G.R. No. 118900. Feb 27, 2003 (446 Phil. 243)

446 Phil. 243. SECOND DIVISION [ G.R. No. 118900, February 27, 2003 ] JARDINE DAVIES INSURANCE BROKERS, INC., PETITIONER, VS. HON. ERNA ALIPOSA, IN HER CAPACITY AS PRESIDING JUDGE OF BRANCH 150 OF THE MAKATI REGIONAL TRIAL COURT, CITY (PREVIOUSLY MUNICIPALITY) OF MAKATI AND ROLANDO M. CARLOS, IN HIS CAPACITY AS ACTING TREASURER OF MAKATI, RESPONDENTS. CALLEJO, SR., J.: 

Pursuant to Republic Act No. 7160, otherwise known as the Local Government Code of 1991, the then Sangguniang Bayan of Makati enacted Municipal Ordinance No. 92-072, otherwise known as the Makati Revenue Code, which provides, inter alia, for the schedule of real estate, business and franchise taxes in the Municipality of Makati at rates higher than those in the Metro Manila Revenue Code.

On May 10, 1993, the Philippine Racing Club, Inc. (“PRCI” for brevity), a taxpayer of Makati, appealed to the Department of Justice (“DOJ” for brevity) for the nullification of said ordinance, alleging that it was approved without previous public hearings, in violation of the Local Government Code and Article 276 of its Implementing Rules, and that some of the ordinance’s provisions were unconstitutional:
(2) “The ‘in-lieu-of-all-taxes’ clause of the franchise of the Philippine Racing Club, Inc. exempts it from payment of the real property tax, annual business tax and other new taxes imposed by the ordinance here in question. To withdraw the exemption would impair the obligation of contract in violation of its constitutional right as franchise holder.

(3) “The imposition of the franchise tax is not within the scope of the taxing powers of the Municipality of Makati (Sections 134, 137 and 142 of Republic Act No. 7160 and Articles 223, 226 and 231 of Rule XXX of the Implementing Rules and Regulations of the Local Government Code of 1991). and

(4) “The Municipality of Makati already shares 5 of the 25% franchise tax provided for in Section 8 of the franchise of the Philippine Racing Club, Inc. To allow the said municipality to impose another franchise tax and to base the tax on the gross annual receipts, as it does in the ordinance, would certainly be unjust, excessive, oppressive or confiscatory (Section 130 of Republic Act No. 7160 and Article 219 of Rule XXX of the Implementing Rules and Regulations).[1]
Although required by the DOJ to comment on the appeal, respondent Makati failed to do so.

On July 5, 1993, the DOJ came out with a resolution[2] declaring “null and void and without legal effect” the said ordinance for having been enacted in contravention of Section 187 of the Local Government Code of 1991 and its implementing rules and regulations.[3]

On August 19, 1993, respondent Makati sought a reconsideration of the ruling of the DOJ. Pending resolution of its motion, said respondent filed a petition ad cautelam[4] with the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Makati, entitled Hon. Jejomar C. Binay and the Municipality of Makati, Petitioners, v. Hon. Franklin M. Drilon, Department of Justice and Philippine Racing Club, Inc., Respondents, and docketed as Case No. 93-2844. The case was raffled to Branch 148 of the Makati RTC. Respondent Makati alleged, inter alia, that public hearings were conducted before the approval of the ordinance and hence the ordinance was valid. It prayed that after due proceedings judgment be rendered in its favor, thus:
WHEREFORE, petitioners respectfully pray that this Honorable Court promulgate judgment:
(a) declaring null and void the DOJ Decision dated July 5, 1993; and

(b) allowing the full implementation of Makati Municipal Ordinance No. 92-072.
Petitioners pray for such further or other reliefs as this Honorable Court may deem just and equitable.[5]
In the meantime, respondent Makati continued to implement the ordinance. Petitioner Jardine Davies Insurance Brokers, Inc., a duly-organized corporation with principal place of business at No. 222 Sen. Gil J. Puyat Avenue, Makati, Metro Manila, was assessed and billed by Makati the amount of P63,822.47 for taxes, fees and charges under the ordinance for the second quarter of 1993. It was again billed by respondent Makati the same amount for the third quarter of 1993 and the same amount for the fourth quarter of 1993. Petitioner did not protest the assessment for its quarterly business taxes for the second, third and fourth quarters of 1993 based on said ordinance effective April 1, 1993. Petitioner, in fact, paid the said amounts on April 26, 1993 (for the second quarter), July 12, 1993 (for the third quarter) and October 19, 1993 (for the fourth quarter), respectively, without any protest. Respondent Makati issued the corresponding receipts in favor of petitioner.[6]

