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Ermita-Malate HM Assn. v. Mayor of Manila G.R. No.

L-24693 1 of 6

Republic of the Philippines

G.R. No. L-24693 July 31, 1967
and GO CHIU, petitioners-appellees,
VICTOR ALABANZA, intervenor-appellee.
Panganiban, Abad and Associates Law Office for respondent-appellant.
J. M. Aruego, Tenchavez and Associates for intervenor-appellee.
The principal question in this appeal from a judgment of the lower court in an action for prohibition is whether
Ordinance No. 4760 of the City of Manila is violative of the due process clause. The lower court held that it is and
adjudged it "unconstitutional, and, therefore, null and void." For reasons to be more specifically set forth, such
judgment must be reversed, there being a failure of the requisite showing to sustain an attack against its validity.
The petition for prohibition against Ordinance No. 4760 was filed on July 5, 1963 by the petitioners, Ermita-Malate
Hotel and Motel Operators Association, one of its members, Hotel del Mar Inc., and a certain Go Chiu, who is "the
president and general manager of the second petitioner" against the respondent Mayor of the City of Manila who
was sued in his capacity as such "charged with the general power and duty to enforce ordinances of the City of
Manila and to give the necessary orders for the faithful execution and enforcement of such ordinances." (par. 1). It
was alleged that the petitioner non-stock corporation is dedicated to the promotion and protection of the interest of
its eighteen (18) members "operating hotels and motels, characterized as legitimate businesses duly licensed by
both national and city authorities, regularly paying taxes, employing and giving livelihood to not less than 2,500
person and representing an investment of more than P3 million." (par. 2). It was then alleged that on June 13, 1963,
the Municipal Board of the City of Manila enacted Ordinance No. 4760, approved on June 14, 1963 by the then
Vice-Mayor Herminio Astorga, who was at the time acting as Mayor of the City of Manila. (par. 3).
After which the alleged grievances against the ordinance were set forth in detail. There was the assertion of its
being beyond the powers of the Municipal Board of the City of Manila to enact insofar as it would regulate motels,
on the ground that in the revised charter of the City of Manila or in any other law, no reference is made to motels;
that Section 1 of the challenged ordinance is unconstitutional and void for being unreasonable and violative of due
process insofar as it would impose P6,000.00 fee per annum for first class motels and P4,500.00 for second class
motels; that the provision in the same section which would require the owner, manager, keeper or duly authorized
representative of a hotel, motel, or lodging house to refrain from entertaining or accepting any guest or customer or
letting any room or other quarter to any person or persons without his filling up the prescribed form in a lobby
open to public view at all times and in his presence, wherein the surname, given name and middle name, the date of
birth, the address, the occupation, the sex, the nationality, the length of stay and the number of companions in the
room, if any, with the name, relationship, age and sex would be specified, with data furnished as to his residence
certificate as well as his passport number, if any, coupled with a certification that a person signing such form has
personally filled it up and affixed his signature in the presence of such owner, manager, keeper or duly authorized
representative, with such registration forms and records kept and bound together, it also being provided that the
premises and facilities of such hotels, motels and lodging houses would be open for inspection either by the City
Mayor, or the Chief of Police, or their duly authorized representatives is unconstitutional and void again on due
process grounds, not only for being arbitrary, unreasonable or oppressive but also for being vague, indefinite and
uncertain, and likewise for the alleged invasion of the right to privacy and the guaranty against self-incrimination;
that Section 2 of the challenged ordinance classifying motels into two classes and requiring the maintenance of
Ermita-Malate HM Assn. v. Mayor of Manila G.R. No. L-24693 2 of 6

certain minimum facilities in first class motels such as a telephone in each room, a dining room or, restaurant and
laundry similarly offends against the due process clause for being arbitrary, unreasonable and oppressive, a
conclusion which applies to the portion of the ordinance requiring second class motels to have a dining room; that
the provision of Section 2 of the challenged ordinance prohibiting a person less than 18 years old from being
accepted in such hotels, motels, lodging houses, tavern or common inn unless accompanied by parents or a lawful
guardian and making it unlawful for the owner, manager, keeper or duly authorized representative of such
establishments to lease any room or portion thereof more than twice every 24 hours, runs counter to the due
process guaranty for lack of certainty and for its unreasonable, arbitrary and oppressive character; and that insofar
as the penalty provided for in Section 4 of the challenged ordinance for a subsequent conviction would, cause the
automatic cancellation of the license of the offended party, in effect causing the destruction of the business and loss
of its investments, there is once again a transgression of the due process clause.
