Republic of the Philippines
SUPREME COURT
Manila

EN BANC

 

G.R. No. 111097 July 20, 1994

MAYOR PABLO P. MAGTAJAS & THE CITY OF CAGAYAN DE ORO, petitioners,
vs.
PRYCE PROPERTIES CORPORATION, INC. & PHILIPPINE AMUSEMENT AND GAMING CORPORATION, respondents.

Aquilino G. Pimentel, Jr. and Associates for petitioners.

R.R. Torralba & Associates for private respondent.

 

CRUZ, J.:

There was instant opposition when PAGCOR announced the opening of a casino in Cagayan de Oro City. Civic organizations angrily denounced the project. The religious elements echoed the objection and so did the women's groups and the youth. Demonstrations were led by the mayor and the city legislators. The media trumpeted the protest, describing the casino as an affront to the welfare of the city.

The trouble arose when in 1992, flush with its tremendous success in several cities, PAGCOR decided to expand its operations to Cagayan de Oro City. To this end, it leased a portion of a building belonging to Pryce Properties Corporation, Inc., one of the herein private respondents, renovated and equipped the same, and prepared to inaugurate its casino there during the Christmas season.

The reaction of the Sangguniang Panlungsod of Cagayan de Oro City was swift and hostile. On December 7, 1992, it enacted Ordinance No. 3353 reading as follows:

ORDINANCE NO. 3353

AN ORDINANCE PROHIBITING THE ISSUANCE OF BUSINESS PERMIT AND CANCELLING EXISTING BUSINESS PERMIT TO ANY ESTABLISHMENT FOR THE USING AND ALLOWING TO BE USED ITS PREMISES OR PORTION THEREOF FOR THE OPERATION OF CASINO.

BE IT ORDAINED by the Sangguniang Panlungsod of the City of Cagayan de Oro, in session assembled that:

Sec. 1. That pursuant to the policy of the city banning the operation of casino within its territorial jurisdiction, no business permit shall be issued to any person, partnership or corporation for the operation of casino within the city limits.

Sec. 2. That it shall be a violation of existing business permit by any persons, partnership or corporation to use its business establishment or portion thereof, or allow the use thereof by others for casino operation and other gambling activities.

Sec. 3. PENALTIES. Any violation of such existing business permit as defined in the preceding section shall suffer the following penalties, to wit:

a) Suspension of the business permit for sixty (60) days for the first offense and a fine of P1,000.00/day

b) Suspension of the business permit for Six (6) months for the second offense, and a fine of P3,000.00/day

c) Permanent revocation of the business permit and imprisonment of One (1) year, for the third and subsequent offenses.

Sec. 4. This Ordinance shall take effect ten (10) days from publication thereof.

Nor was this all. On January 4, 1993, it adopted a sterner Ordinance No. 3375-93 reading as follows:

ORDINANCE NO. 3375-93

AN ORDINANCE PROHIBITING THE OPERATION OF CASINO AND PROVIDING PENALTY FOR VIOLATION THEREFOR.

WHEREAS, the City Council established a policy as early as 1990 against CASINO under its Resolution No. 2295;

WHEREAS, on October 14, 1992, the City Council passed another Resolution No. 2673, reiterating its policy against the establishment of CASINO;

WHEREAS, subsequently, thereafter, it likewise passed Ordinance No. 3353, prohibiting the issuance of Business Permit and to cancel existing Business Permit to any establishment for the using and allowing to be used its premises or portion thereof for the operation of CASINO;

WHEREAS, under Art. 3, section 458, No. (4), sub paragraph VI of the Local Government Code of 1991 (Rep. Act 7160) and under Art. 99, No. (4), Paragraph VI of the implementing rules of the Local Government Code, the City Council as the Legislative Body shall enact measure to suppress any activity inimical to public morals and general welfare of the people and/or regulate or prohibit such activity pertaining to amusement or entertainment in order to protect social and moral welfare of the community;

NOW THEREFORE,

BE IT ORDAINED by the City Council in session duly assembled that:

Sec. 1. The operation of gambling CASINO in the City of Cagayan de Oro is hereby prohibited.

Sec. 2. Any violation of this Ordinance shall be subject to the following penalties:

a) Administrative fine of P5,000.00 shall be imposed against the proprietor, partnership or corporation undertaking the operation, conduct, maintenance of gambling CASINO in the City and closure thereof;

b) Imprisonment of not less than six (6) months nor more than one (1) year or a fine in the amount of P5,000.00 or both at the discretion of the court against the manager, supervisor, and/or any person responsible in the establishment, conduct and maintenance of gambling CASINO.

