursuant to Section 7 of P.D. No. 388 are funds in trust for them, or public funds; and (2) whether shares of stock in respondent Bank paid for with said stabilization fees belong to the PHILSUCOM or to the different sugar planters and millers from whom the fees were collected or levied. P. D. No. 388, promulgated on February 2,1974, which created the PHILSUCOM, provided for the collection of a Stabilization Fund as follows: SEC. 7. Capitalization, Special Fund of the Commission, Development and Stabilization Fund. There is hereby established a fund for the commission for the purpose of financing the growth and development of the sugar industry and all its components, stabilization of the domestic market including the foreign market to be administered in trust by the Commission and deposited in the Philippine National Bank derived in the manner herein below cited from the following sources: a. Stabilization fund shall be collected as provided for in the various provisions of this Decree. b. Stabilization fees shall be collected from planters and millers in the amount of Two (P2.00) Pesos for every picul produced and milled for a period of five years from the approval of this Decree and One (Pl.00) Peso for every picul produced and milled every year thereafter. Provided: That fifty (P0.50) centavos per picul of the amount levied on planters, millers and traders under Section 4(c) of this Decree will be used for the payment of salaries and wages of personnel, fringe benefits and allowances of officers and employees for the purpose of accomplishing and employees for the purpose of accomplishing the efficient performance of the duties of the Commission.

Provided, further: That said amount shall constitute a lien on the sugar quedan and/or warehouse receipts and shall be paid immediately by the planters and mill companies, sugar centrals and refineries to the Commission. (paragraphing and bold supplied). Section 7 of P.D. No. 388 does provide that the stabilization fees collected "shall be administered in trust by the Commission." However, while the element of an intent to create a trust is present, a resulting trust in favor of the sugar producers, millers and planters cannot be said to have ensued because the presumptive intention of the parties is not reasonably ascertainable from the language of the statute itself. The doctrine of resulting trusts is founded on the presumed intention of the parties; and as a general rule, it arises where, and only where such may be reasonably presumed to be the intention of the parties, as determined from the facts and circumstances existing at the time of the transaction out of which it is sought to be established (89 C.J.S. 947). No implied trust in favor of the sugar producers either can be deduced from the imposition of the levy. "The essential Idea of an implied trust involves a certain antagonism between the cestui que trust and the trustee even when the trust has not arisen out of fraud nor out of any transaction of a fraudulent or immoral character (65 CJ 222). It is not clearly shown from the statute itself that the PHILSUCOM imposed on itself the obligation of holding the stabilization fund for the benefit of the sugar producers. It must be categorically demonstrated that the very administrative agency which is the source of such regulation would place a burden on itself ( Batchelder v. Central Bank of the Philippines, L-25071, July 29,1972,46 SCRA 102, citing People v. Que Po Lay, 94 Phil. 640 [1954]). Neither can petitioners place reliance on the history of respondents Bank. They recite that at the beginning, the Bank was owned by the Roman-Rojas Group. Because it underwent difficulties early in the year 1978, Mr. Roberto S. Benedicto, then Chairman of the PHILSUCOM, submitted a proposal to the Central Bank for the rehabilitation of the Bank. The Central Bank acted favorably on the proposal at the meeting of the Monetary Board on March 31, 1978 subject to the infusion of fresh capital by the Benedicto Group. Petitioners maintain that this infusion of fresh capital was accomplished, not by any capital investment by Mr. Benedicto, but by PHILSUCOM, which set aside the proceeds of the P1.00 per picul stabilization fund to pay for its subscription in shares of stock of respondent Bank. It is petitioners' submission that all shares were placed in PHILSUCOM's name only out of convenience and necessity and that they are the true and beneficial owners thereof. In point of fact, we cannot see our way clear to upholding petitioners' position that the investment of the proceeds from the stabilization fund in subscriptions to the capital stock of the Bank were being made for and on their behalf. That could have been clarified by the Trust Agreement, dated May 28, 1986,

entered into between PHILSUCOM, as "Trustor" acting through Mr. Fred J. Elizalde as Officer-in-Charge, and respondent RPB- Trust Department' as "Trustee," acknowledging that PHILSUCOM holds said shares for and in behalf of the sugar producers," the latter "being the true and beneficial owners thereof." The Agreement, however, did not get off the ground because it failed to receive the approval of the PHILSUCOM Board of Commissioners as required in the Agreement itself. The SRA, which succeeded PHILSUCOM, neither approved the Agreement because of the adverse opinion of the SRA, Resident Auditor, dated June 25,1986, which was aimed by the Chairman of the Commission on Audit, on January 26,1987. On February 19, 1987, the SRA, resolved to revoke the Trust Agreement "in the light of the ruling of the Commission on Audit that the aforementioned Agreement is of doubtful validity." From the legal standpoint, we find basis for the opinion of the Commission on Audit reading: That the government, PHILSUCOM or its successor-in-interest, Sugar Regulatory Administration, in particular, owns and stocks. While it is true that the collected stabilization fees were set aside by PHILSUCOM to pay its subscription to RPB, it did not collect said fees for the account of the sugar producers. That stabilization fees are charges/levies on sugar produced and milled which accrued to PHILSUCOM under PD 338, as amended. ... The stabilization fees collected are in the nature of a tax, which is within the power of the State to impose for the promotion of the sugar industry ( Lutz vs. Araneta, 98 Phil. 148). They constitute sugar liens (Sec. 7[b], P.D. No. 388). The collections made accrue to a "Special Fund," a "Development and Stabilization Fund," almost Identical to the "Sugar Adjustment and Stabilization Fund" created under Section 6 of Commonwealth Act 567. 1 The tax collected is not in a pure exercise of the taxing power. It is levied with a regulatory purpose, to provide means for the stabilization of the sugar industry. The levy is primarily in the exercise of the police power of the State (Lutz vs. Araneta, supra.). The protection of a large industry constituting one of the great sources of the state's wealth and therefore directly or indirectly affecting the welfare of so great a portion of the population of the State is affected to such an extent by public interests as to be within the police power of the sovereign. (Johnson vs. State ex rel. Marey, 128 So. 857, cited in Lutz vs. Araneta, supra).

The stabilization fees in question are levied by the State upon sugar millers, planters and producers for a special purpose that of "financing the growth and development of the sugar industry and all its components, stabilization of the domestic market including the foreign market the fact that the State has taken possession of moneys pursuant to law is sufficient to constitute them state funds, even though they are held for a special purpose (Lawrence vs. American Surety Co., 263 Mich 586, 249 ALR 535, cited in 42 Am. Jur. Sec. 2, p. 718). Having been levied for a special purpose, the revenues collected are to be treated as a special fund, to be, in the language of the statute, "administered in trust' for the purpose intended. Once the purpose has been fulfilled or abandoned, the balance, if any, is to be transferred to the general funds of the Government. That is the essence of the trust intended (See 1987 Constitution, Article VI, Sec. 29(3), lifted from the 1935 Constitution, Article VI, Sec. 23(l]). 2 The character of the Stabilization Fund as a special fund is emphasized by the fact that the funds are deposited in the Philippine National Bank and not in the Philippine Treasury, moneys from which may be paid out only in pursuance of an appropriation made by law (1987) Constitution, Article VI, Sec. 29[1],1973 Constitution, Article VIII, Sec. 18[l]). That the fees were collected from sugar producers, planters and millers, and that the funds were channeled to the purchase of shares of stock in respondent Bank do not convert the funds into a trust fired for their benefit nor make them the beneficial owners of the shares so purchased. It is but rational that the fees be collected from them since it is also they who are to be benefited from the expenditure of the funds derived from it. The investment in shares of respondent Bank is not alien to the purpose intended because of the Bank's character as a commodity bank for sugar conceived for the industry's growth and development. Furthermore, of note is the fact that one-half, (1/2) or PO.50 per picul, of the amount levied under P.D. No. 388 is to be utilized for the "payment of salaries and wages of personnel, fringe benefits and allowances of officers and employees of PHILSUCOM" thereby immediately negating the claim that the entire amount levied is in trust for sugar, producers, planters and millers. To rule in petitioners' favor would contravene the general principle that revenues derived from taxes cannot be used for purely private purposes or for the exclusive benefit of private persons. The Stabilization Fund is to be utilized for the benefit of the entire sugar industry, "and all its components, stabilization of the domestic market," including the foreign market the industry being of vital importance to the country's economy and to national interest. WHEREFORE, the Writ of mandamus is denied and the Petition hereby dismissed. No costs. This Decision is immediately executory. SO ORDERED.

G.R. No. 166006

March 14, 2008 INC., Petitioner,

PLANTERS PRODUCTS, vs. FERTIPHIL CORPORATION, Respondent. REYES, R.T., J.:

THE Regional Trial Courts (RTC) have the authority and jurisdiction to consider the constitutionality of statutes, executive orders, presidential decrees and other issuances. The Constitution vests that power not only in the Supreme Court but in all Regional Trial Courts. The principle is relevant in this petition for review on certiorari of the Decision1 of the Court of Appeals (CA) affirming with modification that of the RTC in Makati City,2 finding petitioner Planters Products, Inc. (PPI) liable to private respondent Fertiphil Corporation (Fertiphil) for the levies it paid under Letter of Instruction (LOI) No. 1465. The Facts Petitioner PPI and private respondent Fertiphil are private corporations incorporated under Philippine laws.3 They are both engaged in the importation and distribution of fertilizers, pesticides and agricultural chemicals. On June 3, 1985, then President Ferdinand Marcos, exercising his legislative powers, issued LOI No. 1465 which provided, among others, for the imposition of a capital recovery component (CRC) on the domestic sale of all grades of fertilizers in the Philippines.4 The LOI provides: 3. The Administrator of the Fertilizer Pesticide Authority to include in its fertilizer pricing formula a capital contribution component of not less than P10 per bag. This capital contribution shall be collected until adequate capital is raised to make PPI viable. Such capital contribution shall be applied by FPA to all domestic sales of fertilizers in the Philippines. 5 (Underscoring supplied) Pursuant to the LOI, Fertiphil paid P10 for every bag of fertilizer it sold in the domestic market to the Fertilizer and Pesticide Authority (FPA). FPA then remitted the amount collected to the Far East Bank and Trust Company, the depositary bank of PPI. Fertiphil paid P6,689,144 to FPA from July 8, 1985 to January 24, 1986.6 After the 1986 Edsa Revolution, FPA voluntarily stopped the imposition of the P10 levy. With the return of democracy, Fertiphil demanded from PPI a refund of the amounts it paid under LOI No. 1465, but PPI refused to accede to the demand.7

