"I chose to go to law school because I thought that someday, somehow I'd make a difference." -A.

February 14, 2017

Ferrer vs. Bautista

Facts:
  • The City of Quezon passed two ordinances namely.
  • The first one was the Socialized Housing Tax of QC allowing the imposition of special assessment (1/2 of the assessed valued of land in excess of P100k)
  • The second one was Ordinance No. SP-2235, S-2013 on Garbage Collection Fees imposing fees depending on the amount of the land or floor area).
  • Jose Ferrer, as a property in Quezon City questioned the validity of the city ordinances.
  • According to Ferrer:
    • The city has no power to impose the tax.
    • The SHT violates the rule on equality because it burdens real property owners with expenses to provide funds for the housing of informal settlers.
    • The SHT is confiscatory or oppressive.
  • Also, he assails the validity of the garbage fees imposition because:
    • It violates the rule on double taxation.
    • It violates the rule on equality because the fees are collected from only domestic households and not from restaurants, food courts, fast food chains, and other commercial dining places that spew garbage much more than residential property owners.



Issue: WON the ordinances were valid.

Held: 

1st ordinance: Socialized Housing Tax of Quezon City is valid.

Cities have the power to tax
It must be noted that local government units such as cities has the power to tax. The collection for the socialized housing tax is valid. It must be noted that the collections were made to accrue to the socialized housing programs and projects of the city. 

The imposition was for a public purpose (exercise of power of taxation + police power)
In this case, there was both an exercise of the power to tax (primary) and police power (incidental). Removing slum areas in Quezon City is not only beneficial to the underprivileged and homeless constituents but advantageous to the real property owners as well. 
The situation will improve the value of the their property investments, fully enjoying the same in view of an orderly, secure, and safe community, and will enhance the quality of life of the poor, making them law-abiding constituents and better consumers of business products.

There is no violation of the rule on equality
Note: There is a substantial distinction between: real property owner and an informal settler. In fact, the Supreme Court said that the disparity is so obvious. It is inherent in the power to tax that a State is free to select the subjects of taxation. Inequities which result from a singling out of one particular class for taxation or exemption infringe no constitutional limitation.

All these requisites are complied with: An ordinance based on reasonable classification does not violate the constitutional guaranty of the equal protection of the law. The requirements for a valid and reasonable classification are: (1) it must rest on substantial distinctions; (2) it must be germane to the purpose of the law; (3) it must not be limited to existing conditions only; and (4) it must apply equally to all members of the same class.

The ordinance is not oppressive or confiscatory
The ordinance is also not oppressive since the tax rate being imposed is consistent with the UDHA (Urban Development and Housing Act of 1992). While the law authorizes LGUs to collect SHT on properties with an assessed value of more than P50,000.00, the questioned ordinance only covers properties with an assessed value exceeding P100,000.00. As well, the ordinance provides for a tax credit equivalent to the total amount of the special assessment paid by the property owner beginning in the sixth (6th) year of the effectivity of the ordinance.

2nd ordinance: The imposition of garbage fee is invalid.

Note: There was no violation of double taxation but there was a violation of the rule on equity.

There is no violation of double taxation: the garbage fees are not taxes
In Progressive Development Corporation v. Quezon City, the Court declared that:
"if the generating of revenue is the primary purpose and regulation is merely incidental, the imposition is a tax; but if regulation is the primary purpose, the fact that incidentally revenue is also obtained does not make the imposition a tax."

Contention of Ferrer: that the imposition of garbage fee is tantamount to double taxation because garbage collection is a basic and essential public service that should be paid out from property tax, business tax, transfer tax, amusement tax, community tax certificate, other taxes, and the IRA of the Quezon City Government. All these are valid taxes. The garbage fees are license fees
Footnote: In order to constitute double taxation in the objectionable or prohibited sense the same property must be taxed twice when it should be taxed but once; both taxes must be imposed on the same property or subject-matter, for the same purpose, by the same State, Government, or taxing authority, within the same jurisdiction or taxing district, during the same taxing period, and they must be the same kind or character of tax.

There is a violation of the rule on equality: no substantial distinction
There is no substantial distinction between an occupant of a lot, on one hand, and an occupant of a unit in a condominium, socialized housing project or apartment, on the other hand. 
Most likely, garbage output produced by these types of occupants is uniform and does not vary to a large degree; thus, a similar schedule of fee is both just and equitable.

The garbage fees or rates are unjust and inequitable
A resident of a 200 sq. m. unit in a condominium or socialized housing project has to pay twice the amount than a resident of a lot similar in size; unlike unit occupants, all occupants of a lot with an area of 200 sq. m. and less have to pay a fixed rate of Php100.00; and the same amount of garbage fee is imposed regardless of whether the resident is from a condominium or from a socialized housing project.

The classifications are not germane to the purpose of the ordinance
The declared purpose is: "promoting shared responsibility with the residents to attack their common mindless attitude in over-consuming the present resources and in generating waste."

Instead of simplistically categorizing the payee into land or floor occupant of a lot or unit of a condominium, socialized housing project or apartment, respondent City Council should have considered factors that could truly measure the amount of wastes generated and the appropriate fee for its collection. Factors include, among others, household age and size, accessibility to waste collection, population density of the barangay or district, capacity to pay, and actual occupancy of the property.

SC: 
Validity of Socialized Housing Tax of Quezon City is upheld. 
Ordinance No. SP-2235, S-2013, which collects an annual garbage fee on all domestic households in Quezon City, is unconstitutional and illegal.

Citation:
  • JOSE J. FERRER, JR., Petitioner, vs.CITY MAYOR HERBERT BAUTISTA, CITY COUNCIL OF QUEZON CITY, CITY TREASURER OF QUEZON CITY, and CITY ASSESSOR OF QUEZON CITY, Respondents.
  • G.R. No. 210551               
  • June 30, 2015
  • En Banc

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