On January 30, 1994, petitioner wrote the municipal treasurer of Makati requesting that respondent Makati compute its business tax liabilities in accordance with the Metro Manila Revenue Code and not under the ordinance considering that said ordinance was already declared by the DOJ null and void. Petitioner likewise requested that respondent Makati credit the overpayment in the total amount of P27,854.91 for the second to fourth quarters of 1993 against its 1994 liabilities for 1994, or in the alternative, for Makati to refund the said amount to petitioner.

In a Letter[7] dated February 4, 1994, respondent Makati, through Maximo L. Paulino Jr., Acting Chief of its Municipal License Division, denied the request of petitioner for tax credit/refund. Respondent Makati insisted that the questioned ordinance code was valid and enforceable pending the final outcome of its petition ad cautelam with the Regional Trial Court of Makati.

In the meantime, on October 26, 1993, the RTC rendered judgment in Case No. 93-2844 granting the petition of Makati and declaring the ordinance valid. On November 9, 1993, the DOJ issued a memorandum to the Chief State Counsel directing the latter to refrain from accepting any appeal or to act on pending appeals on the validity/constitutionality of the ordinance until the same shall have been finally resolved by courts of competent jurisdiction.

When informed of the denial by respondent Makati of its letter-request, petitioner filed a complaint on March 7, 1994 with the RTC of Makati against respondents Makati and its Acting Municipal Treasurer. The case was raffled to Branch 150 of said court. Petitioner alleged in its complaint that in view of the resolution of the DOJ declaring the Makati Revenue Code “null and void and without legal effect,” the provisions of the Metro Manila Revenue Code continued to remain in full force and effect; however, petitioner was assessed and billed by respondent Makati for taxes, fees and charges for second, third and fourth quarters for 1993 beginning on April 4, 1993 up to October 14, 1994 at rates fixed in the ordinance despite the nullity thereof. Petitioner prayed that after due proceedings judgment be rendered as follows:
  1. Declaring as NULL AND VOID Municipal Ordinance No. 92-072, (Makati Revenue Code) of the Municipality of Makati and ordering Defendants to refund or issue as tax credit in favor of Plaintiff the sum of P27,854.91 plus interest.
  2. Assuming without admitting that the Municipal Ordinance No. 92-072 (Makati Revenue Code) is valid, declaring that the rates imposed by said ordinance accrue only on July 1, 1993 and ordering Defendants to refund or issue as tax credit in favor of Plaintiff the sum of P9,284.97.[8]
On May 18, 1994, respondents Makati and its Acting Municipal Treasurer filed a motion to dismiss[9] the complaint on the ground of prematurity. They argued that petitioner’s cause of action was predicated on the appealed resolution of the DOJ, and unless and until nullified by final judgment of a competent court, the ordinance remained in full force and effect.

On May 26, 1994, petitioner opposed the motion to dismiss of respondents, contending that its complaint was not predicated solely on the invalidity and unconstitutionality of the ordinance but also on its claim that the ordinance took effect only in July 1, 1993 but Makati applied the ordinance effective April 1, 1993. Petitioner further averred that under Section 166 of the Local Government Code, new taxes, fees or charges or charges provided for in the ordinance shall accrue on the first day of the quarter following the effectivity of the new ordinance. Hence, assuming that the tax ordinance was valid, the same should have been enforced only from the “first (1st) day of the quarter following next the effectivity of the ordinance imposing such new levies or rates” as provided for in Section 166 of the Local Government Code.

On August 29, 1994, the RTC issued an order granting the motion to dismiss of respondent and ordering the dismissal of the complaint. The trial court ruled that plaintiff’s cause of action, if any, had prescribed. Citing Sections 187 and 195 of the Local Government Code of 1991, the trial court ratiocinated that petitioner failed to file an opposition or protest to the written notice of assessment of Makati for taxes, fees and charges at rates provided for in the ordinance within 60 days from the notice of said assessment as required by Section 195 of the Local Government Code. Hence, petitioner was barred from demanding a refund of its payment or that it be credited for said amounts.