Sec. 3. This Ordinance shall take effect ten (10) days after its publication in a local newspaper of general circulation.

Pryce assailed the ordinances before the Court of Appeals, where it was joined by PAGCOR as intervenor and supplemental petitioner. Their challenge succeeded. On March 31, 1993, the Court of Appeals declared the ordinances invalid and issued the writ prayed for to prohibit their enforcement. 1 Reconsideration of this decision was denied on July 13, 1993. 2

Cagayan de Oro City and its mayor are now before us in this petition for review under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court. 3 They aver that the respondent Court of Appeals erred in holding that:

1. Under existing laws, the Sangguniang Panlungsod of the City of Cagayan de Oro does not have the power and authority to prohibit the establishment and operation of a PAGCOR gambling casino within the City's territorial limits.

2. The phrase "gambling and other prohibited games of chance" found in Sec. 458, par. (a), sub-par. (1) (v) of R.A. 7160 could only mean "illegal gambling."

3. The questioned Ordinances in effect annul P.D. 1869 and are therefore invalid on that point.

4. The questioned Ordinances are discriminatory to casino and partial to cockfighting and are therefore invalid on that point.

5. The questioned Ordinances are not reasonable, not consonant with the general powers and purposes of the instrumentality concerned and inconsistent with the laws or policy of the State.

6. It had no option but to follow the ruling in the case of Basco, et al. v. PAGCOR, G.R. No. 91649, May 14, 1991, 197 SCRA 53 in disposing of the issues presented in this present case.

PAGCOR is a corporation created directly by P.D. 1869 to help centralize and regulate all games of chance, including casinos on land and sea within the territorial jurisdiction of the Philippines. In Basco v. Philippine Amusements and Gaming Corporation, 4 this Court sustained the constitutionality of the decree and even cited the benefits of the entity to the national economy as the third highest revenue-earner in the government, next only to the BIR and the Bureau of Customs.

Cagayan de Oro City, like other local political subdivisions, is empowered to enact ordinances for the purposes indicated in the Local Government Code. It is expressly vested with the police power under what is known as the General Welfare Clause now embodied in Section 16 as follows:

Sec. 16. General Welfare. Every local government unit shall exercise the powers expressly granted, those necessarily implied therefrom, as well as powers necessary, appropriate, or incidental for its efficient and effective governance, and those which are essential to the promotion of the general welfare. Within their respective territorial jurisdictions, local government units shall ensure and support, among other things, the preservation and enrichment of culture, promote health and safety, enhance the right of the people to a balanced ecology, encourage and support the development of appropriate and self-reliant scientific and technological capabilities, improve public morals, enhance economic prosperity and social justice, promote full employment among their residents, maintain peace and order, and preserve the comfort and convenience of their inhabitants.

In addition, Section 458 of the said Code specifically declares that:

Sec. 458. Powers, Duties, Functions and Compensation. (a) The Sangguniang Panlungsod, as the legislative body of the city, shall enact ordinances, approve resolutions and appropriate funds for the general welfare of the city and its inhabitants pursuant to Section 16 of this Code and in the proper exercise of the corporate powers of the city as provided for under Section 22 of this Code, and shall:

(1) Approve ordinances and pass resolutions necessary for an efficient and effective city government, and in this connection, shall:

xxx xxx xxx

(v) Enact ordinances intended to prevent, suppress and impose appropriate penalties for habitual drunkenness in public places, vagrancy, mendicancy, prostitution, establishment and maintenance of houses of ill repute, gambling and other prohibited games of chance, fraudulent devices and ways to obtain money or property, drug addiction, maintenance of drug dens, drug pushing, juvenile delinquency, the printing, distribution or exhibition of obscene or pornographic materials or publications, and such other activities inimical to the welfare and morals of the inhabitants of the city;

This section also authorizes the local government units to regulate properties and businesses within their territorial limits in the interest of the general welfare. 5

The petitioners argue that by virtue of these provisions, the Sangguniang Panlungsod may prohibit the operation of casinos because they involve games of chance, which are detrimental to the people. Gambling is not allowed by general law and even by the Constitution itself. The legislative power conferred upon local government units may be exercised over all kinds of gambling and not only over "illegal gambling" as the respondents erroneously argue. Even if the operation of casinos may have been permitted under P.D. 1869, the government of Cagayan de Oro City has the authority to prohibit them within its territory pursuant to the authority entrusted to it by the Local Government Code.

