The Municipal Board of Ormoc City passed Ordinance No. 4, Series of 1964, imposing “on any and all productions of centrifugal sugar milled at the Ormoc Sugar Company, Inc., in Ormoc City a municipal tax equivalent to one per centum (1%) per export sale to the United States of America and other foreign countries.”
Payments for said tax were made, under protest, by Ormoc Sugar Company, Inc.
Ormoc Sugar Company, Inc. filed before the CFI, a complaint against the City of Ormoc as well as its Treasurer, Municipal Board and Mayor, alleging that the afore-stated ordinance is unconstitutional for being violative of the equal protection clause (Sec. 1, Art. III, Constitution) and the rule of uniformity of taxation (Sec. 22), Art. VI, Constitution), aside from being an export tax forbidden under Section 2287 of the Revised Administrative Code. It further alleged that the tax is neither a production nor a license tax which Ormoc City under Section 15-kk of its charter and under Section 2 of Republic Act 2264, otherwise known as the Local Autonomy Act, is authorized to impose; and that the tax amounts to a customs duty, fee or charge in violation of paragraph 1 of Section 2 of Republic Act 2264 because the tax is on both the sale and export of sugar.
Whether or not Ordinance No. 4 is constitutional.
The challenged ordinance is unconstitutional.
The Constitution in the bill of rights provides: “. . . nor shall any person be denied the equal protection of the laws.” (Sec. 1 , Art. III) In Felwa vs. Salas, We ruled that the equal protection clause applies only to persons or things identically situated and does not bar a reasonable classification of the subject of legislation, and a classification is reasonable where (1) it is based on substantial distinctions which make real differences; (2) these are germane to the purpose of the law; (3) the classification applies not only to present conditions but also to future conditions which are substantially identical to those of the present; (4) the classification applies only to those who belong to the same class.
A perusal of the requisites instantly shows that the questioned ordinance does not meet them, for it taxes only centrifugal sugar produced and exported by the Ormoc Sugar Company, Inc. and none other. At the time of the taxing ordinance’s enactment, Ormoc Sugar Company, Inc., it is true, was the only sugar central in the city of Ormoc. Still, the classification, to be reasonable, should be in terms applicable to future conditions as well. The taxing ordinance should not be singular and exclusive as to exclude any subsequently established sugar central, of the same class as plaintiff, for the coverage of the tax. As it is now, even if later a similar company is set up, it cannot be subject to the tax because the ordinance expressly points only to Ormoc City Sugar Company, Inc. as the entity to be levied upon.
Appellant, however, is not entitled to interest; on the refund because the taxes were not arbitrarily collected. At the time of collection, the ordinance provided a sufficient basis to preclude arbitrariness, the same being then presumed constitutional until declared otherwise.
The defendants-appellees are hereby ordered to refund the P12,087.50 plaintiff-appellant paid under protest.