Absolute equality creates inequality


The concept of absolute (or perfect) equality as one resulting in inequality is one discussion in many taxation textbooks.

The discussion starts with a citation of Section 1 of Article III of the 1987 Constitution which says: "No person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law, nor shall any person be denied the equal protection of the laws." The second part of this provision (after the comma) is called the "equal protection clause."

The equal protection of the law clause is against undue favor and individual or class privilege, as well as hostile discrimination or the oppression of inequality. It is not intended to prohibit legislation which is limited either [by] the object to which it is directed or by [the] territory within which it is to operate. It does not demand absolute equality among residents; it merely requires that all persons shall be treated alike, under like circumstances and conditions both as to privileges conferred and liabilities enforced. The equal protection clause is not infringed by legislation which applies only to those persons falling within a specified class, if it applies alike to all persons within such class, and reasonable grounds exist for making a distinction between those who fall within such class and those who do not. (G.R. No. 127410. January 20, 1999)

Imagine a law that provides that every citizen shall pay 1,000 pesos of tax every year. At first glance, it may seem that such law would promote equality since any person, big or small, rich or poor, man or woman, young or old, shall pay the same rate of tax.

Deeper, though, into our analysis, we may find that there appears to be inequality or inequity. Billionaires will only have to pay 0.000001% of their money while the rich may have to give up their entire savings to pay the tax.

This is why it is a usual refrain that absolute or perfect equality is not the aim of the equal protection clause. The Constitution does not require absolute equality among residents. It is enough that all persons under like circumstances or conditions are given the same privileges and required to follow the same obligations. In short, a classification based on valid and reasonable standards does not violate the equal protection clause. (G.R. No. 127410. January 20, 1999)

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