Petitioner received a copy of said order on October 7, 1994. On October 13, 1994, petitioner filed with the trial court a motion for reconsideration[10] of the order of dismissal, arguing that the trial court erred in applying Section 195 of the Local Government Code of 1991 as its complaint did not involve an assessment for deficiency taxes but one for refund/tax credit. Petitioner further claimed that it was never served with any notice of assessment from respondents and hence there was no need for petitioner to protest. Petitioner argued that what was applicable was Section 196 of the Local Government Code in conjunction with Article 286 of its Implementing Rules and Regulations, both of which simply require the filing of a written claim for refund or tax credit within two years from the date of payment.

On December 28, 1994, the trial court issued an order[11] denying the motion for reconsideration of petitioner, a copy of which was served on petitioner on February 13, 1995. The trial court declared that Section 195 of the Local Government Code covers all kinds of assessments and not merely deficiency assessments for taxes, fees or charges. The trial court further ruled that the issue of the validity and constitutionality of the ordinance was still pending resolution by Branch 148 of the RTC in Civil Case No. 93-2844 and until declared null and void, otherwise by final judgment, the ordinance remained valid.

Petitioner filed on February 20, 1995 a petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court, contending that:
RESPONDENT JUDGE ERRED IN HOLDING THAT THE INSTANT CASE IS NOT A CLAIM FOR REFUND UNDER SECTION 196 OF THE LGC IN RELATION TO ARTICLE 286 OF ITS IMPLEMENTING RULES, BUT A DEFICIENCY ASSESSMENT THAT HAS TO BE PROTESTED UNDER SECTION 195 OF THE SAME CODE.

RESPONDENT JUDGE ERRED IN DISMISSING THE CASE ON THE GROUND OF PENDENCY OF ANOTHER ACTION CONTESTING THE LEGALITY OR CONSTITUTIONALITY OF THE MAKATI REVENUE CODE IS STILL BEING DETERMINED IN BRANCH 148 OF THE REGIONAL TRIAL COURT OF MAKATI.[12]
Anent the first assignment of errors, petitioner avers that its action in the RTC was one for a refund of its overpayments governed by Article 196 of the Local Government Code implemented by Article 286 of the Implementing Rules and Regulations of the Code and not one involving an assessment for deficiency taxes governed by Section 195 of the said Code. Petitioner contends that it was not mandated to first file a protest with respondents before instituting its action for a refund of its overpayments or for it to be credited for said overpayments. For its part, respondent Makati avers that petitioner was proscribed from filing its complaint with the RTC and for a refund of its alleged overpayment, petitioner having paid without any protest the taxes due to respondent Makati under the ordinance. It is further asserted by respondent Makati that until declared null and void by a competent court, the ordinance was valid and should be enforced.

The petition has no merit.