Fertiphil filed a complaint for collection and damages 8 against FPA and PPI with the RTC in Makati. It questioned the constitutionality of LOI No. 1465 for being unjust, unreasonable, oppressive, invalid and an unlawful imposition that amounted to a denial of due process of law. 9 Fertiphil alleged that the LOI solely favored PPI, a privately owned corporation, which used the proceeds to maintain its monopoly of the fertilizer industry. In its Answer,10 FPA, through the Solicitor General, countered that the issuance of LOI No. 1465 was a valid exercise of the police power of the State in ensuring the stability of the fertilizer industry in the country. It also averred that Fertiphil did not sustain any damage from the LOI because the burden imposed by the levy fell on the ultimate consumer, not the seller. RTC Disposition On November 20, 1991, the RTC rendered judgment in favor of Fertiphil, disposing as follows: WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, the Court hereby renders judgment in favor of the plaintiff and against the defendant Planters Product, Inc., ordering the latter to pay the former: 1) the sum of P6,698,144.00 with interest at 12% from the time of judicial demand; 2) the sum of P100,000 as attorneys fees; 3) the cost of suit. SO ORDERED.11 Ruling that the imposition of the P10 CRC was an exercise of the States inherent power of taxation, the RTC invalidated the levy for violating the basic principle that taxes can only be levied for public purpose, viz.: It is apparent that the imposition of P10 per fertilizer bag sold in the country by LOI 1465 is purportedly in the exercise of the power of taxation. It is a settled principle that the power of taxation by the state is plenary. Comprehensive and supreme, the principal check upon its abuse resting in the responsibility of the members of the legislature to their constituents. However, there are two kinds of limitations on the power of taxation: the inherent limitations and the constitutional limitations. One of the inherent limitations is that a tax may be levied only for public purposes:

The power to tax can be resorted to only for a constitutionally valid public purpose. By the same token, taxes may not be levied for purely private purposes, for building up of private fortunes, or for the redress of private wrongs. They cannot be levied for the improvement of private property, or for the benefit, and promotion of private enterprises, except where the aid is incident to the public benefit. It is well-settled principle of constitutional law that no general tax can be levied except for the purpose of raising money which is to be expended for public use. Funds cannot be exacted under the guise of taxation to promote a purpose that is not of public interest. Without such limitation, the power to tax could be exercised or employed as an authority to destroy the economy of the people. A tax, however, is not held void on the ground of want of public interest unless the want of such interest is clear. (71 Am. Jur. pp. 371-372) In the case at bar, the plaintiff paid the amount of P6,698,144.00 to the Fertilizer and Pesticide Authority pursuant to the P10 per bag of fertilizer sold imposition under LOI 1465 which, in turn, remitted the amount to the defendant Planters Products, Inc. thru the latters depository bank, Far East Bank and Trust Co. Thus, by virtue of LOI 1465 the plaintiff, Fertiphil Corporation, which is a private domestic corporation, became poorer by the amount ofP6,698,144.00 and the defendant, Planters Product, Inc., another private domestic corporation, became richer by the amount of P6,698,144.00. Tested by the standards of constitutionality as set forth in the afore-quoted jurisprudence, it is quite evident that LOI 1465 insofar as it imposes the amount of P10 per fertilizer bag sold in the country and orders that the said amount should go to the defendant Planters Product, Inc. is unlawful because it violates the mandate that a tax can be levied only for a public purpose and not to benefit, aid and promote a private enterprise such as Planters Product, Inc. 12 PPI moved for reconsideration but its motion was denied. 13 PPI then filed a notice of appeal with the RTC but it failed to pay the requisite appeal docket fee. In a separate but related proceeding, this Court 14 allowed the appeal of PPI and remanded the case to the CA for proper disposition. CA Decision On November 28, 2003, the CA handed down its decision affirming with modification that of the RTC, with the following fallo: IN VIEW OF ALL THE FOREGOING, the decision appealed from is hereby AFFIRMED, subject to the MODIFICATION that the award of attorneys fees is hereby DELETED.15 In affirming the RTC decision, the CA ruled that the lis mota of the complaint for collection was the constitutionality of LOI No. 1465, thus:

The question then is whether it was proper for the trial court to exercise its power to judicially determine the constitutionality of the subject statute in the instant case. As a rule, where the controversy can be settled on other grounds, the courts will not resolve the constitutionality of a law (Lim v. Pacquing, 240 SCRA 649 [1995]). The policy of the courts is to avoid ruling on constitutional questions and to presume that the acts of political departments are valid, absent a clear and unmistakable showing to the contrary. However, the courts are not precluded from exercising such power when the following requisites are obtaining in a controversy before it: First, there must be before the court an actual case calling for the exercise of judicial review. Second, the question must be ripe for adjudication. Third, the person challenging the validity of the act must have standing to challenge. Fourth, the question of constitutionality must have been raised at the earliest opportunity; and lastly, the issue of constitutionality must be the very lis mota of the case (Integrated Bar of the Philippines v. Zamora, 338 SCRA 81 [2000]). Indisputably, the present case was primarily instituted for collection and damages. However, a perusal of the complaint also reveals that the instant action is founded on the claim that the levy imposed was an unlawful and unconstitutional special assessment. Consequently, the requisite that the constitutionality of the law in question be the very lis mota of the case is present, making it proper for the trial court to rule on the constitutionality of LOI 1465.16 The CA held that even on the assumption that LOI No. 1465 was issued under the police power of the state, it is still unconstitutional because it did not promote public welfare. The CA explained: In declaring LOI 1465 unconstitutional, the trial court held that the levy imposed under the said law was an invalid exercise of the States power of taxation inasmuch as it violated the inherent and constitutional prescription that taxes be levied only for public purposes. It reasoned out that the amount collected under the levy was remitted to the depository bank of PPI, which the latter used to advance its private interest. On the other hand, appellant submits that the subject statutes passage was a valid exercise of police power. In addition, it disputes the court a quos findings arguing that the collections under LOI 1465 was for the benefit of Planters Foundation, Incorporated (PFI), a foundation created by law to hold in trust for millions of farmers, the stock ownership of PPI. Of the three fundamental powers of the State, the exercise of police power has been characterized as the most essential, insistent and the least limitable of powers, extending as it does to all the great public needs. It may be exercised as long as the activity or the property sought to be regulated has some

relevance to public welfare (Constitutional Law, by Isagani A. Cruz, p. 38, 1995 Edition). Vast as the power is, however, it must be exercised within the limits set by the Constitution, which requires the concurrence of a lawful subject and a lawful method. Thus, our courts have laid down the test to determine the validity of a police measure as follows: (1) the interests of the public generally, as distinguished from those of a particular class, requires its exercise; and (2) the means employed are reasonably necessary for the accomplishment of the purpose and not unduly oppressive upon individuals (National Development Company v. Philippine Veterans Bank, 192 SCRA 257 [1990]). It is upon applying this established tests that We sustain the trial courts holding LOI 1465 unconstitutional. To be sure, ensuring the continued supply and distribution of fertilizer in the country is an undertaking imbued with public interest. However, the method by which LOI 1465 sought to achieve this is by no means a measure that will promote the public welfare. The governments commitment to support the successful rehabilitation and continued viability of PPI, a private corporation, is an unmistakable attempt to mask the subject statutes impartiality. There is no way to treat the self-interest of a favored entity, like PPI, as identical with the general interest of the countrys farmers or even the Filipino people in general. Well to stress, substantive due process exacts fairness and equal protection disallows distinction where none is needed. When a statutes public purpose is spoiled by private interest, the use of police power becomes a travesty which must be struck down for being an arbitrary exercise of government power. To rule in favor of appellant would contravene the general principle that revenues derived from taxes cannot be used for purely private purposes or for the exclusive benefit of private individuals.17 The CA did not accept PPIs claim that the levy imposed under LOI No. 1465 was for the benefit of Planters Foundation, Inc., a foundation created to hold in trust the stock ownership of PPI. The CA stated: Appellant next claims that the collections under LOI 1465 was for the benefit of Planters Foundation, Incorporated (PFI), a foundation created by law to hold in trust for millions of farmers, the stock ownership of PFI on the strength of Letter of Undertaking (LOU) issued by then Prime Minister Cesar Virata on April 18, 1985 and affirmed by the Secretary of Justice in an Opinion dated October 12, 1987, to wit: "2. Upon the effective date of this Letter of Undertaking, the Republic shall cause FPA to include in its fertilizer pricing formula a capital recovery component, the proceeds of which will be used initially for the purpose of funding the unpaid portion of the outstanding capital stock of Planters presently held in trust by Planters Foundation, Inc. (Planters Foundation), which unpaid capital is estimated at approximately P206 million (subject to validation by Planters and Planters Foundation) (such unpaid portion of the outstanding capital stock of Planters being hereafter referred to as the Unpaid

Capital), and subsequently for such capital increases as may be required for the continuing viability of Planters. The capital recovery component shall be in the minimum amount of P10 per bag, which will be added to the price of all domestic sales of fertilizer in the Philippines by any importer and/or fertilizer mother company. In this connection, the Republic hereby acknowledges that the advances by Planters to Planters Foundation which were applied to the payment of the Planters shares now held in trust by Planters Foundation, have been assigned to, among others, the Creditors. Accordingly, the Republic, through FPA, hereby agrees to deposit the proceeds of the capital recovery component in the special trust account designated in the notice dated April 2, 1985, addressed by counsel for the Creditors to Planters Foundation. Such proceeds shall be deposited by FPA on or before the 15th day of each month. The capital recovery component shall continue to be charged and collected until payment in full of (a) the Unpaid Capital and/or (b) any shortfall in the payment of the Subsidy Receivables, (c) any carrying cost accruing from the date hereof on the amounts which may be outstanding from time to time of the Unpaid Capital and/or the Subsidy Receivables and (d) the capital increases contemplated in paragraph 2 hereof. For the purpose of the foregoing clause (c), the carrying cost shall be at such rate as will represent the full and reasonable cost to Planters of servicing its debts, taking into account both its peso and foreign currency-denominated obligations." (Records, pp. 42-43) Appellants proposition is open to question, to say the least. The LOU issued by then Prime Minister Virata taken together with the Justice Secretarys Opinion does not preponderantly demonstrate that the collections made were held in trust in favor of millions of farmers. Unfortunately for appellant, in the absence of sufficient evidence to establish its claims, this Court is constrained to rely on what is explicitly provided in LOI 1465 that one of the primary aims in imposing the levy is to support the successful rehabilitation and continued viability of PPI.18 PPI moved for reconsideration but its motion was denied. 19 It then filed the present petition with this Court. Issues Petitioner PPI raises four issues for Our consideration, viz.: I THE CONSTITUTIONALITY OF LOI 1465 CANNOT BE COLLATERALLY ATTACKED AND BE DECREED VIA A DEFAULT JUDGMENT IN A CASE FILED FOR COLLECTION AND DAMAGES WHERE THE ISSUE OF CONSTITUTIONALITY IS NOT THE VERY LIS MOTA OF THE CASE. NEITHER CAN LOI 1465 BE CHALLENGED BY ANY PERSON OR ENTITY WHICH HAS NO STANDING TO DO SO.