There was a plea for the issuance of preliminary injunction and for a final judgment declaring the above ordinance
null and void and unenforceable. The lower court on July 6, 1963 issued a writ of preliminary injunction ordering
respondent Mayor to refrain from enforcing said Ordinance No. 4760 from and after July 8, 1963.
In the a answer filed on August 3, 1963, there was an admission of the personal circumstances regarding the
respondent Mayor and of the fact that petitioners are licensed to engage in the hotel or motel business in the City of
Manila, of the provisions of the cited Ordinance but a denial of its alleged nullity, whether on statutory or
constitutional grounds. After setting forth that the petition did fail to state a cause of action and that the challenged
ordinance bears a reasonable relation, to a proper purpose, which is to curb immorality, a valid and proper exercise
of the police power and that only the guests or customers not before the court could complain of the alleged
invasion of the right to privacy and the guaranty against self incrimination, with the assertion that the issuance of
the preliminary injunction ex parte was contrary to law, respondent Mayor prayed for, its dissolution and the
dismissal of the petition.
Instead of evidence being offered by both parties, there was submitted a stipulation of facts dated September 28,
1964, which reads:
1. That the petitioners Ermita-Malate Hotel and Motel Operators Association, Inc. and Hotel del Mar Inc.
are duly organized and existing under the laws of the Philippines, both with offices in the City of Manila,
while the petitioner Go Chin is the president and general manager of Hotel del Mar Inc., and the intervenor
Victor Alabanza is a resident of Baguio City, all having the capacity to sue and be sued;
2. That the respondent Mayor is the duly elected and incumbent City Mayor and chief executive of the City
of Manila charged with the general power and duty to enforce ordinances of the City of Manila and to give
the necessary orders for the faithful execution and enforcement of such ordinances;
3. That the petitioners are duly licensed to engage in the business of operating hotels and motels in Malate
and Ermita districts in Manila;
4. That on June 13, 1963, the Municipal Board of the City of Manila enacted Ordinance No. 4760, which
was approved on June 14, 1963, by Vice-Mayor Herminio Astorga, then the acting City Mayor of Manila, in
the absence of the respondent regular City Mayor, amending sections 661, 662, 668-a, 668-b and 669 of the
compilation of the ordinances of the City of Manila besides inserting therein three new sections. This
ordinance is similar to the one vetoed by the respondent Mayor (Annex A) for the reasons stated in its 4th
Indorsement dated February 15, 1963 (Annex B);
5. That the explanatory note signed by then Councilor Herminio Astorga was submitted with the proposed
ordinance (now Ordinance 4760) to the Municipal Board, copy of which is attached hereto as Annex C;
6. That the City of Manila derived in 1963 an annual income of P101,904.05 from license fees paid by the
105 hotels and motels (including herein petitioners) operating in the City of Manila.
Thereafter came a memorandum for respondent on January 22, 1965, wherein stress was laid on the presumption of
the validity of the challenged ordinance, the burden of showing its lack of conformity to the Constitution resting on
Ermita-Malate HM Assn. v. Mayor of Manila G.R. No. L-24693 3 of 6

the party who assails it, citing not only U.S. v. Salaveria, but likewise applicable American authorities. Such a
memorandum likewise refuted point by point the arguments advanced by petitioners against its validity. Then
barely two weeks later, on February 4, 1965, the memorandum for petitioners was filed reiterating in detail what
was set forth in the petition, with citations of what they considered to be applicable American authorities and
praying for a judgment declaring the challenged ordinance "null and void and unenforceable" and making
permanent the writ of preliminary injunction issued.