The Court agrees with petitioner that as a general precept, a taxpayer may file a complaint assailing the validity of the ordinance and praying for a refund of its perceived overpayments without first filing a protest to the payment of taxes due under the ordinance. This was our ruling in Ty v. Judge Trampe:[13]
. . . Hence, if a taxpayer disputes the reasonableness of an increase in a real estate tax assessment, he is required to “first pay the tax” under protest. Otherwise, the city or municipal treasurer will not act on his protest. In the case at bench, however, the petitioners are questioning the very authority and power of the assessor, acting solely and independently, to impose the assessment and of the treasurer to collect the tax. These are not questions merely of amounts of the increase in the tax but attacks on the very validity of any increase.
In this case, petitioner, relying on the resolution of the Secretary of Justice in The Philippine Racing Club, Inc. v. Municipality of Makati case, posited in its complaint that the ordinance which was the basis of respondent Makati for the collection of taxes from petitioner was null and void. However, the Court agrees with the contention of respondents that petitioner was proscribed from filing its complaint with the RTC of Makati for the reason that petitioner failed to appeal to the Secretary of Justice within 30 days from the effectivity date of the ordinance as mandated by Section 187 of the Local Government Code which reads:
Sec. 187—Procedure for Approval and Effectivity of Tax Ordinances and Revenue Measures; Mandatory Public Hearings.— The procedure for approval of local tax ordinances and revenue measures shall be in accordance with the provisions of this Code: Provided, That public hearings shall be conducted for the purpose prior to the enactment thereof: Provided further, That any question on the constitutionality or legality of tax ordinances or revenue measures may be raised on appeal within thirty (30) days from the effectivity thereof to the Secretary of Justice who shall render a decision within sixty (60) days from the date of receipt of the appeal: Provided, however, That such appeal shall not have the effect of suspending the effectivity of the ordinance and the accrual and payment of the tax, fee, or charge levied therein: Provided, finally, That within thirty (30) days after receipt of the decision or the lapse of the sixty-day period without the Secretary of Justice acting upon the appeal, the aggrieved party may file appropriate proceedings with a court of competent jurisdiction.
In Reyes v. Court of Appeals,[14] we ruled that failure of a taxpayer to interpose the requisite appeal to the Secretary of Justice is fatal to its complaint for a refund:
Clearly, the law requires that the dissatisfied taxpayer who questions the validity or legality of a tax ordinance must file his appeal to the Secretary of Justice, within 30 days from effectivity thereof. In case the Secretary decides the appeal, a period also of 30 days is allowed for an aggrieved party to go to court. But if the Secretary does not act thereon, after the lapse of 60 days, a party could already proceed to seek relief in court. These three separate periods are clearly given for compliance as a prerequisite before seeking redress in a competent court. Such statutory periods are set to prevent delays as well as enhance the orderly and speedy discharge of judicial functions. For this reason the courts construe these provisions of statutes as mandatory.

A municipal tax ordinance empowers a local government unit to impose taxes. The power to tax is the most effective instrument to raise needed revenues to finance and support the myriad activities of local government units for the delivery of basic services essential to the promotion of the general welfare and enhancement of peace, progress, and prosperity of the people. Consequently, any delay in implementing tax measures would be to the detriment of the public. It is for this reason that protests over tax ordinances are required to be done within certain time frames. In the instant case, it is our view that the failure of petitioners to appeal to the Secretary of Justice within 30 days as required by Sec. 187 of R.A. 7160 is fatal to their cause.
Moreover, petitioner even paid without any protest the amounts of taxes assessed by respondents Makati and Acting Treasurer as provided for in the ordinance. Evidently, the complaint of petitioner with the Regional Trial Court was merely an afterthought.

In view of our foregoing disquisitions, the Court no longer deems it necessary to resolve other issues posed by petitioner.

IN LIGHT OF ALL THE FOREGOING, the petition is DENIED. The order of the Regional Trial Court dismissing the complaint of petitioner is AFFIRMED.

SO ORDERED.

Bellosillo, (Chairman), Mendoza, Quisumbing, and Austria-Martinez, JJ., concur.

[1] Original Records, pp. 16- 17.

[2] Id. at 15.

[3] SECTION 187. Procedure for Approval and Effectivity of Tax Ordinances and Revenue Measures; Mandatory Public Hearings. —The procedure for approval of local tax ordinances and revenue measures shall be in accordance with the provisions of this code: Provided, That public hearings shall be conducted for the purpose prior to the enactment thereof: Provided, further, That any question on the constitutionality or legality of tax ordinances or revenue measures may be raised on appeal within thirty (30) days from the effectivity thereof to the Secretary of Justice who shall render a decision within sixty (60) days from the date of receipt of the appeal: Provided, however, That such appeal shall not have the effect of suspending the effectivity of the ordinance and the accrual and payment of the tax, fee, or charge levied therein: Provided, finally, That within thirty (30) days after receipt of the decision or the lapse of the sixty-day period without the Secretary of Justice acting upon the appeal, the aggrieved party may file appropriate proceedings with a court of competent jurisdiction.

[4] Vide note 1, pp. 33-45.

[5] Original Records, p. 43.

[6] Id. at 9-14.

[7] Id. at 21-22.

[8] Id. at 6-7.

[9] Id. at 30-32.

[10] Id. at 61.

[11] Original Records, pp. 75-76.

[12] Rollo, p. 6.

[13] 250 SCRA 500 (1995).

[14] 320 SCRA 486 (1999).

Popular Posts