II LOI 1465, BEING A LAW IMPLEMENTED FOR THE PURPOSE OF ASSURING THE FERTILIZER SUPPLY AND DISTRIBUTION IN THE COUNTRY, AND FOR BENEFITING A FOUNDATION CREATED BY LAW TO HOLD IN TRUST FOR MILLIONS OF FARMERS THEIR STOCK OWNERSHIP IN PPI CONSTITUTES A VALID LEGISLATION PURSUANT TO THE EXERCISE OF TAXATION AND POLICE POWER FOR PUBLIC PURPOSES. III THE AMOUNT COLLECTED UNDER THE CAPITAL RECOVERY COMPONENT WAS REMITTED TO THE GOVERNMENT, AND BECAME GOVERNMENT FUNDS PURSUANT TO AN EFFECTIVE AND VALIDLY ENACTED LAW WHICH IMPOSED DUTIES AND CONFERRED RIGHTS BY VIRTUE OF THE PRINCIPLE OF "OPERATIVE FACT" PRIOR TO ANY DECLARATION OF UNCONSTITUTIONALITY OF LOI 1465. IV THE PRINCIPLE OF UNJUST VEXATION (SHOULD BE ENRICHMENT) FINDS NO APPLICATION IN THE INSTANT CASE.20 (Underscoring supplied) Our Ruling We shall first tackle the procedural issues of locus standi and the jurisdiction of the RTC to resolve constitutional issues. Fertiphil has locus standi because it suffered direct injury; doctrine of standing is a mere procedural technicality which may be waived. PPI argues that Fertiphil has no locus standi to question the constitutionality of LOI No. 1465 because it does not have a "personal and substantial interest in the case or will sustain direct injury as a result of its enforcement." 21 It asserts that Fertiphil did not suffer any damage from the CRC imposition because "incidence of the levy fell on the ultimate consumer or the farmers themselves, not on the seller fertilizer company."22 We cannot agree. The doctrine of locus standi or the right of appearance in a court of justice has been adequately discussed by this Court in a catena of cases. Succinctly put, the doctrine requires a litigant to have a material interest in the outcome of a case. In private suits, locus standi requires a litigant to be a "real party in interest," which is defined as "the party who stands to be benefited or injured by the judgment in the suit or the party entitled to the avails of the suit."23 In public suits, this Court recognizes the difficulty of applying the doctrine especially when plaintiff asserts a public right on behalf of the general public

because of conflicting public policy issues. 24 On one end, there is the right of the ordinary citizen to petition the courts to be freed from unlawful government intrusion and illegal official action. At the other end, there is the public policy precluding excessive judicial interference in official acts, which may unnecessarily hinder the delivery of basic public services. In this jurisdiction, We have adopted the "direct injury test" to determine locus standi in public suits. In People v. Vera, 25 it was held that a person who impugns the validity of a statute must have "a personal and substantial interest in the case such that he has sustained, or will sustain direct injury as a result." The "direct injury test" in public suits is similar to the "real party in interest" rule for private suits under Section 2, Rule 3 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure.26 Recognizing that a strict application of the "direct injury" test may hamper public interest, this Court relaxed the requirement in cases of "transcendental importance" or with "far reaching implications." Being a mere procedural technicality, it has also been held that locus standi may be waived in the public interest.27 Whether or not the complaint for collection is characterized as a private or public suit, Fertiphil has locus standi to file it. Fertiphil suffered a direct injury from the enforcement of LOI No. 1465. It was required, and it did pay, theP10 levy imposed for every bag of fertilizer sold on the domestic market. It may be true that Fertiphil has passed some or all of the levy to the ultimate consumer, but that does not disqualify it from attacking the constitutionality of the LOI or from seeking a refund. As seller, it bore the ultimate burden of paying the levy. It faced the possibility of severe sanctions for failure to pay the levy. The fact of payment is sufficient injury to Fertiphil. Moreover, Fertiphil suffered harm from the enforcement of the LOI because it was compelled to factor in its product the levy. The levy certainly rendered the fertilizer products of Fertiphil and other domestic sellers much more expensive. The harm to their business consists not only in fewer clients because of the increased price, but also in adopting alternative corporate strategies to meet the demands of LOI No. 1465. Fertiphil and other fertilizer sellers may have shouldered all or part of the levy just to be competitive in the market. The harm occasioned on the business of Fertiphil is sufficient injury for purposes of locus standi. Even assuming arguendo that there is no direct injury, We find that the liberal policy consistently adopted by this Court on locus standi must apply. The issues raised by Fertiphil are of paramount public importance. It involves not only the constitutionality of a tax law but, more importantly, the use of taxes for public purpose. Former President Marcos issued LOI No. 1465 with the intention of rehabilitating an ailing private company. This is clear from the text of the LOI. PPI is expressly named in the LOI as the direct beneficiary of the levy. Worse, the levy was made dependent and conditional upon PPI becoming financially viable. The LOI provided that "the capital contribution shall be collected until adequate capital is raised to make PPI viable."

The constitutionality of the levy is already in doubt on a plain reading of the statute. It is Our constitutional duty to squarely resolve the issue as the final arbiter of all justiciable controversies. The doctrine of standing, being a mere procedural technicality, should be waived, if at all, to adequately thresh out an important constitutional issue. RTC may resolve constitutional issues; the constitutional issue was adequately raised in the complaint; it is the lis mota of the case. PPI insists that the RTC and the CA erred in ruling on the constitutionality of the LOI. It asserts that the constitutionality of the LOI cannot be collaterally attacked in a complaint for collection. 28 Alternatively, the resolution of the constitutional issue is not necessary for a determination of the complaint for collection.29 Fertiphil counters that the constitutionality of the LOI was adequately pleaded in its complaint. It claims that the constitutionality of LOI No. 1465 is the very lis mota of the case because the trial court cannot determine its claim without resolving the issue.30 It is settled that the RTC has jurisdiction to resolve the constitutionality of a statute, presidential decree or an executive order. This is clear from Section 5, Article VIII of the 1987 Constitution, which provides: SECTION 5. The Supreme Court shall have the following powers: xxxx (2) Review, revise, reverse, modify, or affirm on appeal or certiorari, as the law or the Rules of Court may provide,final judgments and orders of lower courts in: (a) All cases in which the constitutionality or validity of any treaty, international or executive agreement, law, presidential decree, proclamation, order, instruction, ordinance, or regulation is in question. (Underscoring supplied) In Mirasol v. Court of Appeals, 31 this Court recognized the power of the RTC to resolve constitutional issues, thus: On the first issue. It is settled that Regional Trial Courts have the authority and jurisdiction to consider the constitutionality of a statute, presidential decree, or executive order. The Constitution vests the power of judicial review or the power to declare a law, treaty, international or executive agreement, presidential decree, order, instruction, ordinance, or regulation not only in this Court, but in all Regional Trial Courts.32

In the recent case of Equi-Asia Placement, Inc. v. Department of Foreign Affairs,33 this Court reiterated: There is no denying that regular courts have jurisdiction over cases involving the validity or constitutionality of a rule or regulation issued by administrative agencies. Such jurisdiction, however, is not limited to the Court of Appeals or to this Court alone for even the regional trial courts can take cognizance of actions assailing a specific rule or set of rules promulgated by administrative bodies. Indeed, the Constitution vests the power of judicial review or the power to declare a law, treaty, international or executive agreement, presidential decree, order, instruction, ordinance, or regulation in the courts, including the regional trial courts.34 Judicial review of official acts on the ground of unconstitutionality may be sought or availed of through any of the actions cognizable by courts of justice, not necessarily in a suit for declaratory relief. Such review may be had in criminal actions, as in People v. Ferrer 35 involving the constitutionality of the now defunct Anti-Subversion law, or in ordinary actions, as in Krivenko v. Register of Deeds36 involving the constitutionality of laws prohibiting aliens from acquiring public lands. The constitutional issue, however, (a) must be properly raised and presented in the case, and (b) its resolution is necessary to a determination of the case, i.e., the issue of constitutionality must be the very lis mota presented.37 Contrary to PPIs claim, the constitutionality of LOI No. 1465 was properly and adequately raised in the complaint for collection filed with the RTC. The pertinent portions of the complaint allege: 6. The CRC of P10 per bag levied under LOI 1465 on domestic sales of all grades of fertilizer in the Philippines, isunlawful, unjust, uncalled for, unreasonable, inequitable and oppressive because: xxxx (c) It favors only one private domestic corporation, i.e., defendant PPPI, and imposed at the expense and disadvantage of the other fertilizer importers/distributors who were themselves in tight business situation and were then exerting all efforts and maximizing management and marketing skills to remain viable; xxxx (e) It was a glaring example of crony capitalism, a forced program through which the PPI, having been presumptuously masqueraded as "the" fertilizer industry itself, was the sole and anointed beneficiary; 7. The CRC was an unlawful; and unconstitutional special assessment and its imposition is tantamount to illegal exaction amounting to a denial of due process since the persons of entities which had to bear the burden of paying

the CRC derived no benefit therefrom; that on the contrary it was used by PPI in trying to regain its former despicable monopoly of the fertilizer industry to the detriment of other distributors and importers. 38 (Underscoring supplied) The constitutionality of LOI No. 1465 is also the very lis mota of the complaint for collection. Fertiphil filed the complaint to compel PPI to refund the levies paid under the statute on the ground that the law imposing the levy is unconstitutional. The thesis is that an unconstitutional law is void. It has no legal effect. Being void, Fertiphil had no legal obligation to pay the levy. Necessarily, all levies duly paid pursuant to an unconstitutional law should be refunded under the civil code principle against unjust enrichment. The refund is a mere consequence of the law being declared unconstitutional. The RTC surely cannot order PPI to refund Fertiphil if it does not declare the LOI unconstitutional. It is the unconstitutionality of the LOI which triggers the refund. The issue of constitutionality is the very lis mota of the complaint with the RTC. The P10 levy under LOI No. 1465 is an exercise of the power of taxation. At any rate, the Court holds that the RTC and the CA did not err in ruling against the constitutionality of the LOI. PPI insists that LOI No. 1465 is a valid exercise either of the police power or the power of taxation. It claims that the LOI was implemented for the purpose of assuring the fertilizer supply and distribution in the country and for benefiting a foundation created by law to hold in trust for millions of farmers their stock ownership in PPI. Fertiphil counters that the LOI is unconstitutional because it was enacted to give benefit to a private company. The levy was imposed to pay the corporate debt of PPI. Fertiphil also argues that, even if the LOI is enacted under the police power, it is still unconstitutional because it did not promote the general welfare of the people or public interest. Police power and the power of taxation are inherent powers of the State. These powers are distinct and have different tests for validity. Police power is the power of the State to enact legislation that may interfere with personal liberty or property in order to promote the general welfare,39 while the power of taxation is the power to levy taxes to be used for public purpose. The main purpose of police power is the regulation of a behavior or conduct, while taxation is revenue generation. The "lawful subjects" and "lawful means" tests are used to determine the validity of a law enacted under the police power.40 The power of taxation, on the other hand, is circumscribed by inherent and constitutional limitations. We agree with the RTC that the imposition of the levy was an exercise by the State of its taxation power. While it is true that the power of taxation can be used as an implement of police power,41 the primary purpose of the levy is revenue generation. If the purpose is primarily revenue, or if revenue is, at

