Constitutional Law, Political Law

Mayor Fernando v. St. Scholastica’s College, GR 16107, May 12, 2013 Police Power, Substantive Due Process, Local Government Code

FACTS:

Respondent St. Scholastica’s College (SSC) is the owner of four (4) parcels of land measuring a total of 56,306.80 sqms. located in Marikina Heights, located within the property are St. Scholastica’s Academy-Marikina. The property is enclosed by a tall concrete perimeter fence built some thirty (30) years ago. Abutting the fence along the West Drive are buildings, facilities, and other improvements.

The petitioners are the officials of the City Government of Marikina. On September 30, 1994, the Sangguniang Panlungsod of Marikina City enacted Ordinance No. 192, entitled “Regulating the Construction of Fences and Walls in the Municipality of Marikina.” 

On April 2, 2000, the City Government of Marikina sent a letter to the respondents ordering them to demolish and replace the fence of their Marikina property to make it 80% see-thru, and, at the same time, to move it back about six (6) meters to provide parking space for vehicles to park. 

The respondents requested for an extension of time to comply with the directive, and thereafter filed a petition for prohibition with an application for a writ of preliminary injunction and temporary restraining order before the RTC.

The respondents asserted that the implementation of the ordinance on their property would be tantamount to an appropriation of property without due process of law; and that the petitioners could only appropriate a portion of their property through eminent domain. 

They also pointed out that the goal of the provisions to deter lawless elements and criminality did not exist as the solid concrete walls of the school had served as sufficient protection for many years.

The petitioners, on the other hand, countered that the ordinance was a valid exercise of police power, by virtue of which, they could restrain property rights for the protection of public safety, health, morals, or the promotion of public convenience and general prosperity.

The RTC issued a writ of prohibition commanding the respondents to permanently desist from enforcing or implementing Ordinance No. 192.

On appeal, the CA affirmed the RTC decision.

Hence, this petition.

ISSUE:

Whether or not City Ordinance No. 192, Series Of 1994 is a valid exercise of Police Power.

RULING:

“Police power is the plenary power vested in the legislature to make statutes and ordinances to promote the health, morals, peace, education, good order or safety and general welfare of the people.” 

The State, through the legislature, has delegated the exercise of police power to local government units, as agencies of the State. This delegation of police power is embodied in Section 16 of the Local Government Code of 1991 (R.A. No. 7160), known as the General Welfare Clause, which has two branches. “

The first, known as the general legislative power, authorizes the municipal council to enact ordinances and make regulations not repugnant to law, as may be necessary to carry into effect and discharge the powers and duties conferred upon the municipal council by law. 

The second, known as the police power proper, authorizes the municipality to enact ordinances as may be necessary and proper for the health and safety, prosperity, morals, peace, good order, comfort, and convenience of the municipality and its inhabitants, and for the protection of their property.”

For an ordinance to be valid, it must not only be within the corporate powers of the local government unit to enact and pass according to the procedure prescribed by law, it must also conform to the following substantive requirements: 

(1) must not contravene the Constitution or any statute; 

(2) must not be unfair or oppressive; 

(3) must not be partial or discriminatory; 

(4) must not prohibit but may regulate trade; 

(5) must be general and consistent with public policy; and 

(6) must not be unreasonable.

Ordinance No. 192 was passed by the City Council of Marikina in the apparent exercise of its police power. To successfully invoke the exercise of police power as the rationale for the enactment of an ordinance and to free it from the imputation of constitutional infirmity, two tests have been used by the Court – the rational relationship test and the strict scrutiny test:

Using the rational basis examination, laws or ordinances are upheld if they rationally further a legitimate governmental interest. Under intermediate review, governmental interest is extensively examined and the availability of less restrictive measures is considered. Applying strict scrutiny, the focus is on the presence of compelling, rather than substantial, governmental interest and on the absence of less restrictive means for achieving that interest.

Even without going to a discussion of the strict scrutiny test, Ordinance No. 192, series of 1994 must be struck down for not being reasonably necessary to accomplish the City’s purpose. More importantly, it is oppressive of private rights.

As with the State, local governments may be considered as having properly exercised their police power only if the following requisites are met: 

(1) the interests of the public generally, as distinguished from those of a particular class, require its exercise and 

(2) the means employed are reasonably necessary for the accomplishment of the purpose and not unduly oppressive upon individuals.

In short, there must be a concurrence of a lawful subject and lawful method.

Lacking a concurrence of these two requisites, the police power measure shall be struck down as an arbitrary intrusion into private rights and a violation of the due process clause.

As with the State, local governments may be considered as having properly exercised their police power only if the following requisites are met: 

(1) the interests of the public generally, as distinguished from those of a particular class, require its exercise and 

(2) the means employed are reasonably necessary for the accomplishment of the purpose and not unduly oppressive upon individuals. In short, there must be a concurrence of a lawful subject and lawful method.

Lacking a concurrence of these two requisites, the police power measure shall be struck down as an arbitrary intrusion into private rights and a violation of the due process clause.

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