It is submitted that this interpretation is consonant with the policy of local autonomy as mandated in Article II, Section 25, and Article X of the Constitution, as well as various other provisions therein seeking to strengthen the character of the nation. In giving the local government units the power to prevent or suppress gambling and other social problems, the Local Government Code has recognized the competence of such communities to determine and adopt the measures best expected to promote the general welfare of their inhabitants in line with the policies of the State.

The petitioners also stress that when the Code expressly authorized the local government units to prevent and suppress gambling and other prohibited games of chance, like craps, baccarat, blackjack and roulette, it meant all forms of gambling without distinction. Ubi lex non distinguit, nec nos distinguere debemos. 6 Otherwise, it would have expressly excluded from the scope of their power casinos and other forms of gambling authorized by special law, as it could have easily done. The fact that it did not do so simply means that the local government units are permitted to prohibit all kinds of gambling within their territories, including the operation of casinos.

The adoption of the Local Government Code, it is pointed out, had the effect of modifying the charter of the PAGCOR. The Code is not only a later enactment than P.D. 1869 and so is deemed to prevail in case of inconsistencies between them. More than this, the powers of the PAGCOR under the decree are expressly discontinued by the Code insofar as they do not conform to its philosophy and provisions, pursuant to Par. (f) of its repealing clause reading as follows:

(f) All general and special laws, acts, city charters, decrees, executive orders, proclamations and administrative regulations, or part or parts thereof which are inconsistent with any of the provisions of this Code are hereby repealed or modified accordingly.

It is also maintained that assuming there is doubt regarding the effect of the Local Government Code on P.D. 1869, the doubt must be resolved in favor of the petitioners, in accordance with the direction in the Code calling for its liberal interpretation in favor of the local government units. Section 5 of the Code specifically provides:

Sec. 5. Rules of Interpretation. In the interpretation of the provisions of this Code, the following rules shall apply:

(a) Any provision on a power of a local government unit shall be liberally interpreted in its favor, and in case of doubt, any question thereon shall be resolved in favor of devolution of powers and of the lower local government unit. Any fair and reasonable doubt as to the existence of the power shall be interpreted in favor of the local government unit concerned;

xxx xxx xxx

(c) The general welfare provisions in this Code shall be liberally interpreted to give more powers to local government units in accelerating economic development and upgrading the quality of life for the people in the community; . . . (Emphasis supplied.)

Finally, the petitioners also attack gambling as intrinsically harmful and cite various provisions of the Constitution and several decisions of this Court expressive of the general and official disapprobation of the vice. They invoke the State policies on the family and the proper upbringing of the youth and, as might be expected, call attention to the old case of U.S. v. Salaveria, 7 which sustained a municipal ordinance prohibiting the playing of panguingue. The petitioners decry the immorality of gambling. They also impugn the wisdom of P.D. 1869 (which they describe as "a martial law instrument") in creating PAGCOR and authorizing it to operate casinos "on land and sea within the territorial jurisdiction of the Philippines."

This is the opportune time to stress an important point.

The morality of gambling is not a justiciable issue. Gambling is not illegal per se. While it is generally considered inimical to the interests of the people, there is nothing in the Constitution categorically proscribing or penalizing gambling or, for that matter, even mentioning it at all. It is left to Congress to deal with the activity as it sees fit. In the exercise of its own discretion, the legislature may prohibit gambling altogether or allow it without limitation or it may prohibit some forms of gambling and allow others for whatever reasons it may consider sufficient. Thus, it has prohibited jueteng and monte but permits lotteries, cockfighting and horse-racing. In making such choices, Congress has consulted its own wisdom, which this Court has no authority to review, much less reverse. Well has it been said that courts do not sit to resolve the merits of conflicting theories. 8 That is the prerogative of the political departments. It is settled that questions regarding the wisdom, morality, or practicibility of statutes are not addressed to the judiciary but may be resolved only by the legislative and executive departments, to which the function belongs in our scheme of government. That function is exclusive. Whichever way these branches decide, they are answerable only to their own conscience and the constituents who will ultimately judge their acts, and not to the courts of justice.