least, one of the real and substantial purposes, then the exaction is properly called a tax.42 In Philippine Airlines, Inc. v. Edu,43 it was held that the imposition of a vehicle registration fee is not an exercise by the State of its police power, but of its taxation power, thus: It is clear from the provisions of Section 73 of Commonwealth Act 123 and Section 61 of the Land Transportation and Traffic Code that the legislative intent and purpose behind the law requiring owners of vehicles to pay for their registration is mainly to raise funds for the construction and maintenance of highways and to a much lesser degree, pay for the operating expenses of the administering agency. x x x Fees may be properly regarded as taxes even though they also serve as an instrument of regulation. Taxation may be made the implement of the state's police power (Lutz v. Araneta, 98 Phil. 148). If the purpose is primarily revenue, or if revenue is, at least, one of the real and substantial purposes, then the exaction is properly called a tax. Such is the case of motor vehicle registration fees. The same provision appears as Section 59(b) in the Land Transportation Code. It is patent therefrom that the legislators had in mind a regulatory tax as the law refers to the imposition on the registration, operation or ownership of a motor vehicle as a "tax or fee." x x x Simply put, if the exaction under Rep. Act 4136 were merely a regulatory fee, the imposition in Rep. Act 5448 need not be an "additional" tax. Rep. Act 4136 also speaks of other "fees" such as the special permit fees for certain types of motor vehicles (Sec. 10) and additional fees for change of registration (Sec. 11). These are not to be understood as taxes because such fees are very minimal to be revenue-raising. Thus, they are not mentioned by Sec. 59(b) of the Code as taxes like the motor vehicle registration fee and chauffeurs license fee. Such fees are to go into the expenditures of the Land Transportation Commission as provided for in the last proviso of Sec. 61.44(Underscoring supplied) The P10 levy under LOI No. 1465 is too excessive to serve a mere regulatory purpose. The levy, no doubt, was a big burden on the seller or the ultimate consumer. It increased the price of a bag of fertilizer by as much as five percent.45 A plain reading of the LOI also supports the conclusion that the levy was for revenue generation. The LOI expressly provided that the levy was imposed "until adequate capital is raised to make PPI viable." Taxes are exacted only for a public purpose. The P10 levy is unconstitutional because it was not for a public purpose. The levy was imposed to give undue benefit to PPI. An inherent limitation on the power of taxation is public purpose. Taxes are exacted only for a public purpose. They cannot be used for purely private purposes or for the exclusive benefit of private persons.46 The reason for this is simple. The power to tax exists for the general welfare; hence, implicit in its power is the limitation that it should be used only for a public purpose. It would be a robbery for the State to tax its citizens and use the funds generated

for a private purpose. As an old United States case bluntly put it: "To lay with one hand, the power of the government on the property of the citizen, and with the other to bestow it upon favored individuals to aid private enterprises and build up private fortunes, is nonetheless a robbery because it is done under the forms of law and is called taxation."47 The term "public purpose" is not defined. It is an elastic concept that can be hammered to fit modern standards. Jurisprudence states that "public purpose" should be given a broad interpretation. It does not only pertain to those purposes which are traditionally viewed as essentially government functions, such as building roads and delivery of basic services, but also includes those purposes designed to promote social justice. Thus, public money may now be used for the relocation of illegal settlers, low-cost housing and urban or agrarian reform. While the categories of what may constitute a public purpose are continually expanding in light of the expansion of government functions, the inherent requirement that taxes can only be exacted for a public purpose still stands. Public purpose is the heart of a tax law. When a tax law is only a mask to exact funds from the public when its true intent is to give undue benefit and advantage to a private enterprise, that law will not satisfy the requirement of "public purpose." The purpose of a law is evident from its text or inferable from other secondary sources. Here, We agree with the RTC and that CA that the levy imposed under LOI No. 1465 was not for a public purpose. First, the LOI expressly provided that the levy be imposed to benefit PPI, a private company. The purpose is explicit from Clause 3 of the law, thus: 3. The Administrator of the Fertilizer Pesticide Authority to include in its fertilizer pricing formula a capital contribution component of not less than P10 per bag. This capital contribution shall be collected until adequate capital is raised to make PPI viable. Such capital contribution shall be applied by FPA to all domestic sales of fertilizers in the Philippines. 48 (Underscoring supplied) It is a basic rule of statutory construction that the text of a statute should be given a literal meaning. In this case, the text of the LOI is plain that the levy was imposed in order to raise capital for PPI. The framers of the LOI did not even hide the insidious purpose of the law. They were cavalier enough to name PPI as the ultimate beneficiary of the taxes levied under the LOI. We find it utterly repulsive that a tax law would expressly name a private company as the ultimate beneficiary of the taxes to be levied from the public. This is a clear case of crony capitalism. Second, the LOI provides that the imposition of the P10 levy was conditional and dependent upon PPI becoming financially "viable." This suggests that the levy was actually imposed to benefit PPI. The LOI notably does not fix a maximum amount when PPI is deemed financially "viable." Worse, the liability

of Fertiphil and other domestic sellers of fertilizer to pay the levy is made indefinite. They are required to continuously pay the levy until adequate capital is raised for PPI. Third, the RTC and the CA held that the levies paid under the LOI were directly remitted and deposited by FPA to Far East Bank and Trust Company, the depositary bank of PPI.49 This proves that PPI benefited from the LOI. It is also proves that the main purpose of the law was to give undue benefit and advantage to PPI. Fourth, the levy was used to pay the corporate debts of PPI. A reading of the Letter of Understanding50 dated May 18, 1985 signed by then Prime Minister Cesar Virata reveals that PPI was in deep financial problem because of its huge corporate debts. There were pending petitions for rehabilitation against PPI before the Securities and Exchange Commission. The government guaranteed payment of PPIs debts to its foreign creditors. To fund the payment, President Marcos issued LOI No. 1465. The pertinent portions of the letter of understanding read: Republic Office Manila of the Philippines Minister

Planters, the Republic hereby manifests its full and unqualified support of the successful rehabilitation and continuing viability of Planters, and to that end, hereby binds and obligates itself to the creditors and Planters, as follows: xxxx 2. Upon the effective date of this Letter of Undertaking, the Republic shall cause FPA to include in its fertilizer pricing formula a capital recovery component, the proceeds of which will be used initially for the purpose of funding the unpaid portion of the outstanding capital stock of Planters presently held in trust by Planters Foundation, Inc. ("Planters Foundation"), which unpaid capital is estimated at approximately P206 million (subject to validation by Planters and Planters Foundation) such unpaid portion of the outstanding capital stock of Planters being hereafter referred to as the "Unpaid Capital"), and subsequently for such capital increases as may be required for the continuing viability of Planters. xxxx The capital recovery component shall continue to be charged and collected until payment in full of (a) the Unpaid Capital and/or (b) any shortfall in the payment of the Subsidy Receivables, (c) any carrying cost accruing from the date hereof on the amounts which may be outstanding from time to time of the Unpaid Capital and/or the Subsidy Receivables, and (d) the capital increases contemplated in paragraph 2 hereof. For the purpose of the foregoing clause (c), the "carrying cost" shall be at such rate as will represent the full and reasonable cost to Planters of servicing its debts, taking into account both its peso and foreign currency-denominated obligations. REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES By: (signed) CESAR E. Prime Minister and Minister of Finance51

of

the

Prime

LETTER OF UNDERTAKING May 18, 1985 TO: THE BANKING AND FINANCIAL LISTED IN ANNEX A HERETO CREDITORS (COLLECTIVELY, THE OF PLANTERS PRODUCTS, INC. ("PLANTERS") Gentlemen: This has reference to Planters which is the principal importer and distributor of fertilizer, pesticides and agricultural chemicals in the Philippines. As regards Planters, the Philippine Government confirms its awareness of the following: (1) that Planters has outstanding obligations in foreign currency and/or pesos, to the Creditors, (2) that Planters is currently experiencing financial difficulties, and (3) thatthere are presently pending with the Securities and Exchange Commission of the Philippines a petition filed at Planters own behest for the suspension of payment of all its obligations, and a separate petition filed by Manufacturers Hanover Trust Company, Manila Offshore Branch for the appointment of a rehabilitation receiver for Planters. In connection with the foregoing, the Republic of the Philippines (the "Republic") confirms that it considers and continues to consider Planters as a major fertilizer distributor. Accordingly, for and in consideration of your expressed willingness to consider and participate in the effort to rehabilitate INSTITUTIONS WHICH ARE "CREDITORS")

A.

VIRATA

It is clear from the Letter of Understanding that the levy was imposed precisely to pay the corporate debts of PPI. We cannot agree with PPI that the levy was imposed to ensure the stability of the fertilizer industry in the country. The letter of understanding and the plain text of the LOI clearly indicate that the levy was exacted for the benefit of a private corporation. All told, the RTC and the CA did not err in holding that the levy imposed under LOI No. 1465 was not for a public purpose. LOI No. 1465 failed to comply with the public purpose requirement for tax laws.

The LOI is still unconstitutional even if enacted under the police power; it did not promote public interest. Even if We consider LOI No. 1695 enacted under the police power of the State, it would still be invalid for failing to comply with the test of "lawful subjects" and "lawful means." Jurisprudence states the test as follows: (1) the interest of the public generally, as distinguished from those of particular class, requires its exercise; and (2) the means employed are reasonably necessary for the accomplishment of the purpose and not unduly oppressive upon individuals. 52 For the same reasons as discussed, LOI No. 1695 is invalid because it did not promote public interest. The law was enacted to give undue advantage to a private corporation. We quote with approval the CA ratiocination on this point, thus: It is upon applying this established tests that We sustain the trial courts holding LOI 1465 unconstitutional.1awphil To be sure, ensuring the continued supply and distribution of fertilizer in the country is an undertaking imbued with public interest. However, the method by which LOI 1465 sought to achieve this is by no means a measure that will promote the public welfare. The governments commitment to support the successful rehabilitation and continued viability of PPI, a private corporation, is an unmistakable attempt to mask the subject statutes impartiality. There is no way to treat the self-interest of a favored entity, like PPI, as identical with the general interest of the countrys farmers or even the Filipino people in general. Well to stress, substantive due process exacts fairness and equal protection disallows distinction where none is needed. When a statutes public purpose is spoiled by private interest, the use of police power becomes a travesty which must be struck down for being an arbitrary exercise of government power. To rule in favor of appellant would contravene the general principle that revenues derived from taxes cannot be used for purely private purposes or for the exclusive benefit of private individuals. (Underscoring supplied) The general rule is that an unconstitutional law is void; the doctrine of operative fact is inapplicable. PPI also argues that Fertiphil cannot seek a refund even if LOI No. 1465 is declared unconstitutional. It banks on the doctrine of operative fact, which provides that an unconstitutional law has an effect before being declared unconstitutional. PPI wants to retain the levies paid under LOI No. 1465 even if it is subsequently declared to be unconstitutional. We cannot agree. It is settled that no question, issue or argument will be entertained on appeal, unless it has been raised in the court a quo. 53 PPI did not raise the applicability of the doctrine of operative fact with the RTC and the CA. It cannot belatedly raise the issue with Us in order to extricate itself from the dire effects of an unconstitutional law.