After referring to the motels and hotels, which are members of the petitioners association, and referring to the
alleged constitutional questions raised by the party, the lower court observed: "The only remaining issue here being
purely a question of law, the parties, with the nod of the Court, agreed to file memoranda and thereafter, to submit
the case for decision of the Court." It does appear obvious then that without any evidence submitted by the parties,
the decision passed upon the alleged infirmity on constitutional grounds of the challenged ordinance, dismissing as
is undoubtedly right and proper the untenable objection on the alleged lack of authority of the City of Manila to
regulate motels, and came to the conclusion that "the challenged Ordinance No. 4760 of the City of Manila, would
be unconstitutional and, therefore, null and void." It made permanent the preliminary injunction issued against
respondent Mayor and his agents "to restrain him from enforcing the ordinance in question." Hence this appeal.
As noted at the outset, the judgment must be reversed. A decent regard for constitutional doctrines of a fundamental
character ought to have admonished the lower court against such a sweeping condemnation of the challenged
ordinance. Its decision cannot be allowed to stand, consistently with what has hitherto been the accepted standards
of constitutional adjudication, in both procedural and substantive aspects.
Primarily what calls for a reversal of such a decision is the absence of any evidence to offset the presumption of
validity that attaches to a challenged statute or ordinance. As was expressed categorically by Justice Malcolm: "The
presumption is all in favor of validity x x x . The action of the elected representatives of the people cannot be
lightly set aside. The councilors must, in the very nature of things, be familiar with the necessities of their
particular municipality and with all the facts and circumstances which surround the subject and necessitate action.
The local legislative body, by enacting the ordinance, has in effect given notice that the regulations are essential to
the well being of the people x x x . The Judiciary should not lightly set aside legislative action when there is not a
clear invasion of personal or property rights under the guise of police regulation.
It admits of no doubt therefore that there being a presumption of validity, the necessity for evidence to rebut it is
unavoidable, unless the statute or ordinance is void on its face which is not the case here. The principle has been
nowhere better expressed than in the leading case of O'Gorman & Young v. Hartford Fire Insurance Co., where the
American Supreme Court through Justice Brandeis tersely and succinctly summed up the matter thus: The statute
here questioned deals with a subject clearly within the scope of the police power. We are asked to declare it void on
the ground that the specific method of regulation prescribed is unreasonable and hence deprives the plaintiff of due
process of law. As underlying questions of fact may condition the constitutionality of legislation of this character,
the resumption of constitutionality must prevail in the absence of some factual foundation of record for
overthrowing the statute." No such factual foundation being laid in the present case, the lower court deciding the
matter on the pleadings and the stipulation of facts, the presumption of validity must prevail and the judgment
against the ordinance set aside.
Nor may petitioners assert with plausibility that on its face the ordinance is fatally defective as being repugnant to
the due process clause of the Constitution. The mantle of protection associated with the due process guaranty does
not cover petitioners. This particular manifestation of a police power measure being specifically aimed to safeguard
public morals is immune from such imputation of nullity resting purely on conjecture and unsupported by anything
of substance. To hold otherwise would be to unduly restrict and narrow the scope of police power which has been
properly characterized as the most essential, insistent and the least limitable of powers, extending as it does "to all
the great public needs." It would be, to paraphrase another leading decision, to destroy the very purpose of the state
if it could be deprived or allowed itself to be deprived of its competence to promote public health, public morals,
public safety and the genera welfare. Negatively put, police power is "that inherent and plenary power in the State
which enables it to prohibit all that is hurt full to the comfort, safety, and welfare of society.
