Validity of the "anti-unli-rice" law

A day ago, Senator Cynthia Villar hinted on passing a law banning unli-rice in the country. This has sparked outrage among most of the people on the Internet.

"Unli-rice" is a Filipino concept of unlimited service of rice in restaurants, depending on the type or price of meal paid for. This has become a very popular marketing strategy for many restaurant and fast food chains because Filipinos love rice.

In this opinion, let us investigate the legality of a hypothetical Anti-Unli Rice Law in the Philippines. What would be the basis of the enactment of this law and would it be constitutional?

Under the Constitution, "The State shall protect and promote the right to health of the people and instill health consciousness among them." Also, "The maintenance of peace and order, the protection of life, liberty, and property, and promotion of the general welfare are essential for the enjoyment by all the people of the blessings of democracy."

The second above-quoted provision has been viewed as a constitutional mandate on the police power of the State, although other authors may disagree. The police power of the State has been described as "the most essential, insistent and illimitable of powers" which enables it to prohibit all things hurtful to the comfort, safety and welfare of society. It is a power not emanating from or conferred by the constitution, but inherent in the state, plenary, "suitably vague and far from precisely defined, rooted in the conception that man in organizing the state and imposing upon the government limitations to safeguard constitutional rights did not intend thereby to enable individual citizens or group of citizens to obstruct unreasonably the enactment of such salutary measures to ensure communal peace, safety, good order and welfare." (G.R. No. L-63419)

In enacting such a law as the Anti-Unli Rice law, the Congress would be invoking its authority to regulate the right of the people in order to promote their welfare. Salus populi est supreme lex. Hence, Congress may argue that, without this law regulating the number of cups of rice served at restaurants, diabetes, heart problems and other such diseases would fester the population and cripple the productivity of the nation, thus causing not only health and social but also economic problems.

All these being said and the law being yet hypothetical, we cannot specifically address the issue of whether or not it is unconstitutional. We cannot as of yet see the extent of law. Nevertheless, for the sake of argument, let us considering the following.

First, let's assume, arguendo, that the law limits the amount of rice to only one (1) cup per person. This would be prejudicial to those who have higher calorie and carbohydrate needs. We should remember that not every person can live with only one (1) cup of rice. Certain groups of people with certain body types and specific professions may require more rice for their meal in order to sustain their body's energy until the next meal of the day.

Second, let us here assume, arguendo, that the law limits the amount of rice to only two (2) cups per person. Does this not seem to be arbitrary? What is the difference between one (1) cup and two (2) cups? Why does it not have to be three (3) or four (4) cups? All these questions Congress must answer satisfactorily before the law is considered constitutional and in order that it is deemed more than just an arbitrary flexing of governmental muscle.

Third, let us assume, arguendo, that the law limits the amount of rice per person depending on a doctor's prescription based on medical examinations. For example, a person who has been found by medical science to be more prone to diabetes and heart problems can only have one (1) or (2) cups and those found to be less prone can have eight (8) or nine (9). At first glance, this proposal would seem to be appealing. However, at a second glance, it can be noticed that this setup would create more problems than solve existing problems.If that were the case, as mentioned in the next preceding paragraph, would the State not be in a position where it restrains the trade of restaurants and fast foods by limiting and putting their prerogatives and marketing strategies at the mercy of doctors? What would happen if a person wishes to contend the findings of the doctor? Would such a situation not give rise to more cases that could clog the dockets of our courts? It is humbly submitted that this third hypothetical situation is the least ideal.

Fourth and possibly finally, assuming, arguendo, that the law limits the amount of rice to only ten (10) cups per person, would this not now sound more reasonable? It applies to every person regardless of age, sex and medical condition. It forces people who can eat more than ten (10) cups to each less than that, thereby giving benefit to their health. It allows people who have more calorie and carbohydrate needs to avail of as many cups of rice as they want as long as it does not go beyond the unhealthy ten-cup (10-cup) threshold.

It is admitted that this kind of regulation, the fourth proposal, may actually pass the test of constitutionality, provided that Congress is able to provide sufficient factual basis for limiting this to said number of cups. At any rate, it is not within the jurisdiction of the court to inquire into the wisdom of the law since even the purest wisdom of the Supreme Court, as it has been said, cannot even supplant the law, unless it is found to be violative of the 1987 Constitution.

It appears that this hypothetical law regulating the number of cups of rice served at restaurants to only ten (10) per person is not merely a whimsical attempt to legislate. There is a hint of reason to it and the exercise of the State's police power does not appear to be capricious.

However, even if Congress manages to pass this point, she still has all the work ahead of her. Who should be considered as a party-in-interest to file an action against a restaurant or food chain for violating this law? Would people not collude with these restaurants in giving them more than the actual limit provided by law? Should the government actually spend taxpayer money if only to send authorities or peace officers to actually police all these restaurants all over the country in order to enforce the Anti-Unli Rice Law? Would it not be a waste of government funds to regulate such a non-violent crime of giving eleven (11) cups of rice to a customer instead of the mandatory maximum of ten (10)?

The bottom line is that legislation is not simply the mechanical act of writing words on paper and putting them in full force and effect against all those who live or sojourn in Philippine territory. It is an implied ethical standard that Senators and Representatives make sure that laws are not merely worthless pieces of legislation.

Villar urges ban on 'unli-rice' by Sherrie Ann Torres, ABS-CBN News Posted at Jun 14 2017 07:37 PM | Updated as of Jun 14 2017 08:45 PM:

Sen. Cynthia Villar on Wednesday called for a ban on the offering of unlimited rice servings or “unli-rice” in restaurants amid government efforts towards rice self-sufficiency.

Villar, chair of the Senate committee on agriculture and food, made the call in a committee hearing as she urged food establishments to encourage people to eat more vegetables instead.

"You know, the findings in other countries, mas better ang diet nila. Hindi masyadong maraming rice, may vegetable. If you really ask doctors, that’s a better diet," Villar said.

"So dapat i-train na rin nating mga Filipinos not to eat too much rice kasi nagiging diabetic. And you know, it’s expensive to cure diabetes. Parang sinasabi sa ibang bansa kaya hindi sila nagiging self-sufficient, because they have a better diet. So makakatulong iyon, iyong sinasabi nilang unlimited rice, hindi maganda iyon sa diet natin," she told reporters after the committee hearing.

The senator took the Agriculture department to task to ensure that there would be no more rice importation starting next year. Read more at