At any rate, We find the doctrine inapplicable. The general rule is that an unconstitutional law is void. It produces no rights, imposes no duties and affords no protection. It has no legal effect. It is, in legal contemplation, inoperative as if it has not been passed. 54 Being void, Fertiphil is not required to pay the levy. All levies paid should be refunded in accordance with the general civil code principle against unjust enrichment. The general rule is supported by Article 7 of the Civil Code, which provides: ART. 7. Laws are repealed only by subsequent ones, and their violation or nonobservance shall not be excused by disuse or custom or practice to the contrary. When the courts declare a law to be inconsistent with the Constitution, the former shall be void and the latter shall govern. The doctrine of operative fact, as an exception to the general rule, only applies as a matter of equity and fair play. 55 It nullifies the effects of an unconstitutional law by recognizing that the existence of a statute prior to a determination of unconstitutionality is an operative fact and may have consequences which cannot always be ignored. The past cannot always be erased by a new judicial declaration.56 The doctrine is applicable when a declaration of unconstitutionality will impose an undue burden on those who have relied on the invalid law. Thus, it was applied to a criminal case when a declaration of unconstitutionality would put the accused in double jeopardy 57 or would put in limbo the acts done by a municipality in reliance upon a law creating it.58 Here, We do not find anything iniquitous in ordering PPI to refund the amounts paid by Fertiphil under LOI No. 1465. It unduly benefited from the levy. It was proven during the trial that the levies paid were remitted and deposited to its bank account. Quite the reverse, it would be inequitable and unjust not to order a refund. To do so would unjustly enrich PPI at the expense of Fertiphil. Article 22 of the Civil Code explicitly provides that "every person who, through an act of performance by another comes into possession of something at the expense of the latter without just or legal ground shall return the same to him." We cannot allow PPI to profit from an unconstitutional law. Justice and equity dictate that PPI must refund the amounts paid by Fertiphil. WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED. The Court of Appeals Decision dated November 28, 2003 is AFFIRMED.

legal interest thereon, and the costs, plaintiff further praying for such other relief and remedy as the court may deem just equitable. Defendant answered the complaint, maintaining in turn that said ordinances were enacted by the Municipal Board of the City of Manila by virtue of the power granted to it by section 2444, subsection (m-2) of the Revised Administrative Code, superseded on June 18, 1949, by section 18, subsection (1) of Republic Act No. 409, known as the Revised Charter of the City of Manila, and praying that the complaint be dismissed, with costs against plaintiff. This answer was replied by the plaintiff reiterating the unconstitutionality of the often-repeated ordinances. SOCIETY, plaintiff-appellant, Before trial the parties submitted the following stipulation of facts: COME NOW the parties in the above-entitled case, thru their undersigned attorneys and respectfully submit the following stipulation of facts: 1. That the plaintiff sold for the use of the purchasers at its principal office at 636 Isaac Peral, Manila, Bibles, New Testaments, bible portions and bible concordance in English and other foreign languages imported by it from the United States as well as Bibles, New Testaments and bible portions in the local dialects imported and/or purchased locally; that from the fourth quarter of 1945 to the first quarter of 1953 inclusive the sales made by the plaintiff were as follows:

G.R. No. L-9637

April 30, 1957

AMERICAN BIBLE vs. CITY OF MANILA, defendant-appellee. FELIX, J.:

Plaintiff-appellant is a foreign, non-stock, non-profit, religious, missionary corporation duly registered and doing business in the Philippines through its Philippine agency established in Manila in November, 1898, with its principal office at 636 Isaac Peral in said City. The defendant appellee is a municipal corporation with powers that are to be exercised in conformity with the provisions of Republic Act No. 409, known as the Revised Charter of the City of Manila. In the course of its ministry, plaintiff's Philippine agency has been distributing and selling bibles and/or gospel portions thereof (except during the Japanese occupation) throughout the Philippines and translating the same into several Philippine dialects. On May 29 1953, the acting City Treasurer of the City of Manila informed plaintiff that it was conducting the business of general merchandise since November, 1945, without providing itself with the necessary Mayor's permit and municipal license, in violation of Ordinance No. 3000, as amended, and Ordinances Nos. 2529, 3028 and 3364, and required plaintiff to secure, within three days, the corresponding permit and license fees, together with compromise covering the period from the 4th quarter of 1945 to the 2nd quarter of 1953, in the total sum of P5,821.45 (Annex A). Plaintiff protested against this requirement, but the City Treasurer demanded that plaintiff deposit and pay under protest the sum of P5,891.45, if suit was to be taken in court regarding the same (Annex B). To avoid the closing of its business as well as further fines and penalties in the premises on October 24, 1953, plaintiff paid to the defendant under protest the said permit and license fees in the aforementioned amount, giving at the same time notice to the City Treasurer that suit would be taken in court to question the legality of the ordinances under which, the said fees were being collected (Annex C), which was done on the same date by filing the complaint that gave rise to this action. In its complaint plaintiff prays that judgment be rendered declaring the said Municipal Ordinance No. 3000, as amended, and Ordinances Nos. 2529, 3028 and 3364 illegal and unconstitutional, and that the defendant be ordered to refund to the plaintiff the sum of P5,891.45 paid under protest, together with

Quarter

Amount Sales

of

4th quarter 1945

P1,244.21

1st quarter 1946

2,206.85

2nd quarter 1946

1,950.38

3rd quarter 1946

2,235.99

4th quarter 1946

3,256.04

1st quarter 1947

13,241.07

2nd quarter 1947

15,774.55

2nd quarter 1951

29,103.98

3rd quarter 1947

14,654.13

3rd quarter 1951

20,181.10

4th quarter 1947

12,590.94

4th quarter 1951

22,968.91

1st quarter 1948

11,143.90

1st quarter 1952

23,002.65

2nd quarter 1948

14,715.26

2nd quarter 1952

17,626.96

3rd quarter 1948

38,333.83

3rd quarter 1952

17,921.01

4th quarter 1948

16,179.90

4th quarter 1952

24,180.72

1st quarter 1949

23,975.10

1st quarter 1953

29,516.21

2nd quarter 1949

17,802.08

2. That the parties hereby reserve the right to present evidence of other facts not herein stipulated. WHEREFORE, it is respectfully prayed that this case be set for hearing so that the parties may present further evidence on their behalf. (Record on Appeal, pp. 15-16). When the case was set for hearing, plaintiff proved, among other things, that it has been in existence in the Philippines since 1899, and that its parent society is in New York, United States of America; that its, contiguous real properties located at Isaac Peral are exempt from real estate taxes; and that it was never required to pay any municipal license fee or tax before the war, nor does the American Bible Society in the United States pay any license fee or sales tax for the sale of bible therein. Plaintiff further tried to establish that it never made any profit from the sale of its bibles, which are disposed of for as low as one third of the cost, and that in order to maintain its operating cost it obtains substantial remittances from its New York office and voluntary contributions and gifts from certain churches, both in the United States and in the Philippines, which are interested in its missionary work. Regarding plaintiff's contention of lack of profit in the sale of bibles, defendant retorts that the admissions of plaintiff-appellant's lone witness who testified on crossexamination that bibles bearing the price of 70 cents each from plaintiffappellant's New York office are sold here by plaintiff-appellant at P1.30 each; those bearing the price of $4.50 each are sold here at P10 each; those bearing

3rd quarter 1949

16,640.79

4th quarter 1949

15,961.38

1st quarter 1950

18,562.46

2nd quarter 1950

21,816.32

3rd quarter 1950

25,004.55

4th quarter 1950

45,287.92

1st quarter 1951

37,841.21

the price of $7 each are sold here at P15 each; and those bearing the price of $11 each are sold here at P22 each, clearly show that plaintiff's contention that it never makes any profit from the sale of its bible, is evidently untenable. After hearing the Court rendered judgment, the last part of which is as follows: As may be seen from the repealed section (m-2) of the Revised Administrative Code and the repealing portions (o) of section 18 of Republic Act No. 409, although they seemingly differ in the way the legislative intent is expressed, yet their meaning is practically the same for the purpose of taxing the merchandise mentioned in said legal provisions, and that the taxes to be levied by said ordinances is in the nature of percentage graduated taxes (Sec. 3 of Ordinance No. 3000, as amended, and Sec. 1, Group 2, of Ordinance No. 2529, as amended by Ordinance No. 3364). IN VIEW OF THE FOREGOING CONSIDERATIONS, this Court is of the opinion and so holds that this case should be dismissed, as it is hereby dismissed, for lack of merits, with costs against the plaintiff. Not satisfied with this verdict plaintiff took up the matter to the Court of Appeals which certified the case to Us for the reason that the errors assigned to the lower Court involved only questions of law. Appellant contends that the lower Court erred: 1. In holding that Ordinances Nos. 2529 and 3000, as respectively amended, are not unconstitutional; 2. In holding that subsection m-2 of Section 2444 of the Revised Administrative Code under which Ordinances Nos. 2592 and 3000 were promulgated, was not repealed by Section 18 of Republic Act No. 409; 3. In not holding that an ordinance providing for taxes based on gross sales or receipts, in order to be valid under the new Charter of the City of Manila, must first be approved by the President of the Philippines; and 4. In holding that, as the sales made by the plaintiff-appellant have assumed commercial proportions, it cannot escape from the operation of said municipal ordinances under the cloak of religious privilege. The issues. As may be seen from the proceeding statement of the case, the issues involved in the present controversy may be reduced to the following: (1) whether or not the ordinances of the City of Manila, Nos. 3000, as amended, and 2529, 3028 and 3364, are constitutional and valid; and (2) whether the provisions of said ordinances are applicable or not to the case at bar.

Section 1, subsection (7) of Article III of the Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines, provides that: (7) No law shall be made respecting an establishment prohibiting the free exercise thereof, and the free enjoyment of religious profession and worship, without or preference, shall forever be allowed. No religion required for the exercise of civil or political rights. of religion, or exercise and discrimination test shall be

Predicated on this constitutional mandate, plaintiff-appellant contends that Ordinances Nos. 2529 and 3000, as respectively amended, are unconstitutional and illegal in so far as its society is concerned, because they provide for religious censorship and restrain the free exercise and enjoyment of its religious profession, to wit: the distribution and sale of bibles and other religious literature to the people of the Philippines. Before entering into a discussion of the constitutional aspect of the case, We shall first consider the provisions of the questioned ordinances in relation to their application to the sale of bibles, etc. by appellant. The records, show that by letter of May 29, 1953 (Annex A), the City Treasurer required plaintiff to secure a Mayor's permit in connection with the society's alleged business of distributing and selling bibles, etc. and to pay permit dues in the sum of P35 for the period covered in this litigation, plus the sum of P35 for compromise on account of plaintiff's failure to secure the permit required by Ordinance No. 3000 of the City of Manila, as amended. This Ordinance is of general application and not particularly directed against institutions like the plaintiff, and it does not contain any provisions whatever prescribing religious censorship nor restraining the free exercise and enjoyment of any religious profession. Section 1 of Ordinance No. 3000 reads as follows: SEC. 1. PERMITS NECESSARY. It shall be unlawful for any person or entity to conduct or engage in any of the businesses, trades, or occupations enumerated in Section 3 of this Ordinance or other businesses, trades, or occupations for which a permit is required for the proper supervision and enforcement of existing laws and ordinances governing the sanitation, security, and welfare of the public and the health of the employees engaged in the business specified in said section 3 hereof, WITHOUT FIRST HAVING OBTAINED A PERMIT THEREFOR FROM THE MAYOR AND THE NECESSARY LICENSE FROM THE CITY TREASURER. The business, trade or occupation of the plaintiff involved in this case is not particularly mentioned in Section 3 of the Ordinance, and the record does not show that a permit is required therefor under existing laws and ordinances for the proper supervision and enforcement of their provisions governing the sanitation, security and welfare of the public and the health of the employees engaged in the business of the plaintiff. However, sections 3 of Ordinance 3000 contains item No. 79, which reads as follows:

79. All other businesses, trades or mentioned in this Ordinance, except those City is not empowered to license or to tax P5.00

occupations upon which

not the

Therefore, the necessity of the permit is made to depend upon the power of the City to license or tax said business, trade or occupation. As to the license fees that the Treasurer of the City of Manila required society to pay from the 4th quarter of 1945 to the 1st quarter of 1953 in sum of P5,821.45, including the sum of P50 as compromise, Ordinance 2529, as amended by Ordinances Nos. 2779, 2821 and 3028 prescribes following: the the No. the

For the purpose of taxation, these retail dealers shall be classified as (1) retail dealers in general merchandise, and (2) retail dealers exclusively engaged in the sale of (a) textiles . . . (e) books, including stationery, paper and office supplies, . . .: PROVIDED, HOWEVER, That the combined total tax of any debtor or manufacturer, or both, enumerated under these subsections (m-1) and (m-2), whether dealing in one or all of the articles mentioned herein, SHALL NOT BE IN EXCESS OF FIVE HUNDRED PESOS PER ANNUM . and appellee's counsel maintains that City Ordinances Nos. 2529 and 3000, as amended, were enacted in virtue of the power that said Act No. 3669 conferred upon the City of Manila. Appellant, however, contends that said ordinances are longer in force and effect as the law under which they were promulgated has been expressly repealed by Section 102 of Republic Act No. 409 passed on June 18, 1949, known as the Revised Manila Charter. Passing upon this point the lower Court categorically stated that Republic Act No. 409 expressly repealed the provisions of Chapter 60 of the Revised Administrative Code but in the opinion of the trial Judge, although Section 2444 (m-2) of the former Manila Charter and section 18 (o) of the new seemingly differ in the way the legislative intent was expressed, yet their meaning is practically the same for the purpose of taxing the merchandise mentioned in both legal provisions and, consequently, Ordinances Nos. 2529 and 3000, as amended, are to be considered as still in full force and effect uninterruptedly up to the present. Often the legislature, instead of simply amending the pre-existing statute, will repeal the old statute in its entirety and by the same enactment re-enact all or certain portions of the preexisting law. Of course, the problem created by this sort of legislative action involves mainly the effect of the repeal upon rights and liabilities which accrued under the original statute. Are those rights and liabilities destroyed or preserved? The authorities are divided as to the effect of simultaneous repeals and re-enactments. Some adhere to the view that the rights and liabilities accrued under the repealed act are destroyed, since the statutes from which they sprang are actually terminated, even though for only a very short period of time. Others, and they seem to be in the majority, refuse to accept this view of the situation, and consequently maintain that all rights an liabilities which have accrued under the original statute are preserved and may be enforced, since the re-enactment neutralizes the repeal, therefore, continuing the law in force without interruption. (Crawford-Statutory Construction, Sec. 322). Appellant's counsel states that section 18 ( o) of Republic Act No, 409 introduces a new and wider concept of taxation and is different from the provisions of Section 2444(m-2) that the former cannot be considered as a substantial re-enactment of the provisions of the latter. We have quoted above the provisions of section 2444(m-2) of the Revised Administrative Code and

SEC. 1. FEES. Subject to the provisions of section 578 of the Revised Ordinances of the City of Manila, as amended, there shall be paid to the City Treasurer for engaging in any of the businesses or occupations below enumerated, quarterly, license fees based on gross sales or receipts realized during the preceding quarter in accordance with the rates herein prescribed: PROVIDED, HOWEVER, That a person engaged in any businesses or occupation for the first time shall pay the initial license fee based on the probable gross sales or receipts for the first quarter beginning from the date of the opening of the business as indicated herein for the corresponding business or occupation. xxx xxx xxx

GROUP 2. Retail dealers in new (not yet used) merchandise, which dealers are not yet subject to the payment of any municipal tax, such as (1) retail dealers in general merchandise; (2) retail dealers exclusively engaged in the sale of . . . books, including stationery. xxx xxx xxx

As may be seen, the license fees required to be paid quarterly in Section 1 of said Ordinance No. 2529, as amended, are not imposed directly upon any religious institution but upon those engaged in any of the business or occupations therein enumerated, such as retail "dealers in general merchandise" which, it is alleged, cover the business or occupation of selling bibles, books, etc. Chapter 60 of the Revised Administrative Code which includes section 2444, subsection (m-2) of said legal body, as amended by Act No. 3659, approved on December 8, 1929, empowers the Municipal Board of the City of Manila: (M-2) To tax and fix the license fee on (a) dealers in new automobiles or accessories or both, and (b) retail dealers in new (not yet used) merchandise, which dealers are not yet subject to the payment of any municipal tax.

We shall now copy hereunder the provisions of Section 18, subdivision ( o) of Republic Act No. 409, which reads as follows: (o) To tax and fix the license fee on dealers in general merchandise, including importers and indentors, except those dealers who may be expressly subject to the payment of some other municipal tax under the provisions of this section. Dealers in general merchandise shall be classified as ( a) wholesale dealers and (b) retail dealers. For purposes of the tax on retail dealers, general merchandise shall be classified into four main classes: namely (1) luxury articles, (2) semi-luxury articles, (3) essential commodities, and (4) miscellaneous articles. A separate license shall be prescribed for each class but where commodities of different classes are sold in the same establishment, it shall not be compulsory for the owner to secure more than one license if he pays the higher or highest rate of tax prescribed by ordinance. Wholesale dealers shall pay the license tax as such, as may be provided by ordinance. For purposes of this section, the term "General merchandise" shall include poultry and livestock, agricultural products, fish and other allied products. The only essential difference that We find between these two provisions that may have any bearing on the case at bar, is that, while subsection (m-2) prescribes that the combined total tax of any dealer or manufacturer, or both, enumerated under subsections (m-1) and (m-2), whether dealing in one or all of the articles mentioned therein,shall not be in excess of P500 per annum, the corresponding section 18, subsection (o) of Republic Act No. 409, does not contain any limitation as to the amount of tax or license fee that the retail dealer has to pay per annum. Hence, and in accordance with the weight of the authorities above referred to that maintain that "all rights and liabilities which have accrued under the original statute are preserved and may be enforced, since the reenactment neutralizes the repeal, therefore continuing the law in force without interruption", We hold that the questioned ordinances of the City of Manila are still in force and effect. Plaintiff, however, argues that the questioned ordinances, to be valid, must first be approved by the President of the Philippines as per section 18, subsection (ii) of Republic Act No. 409, which reads as follows: (ii) To tax, license and regulate any business, trade or occupation being conducted within the City of Manila, not otherwise enumerated in the preceding subsections, including percentage taxes based on gross sales or receipts, subject to the approval of the PRESIDENT, except amusement taxes. but this requirement of the President's approval was not contained in section 2444 of the former Charter of the City of Manila under which Ordinance No.

2529 was promulgated. Anyway, as stated by appellee's counsel, the business of "retail dealers in general merchandise" is expressly enumerated in subsection (o), section 18 of Republic Act No. 409; hence, an ordinance prescribing a municipal tax on said business does not have to be approved by the President to be effective, as it is not among those referred to in said subsection (ii). Moreover, the questioned ordinances are still in force, having been promulgated by the Municipal Board of the City of Manila under the authority granted to it by law. The question that now remains to be determined is whether said ordinances are inapplicable, invalid or unconstitutional if applied to the alleged business of distribution and sale of bibles to the people of the Philippines by a religious corporation like the American Bible Society, plaintiff herein. With regard to Ordinance No. 2529, as amended by Ordinances Nos. 2779, 2821 and 3028, appellant contends that it is unconstitutional and illegal because it restrains the free exercise and enjoyment of the religious profession and worship of appellant. Article III, section 1, clause (7) of the Constitution of the Philippines aforequoted, guarantees the freedom of religious profession and worship. "Religion has been spoken of as a profession of faith to an active power that binds and elevates man to its Creator" (Aglipay vs. Ruiz, 64 Phil., 201).It has reference to one's views of his relations to His Creator and to the obligations they impose of reverence to His being and character, and obedience to His Will (Davis vs. Beason, 133 U.S., 342). The constitutional guaranty of the free exercise and enjoyment of religious profession and worship carries with it the right to disseminate religious information. Any restraints of such right can only be justified like other restraints of freedom of expression on the grounds that there is a clear and present danger of any substantive evil which the State has the right to prevent". (Taada and Fernando on the Constitution of the Philippines, Vol. 1, 4th ed., p. 297). In the case at bar the license fee herein involved is imposed upon appellant for its distribution and sale of bibles and other religious literature: In the case of Murdock vs. Pennsylvania , it was held that an ordinance requiring that a license be obtained before a person could canvass or solicit orders for goods, paintings, pictures, wares or merchandise cannot be made to apply to members of Jehovah's Witnesses who went about from door to door distributing literature and soliciting people to "purchase" certain religious books and pamphlets, all published by the Watch Tower Bible & Tract Society. The "price" of the books was twenty-five cents each, the "price" of the pamphlets five cents each. It was shown that in making the solicitations there was a request for additional "contribution" of twenty-five cents each for the books and five cents each for the pamphlets. Lesser sum were accepted, however, and books were even donated in case interested persons were without funds.

On the above facts the Supreme Court held that it could not be said that petitioners were engaged in commercial rather than a religious venture. Their activities could not be described as embraced in the occupation of selling books and pamphlets. Then the Court continued: "We do not mean to say that religious groups and the press are free from all financial burdens of government. See Grosjean vs. American Press Co., 297 U.S., 233, 250, 80 L. ed. 660, 668, 56 S. Ct. 444. We have here something quite different, for example, from a tax on the income of one who engages in religious activities or a tax on property used or employed in connection with activities. It is one thing to impose a tax on the income or property of a preacher. It is quite another to exact a tax from him for the privilege of delivering a sermon. The tax imposed by the City of Jeannette is a flat license tax, payment of which is a condition of the exercise of these constitutional privileges. The power to tax the exercise of a privilege is the power to control or suppress its enjoyment. . . . Those who can tax the exercise of this religious practice can make its exercise so costly as to deprive it of the resources necessary for its maintenance. Those who can tax the privilege of engaging in this form of missionary evangelism can close all its doors to all those who do not have a full purse. Spreading religious beliefs in this ancient and honorable manner would thus be denied the needy. . . . It is contended however that the fact that the license tax can suppress or control this activity is unimportant if it does not do so. But that is to disregard the nature of this tax. It is a license tax a flat tax imposed on the exercise of a privilege granted by the Bill of Rights . . . The power to impose a license tax on the exercise of these freedom is indeed as potent as the power of censorship which this Court has repeatedly struck down. . . . It is not a nominal fee imposed as a regulatory measure to defray the expenses of policing the activities in question. It is in no way apportioned. It is flat license tax levied and collected as a condition to the pursuit of activities whose enjoyment is guaranteed by the constitutional liberties of press and religion and inevitably tends to suppress their exercise. That is almost uniformly recognized as the inherent vice and evil of this flat license tax." Nor could dissemination of religious information be conditioned upon the approval of an official or manager even if the town were owned by a corporation as held in the case of Marsh vs. State of Alabama (326 U.S. 501), or by the United States itself as held in the case of Tucker vs. Texas (326 U.S. 517). In the former case the Supreme Court expressed the opinion that the right to enjoy freedom of the press and religion occupies a preferred position as against the constitutional right of property owners. "When we balance the constitutional rights of owners of property against those of the people to enjoy freedom of press and religion, as we must here, we remain mindful of the fact that the latter occupy a