Ermita-Malate HM Assn. v. Mayor of Manila G.R. No. L-24693 4 of 6

There is no question but that the challenged ordinance was precisely enacted to minimize certain practices hurtful
to public morals. The explanatory note of the Councilor Herminio Astorga included as annex to the stipulation of
facts, speaks of the alarming increase in the rate of prostitution, adultery and fornication in Manila traceable in
great part to the existence of motels, which "provide a necessary atmosphere for clandestine entry, presence and
exit" and thus become the "ideal haven for prostitutes and thrill-seekers." The challenged ordinance then proposes
to check the clandestine harboring of transients and guests of these establishments by requiring these transients and
guests to fill up a registration form, prepared for the purpose, in a lobby open to public view at all times, and by
introducing several other amendatory provisions calculated to shatter the privacy that characterizes the registration
of transients and guests." Moreover, the increase in the licensed fees was intended to discourage "establishments of
the kind from operating for purpose other than legal" and at the same time, to increase "the income of the city
government." It would appear therefore that the stipulation of facts, far from sustaining any attack against the
validity of the ordinance, argues eloquently for it.
It is a fact worth noting that this Court has invariably stamped with the seal of its approval, ordinances punishing
vagrancy and classifying a pimp or procurer as a vagrant; provide a license tax for and regulating the maintenance
or operation of public dance halls; prohibiting gambling; prohibiting jueteng; and monte; prohibiting playing of
panguingui on days other than Sundays or legal holidays; prohibiting the operation of pinball machines; and
prohibiting any person from keeping, conducting or maintaining an opium joint or visiting a place where opium is
smoked or otherwise used, all of which are intended to protect public morals.
On the legislative organs of the government, whether national or local, primarily rest the exercise of the police
power, which, it cannot be too often emphasized, is the power to prescribe regulations to promote the health,
morals, peace, good order, safety and general welfare of the people. In view of the requirements of due process,
equal protection and other applicable constitutional guaranties however, the exercise of such police power insofar
as it may affect the life, liberty or property of any person is subject to judicial inquiry. Where such exercise of
police power may be considered as either capricious, whimsical, unjust or unreasonable, a denial of due process or
a violation of any other applicable constitutional guaranty may call for correction by the courts.
We are thus led to considering the insistent, almost shrill tone, in which the objection is raised to the question of
due process. There is no controlling and precise definition of due process. It furnishes though a standard to which
the governmental action should conform in order that deprivation of life, liberty or property, in each appropriate
case, be valid. What then is the standard of due process which must exist both as a procedural and a substantive
requisite to free the challenged ordinance, or any governmental action for that matter, from the imputation of legal
infirmity sufficient to spell its doom? It is responsiveness to the supremacy of reason, obedience to the dictates of
justice. Negatively put, arbitrariness is ruled out and unfairness avoided. To satisfy the due process requirement,
official action, to paraphrase Cardozo, must not outrun the bounds of reason and result in sheer oppression. Due
process is thus hostile to any official action marred by lack of reasonableness. Correctly it has been identified as
freedom from arbitrariness. It is the embodiment of the sporting idea of fair play. It exacts fealty "to those strivings
for justice" and judges the act of officialdom of whatever branch "in the light of reason drawn from considerations
of fairness that reflect [democratic] traditions of legal and political thought." It is not a narrow or "technical
conception with fixed content unrelated to time, place and circumstances," decisions based on such a clause
requiring a "close and perceptive inquiry into fundamental principles of our society." Questions of due process are
not to be treated narrowly or pedantically in slavery to form or phrases.
It would thus be an affront to reason to stigmatize an ordinance enacted precisely to meet what a municipal
lawmaking body considers an evil of rather serious proportion an arbitrary and capricious exercise of authority. It
would seem that what should be deemed unreasonable and what would amount to an abdication of the power to
govern is inaction in the face of an admitted deterioration of the state of public morals. To be more specific, the
Municipal Board of the City of Manila felt the need for a remedial measure. It provided it with the enactment of the
challenged ordinance. A strong case must be found in the records, and, as has been set forth, none is even attempted
here to attach to an ordinance of such character the taint of nullity for an alleged failure to meet the due process
requirement. Nor does it lend any semblance even of deceptive plausibility to petitioners' indictment of Ordinance
No. 4760 on due process grounds to single out such features as the increased fees for motels and hotels, the
Ermita-Malate HM Assn. v. Mayor of Manila G.R. No. L-24693 5 of 6

curtailment of the area of freedom to contract, and, in certain particulars, its alleged vagueness.
