CASE DIGEST: Legaspi vs. City of Cebu

G.R. No. 159110 : December 10, 2013



On January 27, 1997 the Sangguniang Panlungsod of the City of Cebu enacted Ordinance No. 1664 to authorize the traffic enforcers of Cebu City to immobilize any motor vehicle violating the parking restrictions and prohibitions defined in the Traffic Code of Cebu City.

On July 29, 1997, Atty. Bienvenido Jaban (Jaban,Sr.) and his son Atty. Bienvenido Douglas Luke Bradbury Jaban (Jaban,Jr.) brought suit in the RTC against the City of Cebu, then represented by Hon. Alvin Garcia, its City Mayor, the Sangguniang Panlungsod of Cebu City and its Presiding Officer, Hon. Renato V. Osme, and the chairman and operatives or officers of the City Traffic Operations Management (CITOM),seeking the declaration of Ordinance No. 1644 as unconstitutional for being in violation of due process and for being contrary to law, and damages.

Their complaint alleged that on June 23, 1997, Jaban Sr. had properly parked his car in a paying parking area on Manalili Street, Cebu City to get certain records and documents from his office and after less than 10 minutes, he had found his car being immobilized by a steel clamp. His car was impounded for three days, and was informed at the office of the CITOM that he had first to pay P4,200.00 as a fine to the City Treasurer of Cebu City for the release of his car but such imposition the fine was without any court hearing and without due process of law. He was also compelled to payP1,500.00 (itemized as P500.00 for the clamping andP1,000.00 for the violation) without any court hearing and final judgment;

That on May 19, 1997, Jaban, Jr. parked his car in a very secluded place where there was no sign prohibiting parking; that his car was immobilized by CITOM operative and that he was compelled to pay the total sum ofP1,400.00 for the release of his car without a court hearing and a final judgment rendered by a court of justice.

On August 11, 1997, Valentino Legaspi (Legaspi) likewise sued in the RTC the City of Cebu, demanded the delivery of personal property, declaration of nullity of theTraffic Code of Cebu City, and damages.

He averred that on the morning of July 29, 1997, he had left his car occupying a portion of the sidewalk and the street outside the gate of his house to make way for the vehicle of theanayexterminator, upon returning outside, his car was towed by the group even if it was not obstructing the flow of traffic.

The cases were consolidated. The RTC rendered its decision declaring Ordinance No. 1664 as null and void

The City of Cebu and its co-defendants appealed to the CA. The CA reversed the decision of the RTC declaring the Ordinance No. 1664 valid.

Upon the denial of their respective motions for reconsideration the Jabans and Legaspi came to the Court via separate petitions for review on certiorari. The appeals were consolidated.

ISSUE: Whether or not Ordinance No. 1664 is valid and constitutional.

HELD: The Court of Appeals decision is sustained.

CONSTITUTIONAL LAW - Tests for a valid ordinance

In City of Manila v. Laguio, Jr., G.R. No. 118127, April 12, 2005the Court restates the tests of a valid ordinance thusly:

The tests of a valid ordinance are well established. A long line of decisions has held that for an ordinance to be valid, it must not only be within the corporate powers of the local government unit to enact and must be passed 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.

As jurisprudence indicates, the tests are divided into the formal (i.e., whether the ordinance was enacted within the corporate powers of the LGU, and whether it was passed in accordance with the procedure prescribed by law), and the substantive (i.e., involving inherent merit, like the conformity of the ordinance with the limitations under the Constitution and the statutes, as well as with the requirements of fairness and reason, and its consistency with public policy).

InMetropolitan Manila Development Authorityv. Bel-Air Village Association,Inc., G.R. No. 135962, March 27, 2000the Court cogently observed that police power is lodged primarily in the National Legislature. It cannot be exercised by any group or body of individuals not possessing legislative power. The National Legislature, however, may delegate this power to the President and administrative boards as well as the lawmaking bodies of municipal corporations or local government units. Once delegated, the agents can exercise only such legislative powers as are conferred on them by the national lawmaking body. (emphasis supplied)

In the present case, delegated police power was exercised by the LGU of the City of Cebu.

The CA opined, and correctly so, that vesting cities like the City of Cebu with the legislative power to enact traffic rules and regulations was expressly done through Section 458 of the LGC, and also generally by virtue of the General Welfare Clause embodied in Section 16 of the LGC.

The police power granted to local government units must always be exercised with utmost observance of the rights of the people to due process and equal protection of the law. Such power cannot be exercised whimsically, arbitrarily or despotically as its exercise is subject to a qualification, limitation or restriction demanded by the respect and regard due to the prescription of the fundamental law, particularly those forming part of the Bill of Rights. Individual rights, it bears emphasis, may be adversely affected only to the extent that may fairly be required by the legitimate demands of public interest or public welfare. Due process requires the intrinsic validity of the law in interfering with the rights of the person to his life, liberty and property.

Judged according to the foregoing enunciation of the guaranty of due process of law, the contentions of the petitioners cannot be sustained. Even under strict scrutiny review, Ordinance No. 1664 met the substantive tests of validity and constitutionality by its conformity with the limitations under the Constitution and the statutes, as well as with the requirements of fairness and reason, and its consistency with public policy.

The subject of Ordinance No. 1664 is to ensure "a smooth flow of vehicular traffic in all the streets in the City of Cebu at all times".

To reiterate, the clamping of the illegally parked vehicles was a fair and reasonable way to enforce the ordinance against its transgressors; otherwise, the transgressors would evade liability by simply driving away. DENIED.