preferred position. . . . In our view the circumstance that the property rights to the premises where the deprivation of property here involved, took place, were held by others than the public, is not sufficient to justify the State's permitting a corporation to govern a community of citizens so as to restrict their fundamental liberties and the enforcement of such restraint by the application of a State statute." (Taada and Fernando on the Constitution of the Philippines, Vol. 1, 4th ed., p. 304-306). Section 27 of Commonwealth Act No. 466, otherwise known as the National Internal Revenue Code, provides: SEC. 27. EXEMPTIONS FROM TAX ON CORPORATIONS. The following organizations shall not be taxed under this Title in respect to income received by them as such (e) Corporations or associations organized and operated exclusively for religious, charitable, . . . or educational purposes, . . .: Provided, however, That the income of whatever kind and character from any of its properties, real or personal, or from any activity conducted for profit, regardless of the disposition made of such income, shall be liable to the tax imposed under this Code; Appellant's counsel claims that the Collector of Internal Revenue has exempted the plaintiff from this tax and says that such exemption clearly indicates that the act of distributing and selling bibles, etc. is purely religious and does not fall under the above legal provisions. It may be true that in the case at bar the price asked for the bibles and other religious pamphlets was in some instances a little bit higher than the actual cost of the same but this cannot mean that appellant was engaged in the business or occupation of selling said "merchandise" for profit. For this reason We believe that the provisions of City of Manila Ordinance No. 2529, as amended, cannot be applied to appellant, for in doing so it would impair its free exercise and enjoyment of its religious profession and worship as well as its rights of dissemination of religious beliefs. With respect to Ordinance No. 3000, as amended, which requires the obtention the Mayor's permit before any person can engage in any of the businesses, trades or occupations enumerated therein, We do not find that it imposes any charge upon the enjoyment of a right granted by the Constitution, nor tax the exercise of religious practices. In the case of Coleman vs. City of Griffin, 189 S.E. 427, this point was elucidated as follows: An ordinance by the City of Griffin, declaring that the practice of distributing either by hand or otherwise, circulars, handbooks, advertising, or literature of any kind, whether said articles are being delivered free, or whether same are being sold within the city limits of the City of Griffin, without first obtaining written permission from the

city manager of the City of Griffin, shall be deemed a nuisance and punishable as an offense against the City of Griffin, does not deprive defendant of his constitutional right of the free exercise and enjoyment of religious profession and worship, even though it prohibits him from introducing and carrying out a scheme or purpose which he sees fit to claim as a part of his religious system. It seems clear, therefore, that Ordinance No. 3000 cannot be considered unconstitutional, even if applied to plaintiff Society. But as Ordinance No. 2529 of the City of Manila, as amended, is not applicable to plaintiff-appellant and defendant-appellee is powerless to license or tax the business of plaintiff Society involved herein for, as stated before, it would impair plaintiff's right to the free exercise and enjoyment of its religious profession and worship, as well as its rights of dissemination of religious beliefs, We find that Ordinance No. 3000, as amended is also inapplicable to said business, trade or occupation of the plaintiff. Wherefore, and on the strength of the foregoing considerations, We hereby reverse the decision appealed from, sentencing defendant return to plaintiff the sum of P5,891.45 unduly collected from it. Without pronouncement as to costs. It is so ordered. G.R. No. 152904 June 8, 2007

The Facts Respondent Association of Benevola de Cebu, Inc. is a non-stock, non-profit organization organized under the laws of the Republic of the Philippines and is the owner of Chong Hua Hospital (CHH) in Cebu City. In the late 1990s, respondent constructed the CHH Medical Arts Center (CHHMAC). Thereafter, an April 17, 1998 Certificate of Occupancy 7 was issued to the center with a classification of "Commercial [Clinic]." Petitioner City Assessor of Cebu City assessed the CHHMAC building under Tax Declaration (TD) No. 97 GR-04-024-02529 as "commercial" with a market value of PhP 28,060,520 and an assessed value of PhP 9,821,180 at the assessment level of 35% for commercial buildings, and not at the 10% special assessment currently imposed for CHH and its other separate buildingsthe CHHs Dietary and Records Departments. Thus, respondent filed its September 15, 1998 letter-petition with the Cebu City LBAA for reconsideration, asserting that CHHMAC is part of CHH and ought to be imposed the same special assessment level of 10% with that of CHH. On September 25, 1998, respondent formally filed its appeal with the LBAA which was docketed as Case No. 4406, TD No. 97 GR-04-024-02529 entitled Association Benevola de Cebu, Inc. v. City Assessor. In the September 30, 1998 Order, the LBAA directed petitioner to conduct an ocular inspection of the subject property and to submit a report on the scheduled date of hearing. In the October 7, 1998 hearing, the parties were required to submit their respective position papers. In its position paper, petitioner argued that CHHMAC is a newly constructed five-storey building situated about 100 meters away from CHH and, based on actual inspection, was ascertained that it is not a part of the CHH building but a separate building which is actually used as commercial clinic/room spaces for renting out to physicians and, thus, classified as "commercial." Petitioner contended that in turn the medical specialists in CHHMAC charge consultation fees for patients who consult for diagnosis and relief of bodily ailment together with the ancillary (or support) services which include the areas of anesthesia, radiology, pathology, and more. Petitioner concluded the foregoing set up to be ultimately geared for commercial purposes, and thus having the proper classification as "commercial" under Building Permit No. B01-9750087 pursuant to Section 10 of the Local Assessment Regulations No. 1-92 issued by the Department of Finance (DOF). On the other hand, respondent contended in its position paper that CHHMAC building is actually, directly, and exclusively part of CHH and should have a special assessment level of 10% as provided under City Tax Ordinance LXX. Respondent asserted that the CHHMAC building is similarly situated as the buildings of CHH, housing its Dietary and Records Departments, are completely separate from the main CHH building and are imposed the 10% special assessment level. In fine, respondent argued that the CHHMAC, though not

CITY ASSESSOR OF CEBU CITY, petitioner, vs. ASSOCIATION OF BENEVOLA DE CEBU, INC., respondent. VELASCO, JR., J.: Is a medical arts center built by a hospital to house its doctors a separate commercial establishment or an appurtenant to the hospital? This is the core issue to be resolved in the instant petition where petitioner insists on a 35% assessment rate on the building which he considers commercial in nature contrary to respondents position that it is a special real property entitled to a 10% assessment rate for purposes of realty tax. The Case This Petition for Review on Certiorari1 under Rule 45 assails the October 31, 2001 Decision2 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. SP No. 62548, which affirmed the January 24, 2000 Decision 3 and October 25, 2000 Resolution4 of the Central Board of Assessment Appeals (CBAA); and the March 11, 2002 Resolution5 of the same court denying petitioners Motion for Reconsideration.6 The CBAA upheld the February 10, 1999 Decision of the Local Board of Assessment Appeals (LBAA), which overturned the 35% assessment rate of respondent Cebu City Assessor and ruled that petitioner is entitled to a 10% assessment.

actually indispensable, is nonetheless incidental and reasonably necessary to CHHs operations. The Ruling of the Local Board of Assessment Appeals On February 10, 1999, the LBAA rendered a Decision, 8 the dispositive portion of which reads: WHEREFORE, premises considered, the appealed decision imposing a thirty five (35) percent assessment level of TD No. 97 GR-04-024-02529 on the Chong Hua Hospital Medical Arts building is reversed and set aside and other [sic] one issued declaring that the building is entitled to a ten (10) percent assessment level. In reversing the ruling of petitioner City Assessor of Cebu City, the LBAA reasoned that it is of public knowledge that hospitals have plenty of spaces leased out to medical practitioners, which is both an accepted and desirable fact; thus, respondents claim is not disputed that such is a must for a tertiary hospital like CHH. The LBAA held that it is inconsequential that a separate building was constructed for that purpose pointing out that departments or services of other institutions and establishments are also not always housed in the same building. Thus, the LBAA pointed to the fact that respondents Dietary and Records Departments which are housed in separate buildings were similarly imposed with CHH the special assessment level of 10%, ratiocinating in turn that there is no reason therefore why a higher level would be imposed for CHHMAC as it is similarly situated with the Dietary and Records Departments of the CHH. The Ruling of the Central Board of Assessment Appeals Aggrieved, petitioner filed its March 15, 1999 Notice of Appeal 9 and March 16, 1999 Appeal Memorandum10before the CBAA Visayas Field Office which docketed the appeal as CBAA Case No. V-15, In Re: LBAA Case No. 4406, TD No. 97 GR-04-024-02529 entitled City Assessor of Cebu City v. Local Board of Assessment Appeals of Cebu City and Associacion Benevola de Cebu, Inc. On June 3, 1999, respondent filed its Answer11 to petitioners appeal. Subsequently, on January 24, 2000, the CBAA rendered a Decision12 affirming in toto the LBAA Decision and resolved the issue of whether the subject building of CHHMAC is part and parcel of CHH. It agreed with the above disquisition of the LBAA that it is a matter of public knowledge that hospitals lease out spaces to its accredited medical practitioners, and in particular it is of public knowledge that before the CHHMAC was constructed, the accredited doctors of CHH were housed in the main hospital building of CHH. Moreover, citing Herrera v. Quezon City Board of Assessment Appeals13 later applied in Abra Valley College, Inc. v. Aquino ,14 the CBAA held that the fact that the subject building is detached from the main hospital building is of no consequence as the exemption in favor of property used

exclusively for charitable or educational purposes is not only limited to property actually indispensable to the hospital, but also extends to facilities which are incidental and reasonably necessary for the accomplishment of such purposes. Through its October 25, 2000 Resolution,15 the CBAA denied petitioners Motion for Reconsideration.16 The Ruling of the Court of Appeals Not satisfied, petitioner brought before the CA a petition for review 17 under Rule 43 of the Rules of Court, docketed as CA-G.R. SP No. 62548, ascribing error on the CBAA in dismissing his appeal and in affirming the February 10, 1999 Decision18 of the LBAA. On October 31, 2001, the appellate court rendered the assailed Decision19 which affirmed the January 24, 2000 Decision of the CBAA. It agreed with the CBAA that CHHMAC is part and parcel of CHH in line with the ruling inHerrera20 on what the term "appurtenant thereto" means. Thus, the CA held that the facilities and utilities of CHHMAC are undoubtedly necessary and indispensable for the CHH to achieve its ultimate purpose. The CA likewise ruled that the fact that rentals are paid by CHH accredited doctors and medical specialists for spaces in CHHMAC has no bearing on its classification as a hospital since CHHMAC serves also as a place for medical check-up, diagnosis, treatment, and care for its patients as well as a specialized out-patient department of CHH where treatment and diagnosis are done by accredited medical specialists in their respective fields of anesthesia, radiology, pathology, and more. The appellate court also applied Secs. 215 and 216 of the Local Government Code (Republic Act No. 7160) which classify lands, buildings, and improvements actually, directly, and exclusively used for hospitals as special cases of real property and not as commercial. Thus, CHHMAC being an integral part of CHH is not commercial but special and should be imposed the 10% special assessment, the same as CHH, instead of the 35% for commercial establishments. Lastly, the CA pointed out that courts generally will not interfere in matters which are addressed to the sound discretion of the government agencies entrusted with the regulation of activities under their special technical knowledge and trainingtheir findings and conclusions are accorded not only respect but even finality. Through the assailed March 11, 2002 Resolution,21 the CA denied petitioners Motion for Reconsideration. The Issues