Admittedly there was a decided increase of the annual license fees provided for by the challenged ordinance for
hotels and motels, 150% for the former and over 200% for the latter, first-class motels being required to pay a
P6,000 annual fee and second-class motels, P4,500 yearly. It has been the settled law however, as far back as 1922
that municipal license fees could be classified into those imposed for regulating occupations or regular enterprises,
for the regulation or restriction of non-useful occupations or enterprises and for revenue purposes only. As was
explained more in detail in the above Cu Unjieng case: (2) Licenses for non-useful occupations are also incidental
to the police power and the right to exact a fee may be implied from the power to license and regulate, but in fixing
amount of the license fees the municipal corporations are allowed a much wider discretion in this class of cases
than in the former, and aside from applying the well-known legal principle that municipal ordinances must not be
unreasonable, oppressive, or tyrannical, courts have, as a general rule, declined to interfere with such discretion.
The desirability of imposing restraint upon the number of persons who might otherwise engage in non-useful
enterprises is, of course, generally an important factor in the determination of the amount of this kind of license
fee. Hence license fees clearly in the nature of privilege taxes for revenue have frequently been upheld, especially
in of licenses for the sale of liquors. In fact, in the latter cases the fees have rarely been declared unreasonable.
Moreover in the equally leading case of Lutz v. Araneta this Court affirmed the doctrine earlier announced by the
American Supreme Court that taxation may be made to implement the state's police power. Only the other day, this
Court had occasion to affirm that the broad taxing authority conferred by the Local Autonomy Act of 1959 to cities
and municipalities is sufficiently plenary to cover a wide range of subjects with the only limitation that the tax so
levied is for public purposes, just and uniform.
As a matter of fact, even without reference to the wide latitude enjoyed by the City of Manila in imposing licenses
for revenue, it has been explicitly held in one case that "much discretion is given to municipal corporations in
determining the amount," here the license fee of the operator of a massage clinic, even if it were viewed purely as a
police power measure. The discussion of this particular matter may fitly close with this pertinent citation from
another decision of significance: "It is urged on behalf of the plaintiffs-appellees that the enforcement of the
ordinance could deprive them of their lawful occupation and means of livelihood because they can not rent stalls in
the public markets. But it appears that plaintiffs are also dealers in refrigerated or cold storage meat, the sale of
which outside the city markets under certain conditions is permitted x x x . And surely, the mere fact, that some
individuals in the community may be deprived of their present business or a particular mode of earning a living
cannot prevent the exercise of the police power. As was said in a case, persons licensed to pursue occupations
which may in the public need and interest be affected by the exercise of the police power embark in these
occupations subject to the disadvantages which may result from the legal exercise of that power."
Nor does the restriction on the freedom to contract, insofar as the challenged ordinance makes it unlawful for the
owner, manager, keeper or duly authorized representative of any hotel, motel, lodging house, tavern, common inn
or the like, to lease or rent room or portion thereof more than twice every 24 hours, with a proviso that in all cases
full payment shall be charged, call for a different conclusion. Again, such a limitation cannot be viewed as a
transgression against the command of due process. It is neither unreasonable nor arbitrary. Precisely it was
intended to curb the opportunity for the immoral or illegitimate use to which such premises could be, and,
according to the explanatory note, are being devoted. How could it then be arbitrary or oppressive when there
appears a correspondence between the undeniable existence of an undesirable situation and the legislative attempt
at correction. Moreover, petitioners cannot be unaware that every regulation of conduct amounts to curtailment of
liberty which as pointed out by Justice Malcolm cannot be absolute. Thus: "One thought which runs through all
these different conceptions of liberty is plainly apparent. It is this: 'Liberty' as understood in democracies, is not
license; it is 'liberty regulated by law.' Implied in the term is restraint by law for the good of the individual and for
the greater good of the peace and order of society and the general well-being. No man can do exactly as he pleases.
