Ermita Malate v City of Manila

G.R. No. L-24693            
July 31, 1967

VICTOR ALABANZA, intervenor-appellee.

Panganiban, Abad and Associates Law Office for respondent-appellant.
J. M. Aruego, Tenchavez and Associates for intervenor-appellee.


Petitioners Ermita-Malate Hotel and Motel Operators Association with one of its members, Hotel del Mar Inc., and Go Chiu, the president and general manager of the second petitioner, filed a petition for prohibition against Ordinance No. 4760 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 execution and enforcement of such ordinances.

It was alleged that the petitioner non-stock corporation is dedicated to the promotion and protection of the interest of its eighteen members operating hotels and motels, characterized as legitimate businesses duly licensed by both national and city authorities and regularly paying taxes. It was 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 acting City Mayor, Vice-Mayor Herminio Astorga. 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 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. 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. 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.

Whether or Not Ordinance No. 4760 of the City of Manila is unconstitutional, therefore, null and void.

No. 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 been the accepted standards of constitutional adjudication, in both procedural and substantive aspects.

“The presumption is towards the validity of a law.” However, the Judiciary should not lightly set aside legislative action when there is not a clear invasion of personal or property rights under the guise of police regulation.

There is no question but that the challenged ordinance was precisely enacted to minimize certain practices hurtful to public morals, particularly fornication and prostitution. Moreover, the increase in the licensing fees was intended to discourage “establishments of the kind from operating for a purpose other than legal” and at the same time, to increase “the income of the city government.”

Police power is the power to prescribe regulations to promote the health, morals, peace, good order, safety, and general welfare of the people. In view of the requirements of due process, equal protection, and other applicable constitutional guarantees, however, the power must not be unreasonable or violative of due process. There is no controlling and precise definition of due process. It has a standard to which the governmental action should conform in order that deprivation of life, liberty, or property, in each appropriate case, be valid. What then is the standard of due process which must exist both as a procedural and a substantive requisite to free the challenged ordinance from legal infirmity? It is responsiveness to the supremacy of reason, obedience to the dictates of justice. Negatively put, arbitrariness is ruled out and unfairness avoided.

What may be stressed sufficiently is that if the liberty involved were freedom of the mind or the person, the standard for the validity of governmental acts is much more rigorous and exacting, but where the liberty curtailed affects at the most rights of property, the permissible scope of regulatory measure is wider.
On the law being vague on the issue of personal information, the maintenance of establishments, and the “full rate of payment”- Holmes- “We agree to all the generalities about not supplying criminal laws with what they omit but there is no canon against using common sense in construing laws as saying what they obviously mean.”

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