Hence, before us is the instant petition with the solitary issue, as follows: WHETHER OR NOT THERE IS SERIOUS ERROR BY THE COURT OF APPEALS IN AFFIRMING THE DECISION OF THE CENTRAL BOARD OF ASSESSMENT APPEALS THAT THE NEW BUILDING "CHONG HUA HOSPITAL AND MEDICAL ARTS CENTER" (CHHMAC) IS AN ESSENTIAL PART OF THE OLD BUILDING KNOWN AS "CHONG HUA HOSPITAL." IN THE NEGATIVE, WHETHER OR NOT THE NEW BUILDING IS LIABLE TO PAY THE 35% ASSESSMENT LEVEL. AND WHETHER OR NOT THE COURT OF APPEALS COULD INTERFERE WITH THE FINDINGS OF THE CENTRAL BOARD OF ASSESSMENT APPEALS, A GOVERNMENT AGENCY HAVING SPECIAL TECHNICAL KNOWLEDGE AND TRAINING ON THE MATTER SUBJECT OF THE PRESENT CASE. 22 The Courts Ruling The petition is devoid of merit. It is petitioners strong belief that the subject building, CHHMAC, which is built on a rented land and situated about 100 meters from the main building of CHH, is not an extension nor an integral part of CHH and thus should not enjoy the 10% special assessment. Petitioner anchors the classification of CHHMAC as "commercial," first, on Sec. 10 of Local Assessment Regulations No. 1-92 issued by the DOF, which provides: SEC. 10. Actual use of Real Property as basis of Assessment.Real Property shall be classified, valued and assessed on the basis of its actual use regardless of where located, whoever owns it, and whoever uses it. (Sec. 217, R.A. 7160) A. "Actual use" refers to the purpose for which the property is principally or predominantly utilized by the person in possession of the property. (Sec. 199 (b), R.A. 7160) Secondly, the result of the inspection on subject building by the City Assessors inspection team shows that CHHMAC is a commercial establishment based on the following: (1) CHHMAC is exclusively intended for lease to doctors; (2) there are neither operating rooms nor beds for patients; and (3) the doctors renting the spaces earn income from the patients who avail themselves of their services. Thus, petitioner argues that CHHMAC is principally and actually used for lease to doctors, and respondent as owner of CHHMAC derives rental income from it; hence, CHHMAC was built and is intended for profit and functions commercially. Moreover, petitioner asserts that CHHMAC is not part of the CHH main building as it is exclusively used as private clinics of physicians who pay rental fees to petitioner. And while the private clinics might be considered facilities, they are not incidental to nor reasonably necessary for the accomplishment of the hospitals purposes as CHH can still function and accomplish its purpose without the existence of CHHMAC. In addition, petitioner contends that theAbra Valley College, Inc.23 ruling is not applicable to the instant case for

schools, the subject matter in said case, are already entitled to special assessment. Besides, petitioner points CHHMAC is not among the facilities mentioned in said case. Further, petitioner argues that CHHMAC is not in the same category as nurses homes and housing facilities for the hospital staff as these are clearly not for profit, that is, not commercial, and are clearly incidental and reasonably necessary for the hospitals purposes. We are not persuaded. A careful review of the records compels us to affirm the assailed CA Decision as we find no reversible error for us to reverse or alter it. Chong Hua Hospital Medical Arts Center is an integral part of Chong Hua Hospital We so hold that CHHMAC is an integral part of CHH. It is undisputed that the doctors and medical specialists holding clinics in CHHMAC are those duly accredited by CHH, that is, they are consultants of the hospital and the ones who can treat CHHs patients confined in it. This fact alone takes away CHHMAC from being categorized as "commercial" since a tertiary hospital like CHH is required by law to have a pool of physicians who comprises the required medical departments in various medical fields. As aptly pointed out by respondent: Chong Hua Hospital is a duly licensed tertiary hospital and is covered by Dept. of Health (DOH) Adm. Order No. 68-A and the "1989 Revised Rules and Regulations" governing the registration, licensure and operation of hospitals in the Philippines. Under Sec. 6, sub-sec. 6.3, it is mandated by law, that respondent appellee in order to retain its classification as a "TERTIARY HOSPITAL," must be fully departmentalized and equipped with the service capabilities needed to support certified medical specialists and other licensed physicians rendering services in the field of medicine, pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology, surgery, and their sub-specialties, ICCU and ancillary services which is precisely the function of the Chong Hua Hospital Medical Arts Center. 24 Sec. 6.3, Administrative Order No. (AO) 68-A, Series of 1989, Revised Rules and Regulations Governing the Registration, Licensure and Operation of Hospitals in the Philippines pertinently provides: Tertiary Hospital is fully departmentalized and equipped with the service capabilities needed to support certified medical specialists and other licensed physicians rendering services in the field of Medicine, Pediatrics, Obstetrics and Gynecology, Surgery, their subspecialties and ancillary services. (Emphasis supplied.) Moreover, AO 68-A likewise provides what clinic service and medical ancillary service are, thus:

11.3.2 Clinical ServiceThe medical services to patients shall be performed by the medical staff appointed by the governing body of the institution. x x x 11.3.3 Medical Ancillary ServiceThese are support services which include Anesthesia Department, Pathology Department, Radiology Department, OutPatient Department (OPD), Emergency Service, Dental, Pharmacy, Medical Records and Medical Social Services. Based on these provisions, these physicians holding offices or clinics in CHHMAC, duly appointed or accredited by CHH, precisely fulfill and carry out their roles in the hospitals services for its patients through the CHHMAC. The fact that they are holding office in a separate building, like at CHHMAC, does not take away the essence and nature of their services vis--vis the over-all operation of the hospital and the benefits to the hospitals patients. Given what the law requires, it is clear that CHHMAC is an integral part of CHH. These accredited physicians normally hold offices within the premises of the hospital; in which case there is no question as to the conduct of their business in the ambit of diagnosis, treatment and/or confinement of patients. This was the case before 1998 and before CHHMAC was built. Verily, their transfer to a more spacious and, perhaps, convenient place and location for the benefit of the hospitals patients does not remove them from being an integral part of the overall operation of the hospital. Conversely, it would have been different if CHHMAC was also open for nonaccredited physicians, that is, any medical practitioner, for then respondent would be running a commercial building for lease only to doctors which would indeed subject the CHHMAC to the commercial level of 35% assessment. Moreover, the CHHMAC, being hundred meters away from the CHH main building, does not denigrate from its being an integral part of the latter. As aptly applied by the CBAA, the Herrera ruling on what constitutes property exempt from taxation is indeed applicable in the instant case, thus: Moreover, the exemption in favor of property used exclusively for charitable or educational purposes is "not limited to property actually indispensable" therefore (Cooley on Taxation, Vol. 2, p. 1430), but extends to facilities which are "incidental to and reasonably necessary for" the accomplishment of said purposes, such as, in the case of hospitals, "a school for training nurses, a nurses home, property use to provide housing facilities for interns, resident doctors, superintendents, and other members of the hospital staff, and recreational facilities for student nurses, interns and residents" (84 C.J.S., 621), such as "athletic fields," including "a farm used for the inmates of the institution" (Cooley on Taxation, Vol. 2, p. 1430).25 Verily, being an integral part of CHH, CHHMAC should be under the same special assessment level of as that of the former.

The CHHMAC facility is definitely incidental to necessary for the operations of Chong Hua Hospital

and

reasonably

Given our discussion above, the CHHMAC facility, while seemingly not indispensable to the operations of CHH, is definitely incidental to and reasonably necessary for the operations of the hospital. Considering the legal requirements and the ramifications of the medical and clinical operations that have been transferred to the CHHMAC from the CHH main building in light of the accredited physicians transfer of offices in 1998 after the CHHMAC building was finished, it cannot be gainsaid that the services done in CHHMAC are indispensable and essential to the hospitals operation. For one, as found by the appellate court, the CHHMAC facility is primarily used by the hospitals accredited physicians to perform medical check-up, diagnosis, treatment, and care of patients. For another, it also serves as a specialized outpatient department of the hospital. Indubitably, the operation of the hospital is not only for confinement and surgical operations where hospital beds and operating theaters are required. Generally, confinement is required in emergency cases and where a patient necessitates close monitoring. The usual course is that patients have to be diagnosed, and then treatment and follow-up consultations follow or are required. Other cases may necessitate surgical operations or other medical intervention and confinement. Thus, the more the patients, the more important task of diagnosis, treatment, and care that may or may not require eventual confinement or medical operation in the CHHMAC. Thus, the importance of CHHMAC in the operation of CHH cannot be overemphasized nor disputed. Clearly, it plays a key role and provides critical support to hospital operations. Charging rentals for the offices used by its accredited physicians cannot be equated to a commercial venture Finally, respondents charge of rentals for the offices and clinics its accredited physicians occupy cannot be equated to a commercial venture, which is mainly for profit. Respondents explanation on this point is well taken. First, CHHMAC is only for its consultants or accredited doctors and medical specialists. Second, the charging of rentals is a practical necessity: (1) to recoup the investment cost of the building, (2) to cover the rentals for the lot CHHMAC is built on, and (3) to maintain the CHHMAC building and its facilities. Third, as correctly pointed out by respondent, it pays the proper taxes for its rental income. And, fourth, if there is indeed any net income from the lease income of CHHMAC, such does not inure to any private or individual person as it will be used for respondents other charitable projects.

Given the foregoing arguments, we fail to see any reason why the CHHMAC building should be classified as "commercial" and be imposed the commercial level of 35% as it is not operated primarily for profit but as an integral part of CHH. The CHHMAC, with operations being devoted for the benefit of the CHHs patients, should be accorded the 10% special assessment. In this regard, we point with approbation the appellate courts application of Sec. 216 in relation with Sec. 215 of the Local Government Code on the proper classification of the subject CHHMAC building as "special" and not "commercial." Secs. 215 and 216 pertinently provide: SEC. 215. Classes of Real Property for Assessment Purposes.For purposes of assessment, real property shall be classified as residential, agricultural, commercial, industrial, mineral, timberland or special. xxxx SEC. 216. Special Classes of Real Property. All lands, buildings, and other improvements thereon actually, directly and exclusively used for hospitals, cultural or scientific purposes, and those owned and used by local water districts, and government-owned or controlled corporations rendering essential public services in the supply and distribution of water and/or generation and transmission of electric power shall be classified as special. (Emphasis supplied.) Thus, applying the above provisos in line with City Tax Ordinance LXX of Cebu City, the 10% special assessment should be imposed for the CHHMAC building which should be classified as "special." WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED for lack of merit and the October 31, 2001 Decision and March 11, 2002 Resolution of the CA are hereby AFFIRMED. No pronouncement as to costs. SO ORDERED.

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