Every man must renounce unbridled license. The right of the individual is necessarily subject to reasonable
restraint by general law for the common good x x x The liberty of the citizen may be restrained in the interest of the
public health, or of the public order and safety, or otherwise within the proper scope of the police power."
A similar observation was made by Justice Laurel: "Public welfare, then, lies at the bottom of the enactment of said
Ermita-Malate HM Assn. v. Mayor of Manila G.R. No. L-24693 6 of 6

law, and the state in order to promote the general welfare may interfere with personal liberty, with property, and
with business and occupations. Persons and property may be subjected to all kinds of restraints and burdens, in
order to secure the general comfort, health, and prosperity of the state x x x To this fundamental aim of our
Government the rights of the individual are subordinated. Liberty is a blessing without which life is a misery, but
liberty should not be made to prevail over authority because then society will fall into anarchy. Neither should
authority be made to prevail over liberty because then the individual will fall into slavery. The citizen should
achieve the required balance of liberty and authority in his mind through education and personal discipline, so that
there may be established the resultant equilibrium, which means peace and order and happiness for all.
It is noteworthy that the only decision of this Court nullifying legislation because of undue deprivation of freedom
to contract, People v. Pomar, no longer "retains its virtuality as a living principle. The policy of laissez faire has to
some extent given way to the assumption by the government of the right of intervention even in contractual
relations affected with public interest. What may be stressed sufficiently is that if the liberty involved were freedom
of the mind or the person, the standard for the validity of governmental acts is much more rigorous and exacting,
but where the liberty curtailed affects at the most rights of property, the permissible scope of regulatory measure is
wider. How justify then the allegation of a denial of due process?
Lastly, there is the attempt to impugn the ordinance on another due process ground by invoking the principles of
vagueness or uncertainty. It would appear from a recital in the petition itself that what seems to be the gravamen of
the alleged grievance is that the provisions are too detailed and specific rather than vague or uncertain. Petitioners,
however, point to the requirement that a guest should give the name, relationship, age and sex of the companion or
companions as indefinite and uncertain in view of the necessity for determining whether the companion or
companions referred to are those arriving with the customer or guest at the time of the registry or entering the room
With him at about the same time or coming at any indefinite time later to join him; a proviso in one of its sections
which cast doubt as to whether the maintenance of a restaurant in a motel is dependent upon the discretion of its
owners or operators; another proviso which from their standpoint would require a guess as to whether the "full rate
of payment" to be charged for every such lease thereof means a full day's or merely a half-day's rate. It may be
asked, do these allegations suffice to render the ordinance void on its face for alleged vagueness or uncertainty? To
ask the question is to answer it. From Connally v. General Construction Co. to Adderley v. Florida, the principle
has been consistently upheld that what makes a statute susceptible to such a charge is an enactment either
forbidding or requiring the doing of an act that men of common intelligence must necessarily guess at its meaning
and differ as to its application. Is this the situation before us? A citation from Justice Holmes would prove
illuminating: "We agree to all the generalities about not supplying criminal laws with what they omit but there is no
canon against using common sense in construing laws as saying what they obviously mean."
That is all then that this case presents. As it stands, with all due allowance for the arguments pressed with such
vigor and determination, the attack against the validity of the challenged ordinance cannot be considered a success.
Far from it. Respect for constitutional law principles so uniformly held and so uninterruptedly adhered to by this
Court compels a reversal of the appealed decision.
Wherefore, the judgment of the lower court is reversed and the injunction issued lifted forthwith. With costs.
Reyes, J.B.L., Makalintal, Bengzon, J.P., Zaldivar, Sanchez, Castro and Angeles, JJ., concur.
Concepcion, C.J. and Dizon, J., are on leave.