The only question we can and shall resolve in this petition is the validity of Ordinance No. 3355 and Ordinance No. 3375-93 as enacted by the Sangguniang Panlungsod of Cagayan de Oro City. And we shall do so only by the criteria laid down by law and not by our own convictions on the propriety of gambling.

The tests of a valid ordinance are well established. A long line of decisions 9 has held that to be valid, an ordinance must conform to the following substantive requirements:

1) It must not contravene the constitution or any statute.

2) It must not be unfair or oppressive.

3) It must not be partial or discriminatory.

4) It must not prohibit but may regulate trade.

5) It must be general and consistent with public policy.

6) It must not be unreasonable.

We begin by observing that under Sec. 458 of the Local Government Code, local government units are authorized to prevent or suppress, among others, "gambling and other prohibited games of chance." Obviously, this provision excludes games of chance which are not prohibited but are in fact permitted by law. The petitioners are less than accurate in claiming that the Code could have excluded such games of chance but did not. In fact it does. The language of the section is clear and unmistakable. Under the rule of noscitur a sociis, a word or phrase should be interpreted in relation to, or given the same meaning of, words with which it is associated. Accordingly, we conclude that since the word "gambling" is associated with "and other prohibited games of chance," the word should be read as referring to only illegal gambling which, like the other prohibited games of chance, must be prevented or suppressed.

We could stop here as this interpretation should settle the problem quite conclusively. But we will not. The vigorous efforts of the petitioners on behalf of the inhabitants of Cagayan de Oro City, and the earnestness of their advocacy, deserve more than short shrift from this Court.

The apparent flaw in the ordinances in question is that they contravene P.D. 1869 and the public policy embodied therein insofar as they prevent PAGCOR from exercising the power conferred on it to operate a casino in Cagayan de Oro City. The petitioners have an ingenious answer to this misgiving. They deny that it is the ordinances that have changed P.D. 1869 for an ordinance admittedly cannot prevail against a statute. Their theory is that the change has been made by the Local Government Code itself, which was also enacted by the national lawmaking authority. In their view, the decree has been, not really repealed by the Code, but merely "modified pro tanto" in the sense that PAGCOR cannot now operate a casino over the objection of the local government unit concerned. This modification of P.D. 1869 by the Local Government Code is permissible because one law can change or repeal another law.

It seems to us that the petitioners are playing with words. While insisting that the decree has only been "modified pro tanto," they are actually arguing that it is already dead, repealed and useless for all intents and purposes because the Code has shorn PAGCOR of all power to centralize and regulate casinos. Strictly speaking, its operations may now be not only prohibited by the local government unit; in fact, the prohibition is not only discretionary but mandated by Section 458 of the Code if the word "shall" as used therein is to be given its accepted meaning. Local government units have now no choice but to prevent and suppress gambling, which in the petitioners' view includes both legal and illegal gambling. Under this construction, PAGCOR will have no more games of chance to regulate or centralize as they must all be prohibited by the local government units pursuant to the mandatory duty imposed upon them by the Code. In this situation, PAGCOR cannot continue to exist except only as a toothless tiger or a white elephant and will no longer be able to exercise its powers as a prime source of government revenue through the operation of casinos.

It is noteworthy that the petitioners have cited only Par. (f) of the repealing clause, conveniently discarding the rest of the provision which painstakingly mentions the specific laws or the parts thereof which are repealed (or modified) by the Code. Significantly, P.D. 1869 is not one of them. A reading of the entire repealing clause, which is reproduced below, will disclose the omission:

Sec. 534. Repealing Clause. (a) Batas Pambansa Blg. 337, otherwise known as the "Local Government Code," Executive Order No. 112 (1987), and Executive Order No. 319 (1988) are hereby repealed.

(b) Presidential Decree Nos. 684, 1191, 1508 and such other decrees, orders, instructions, memoranda and issuances related to or concerning the barangay are hereby repealed.

(c) The provisions of Sections 2, 3, and 4 of Republic Act No. 1939 regarding hospital fund; Section 3, a (3) and b (2) of Republic Act. No. 5447 regarding the Special Education Fund; Presidential Decree No. 144 as amended by Presidential Decree Nos. 559 and 1741; Presidential Decree No. 231 as amended; Presidential Decree No. 436 as amended by Presidential Decree No. 558; and Presidential Decree Nos. 381, 436, 464, 477, 526, 632, 752, and 1136 are hereby repealed and rendered of no force and effect.

(d) Presidential Decree No. 1594 is hereby repealed insofar as it governs locally-funded projects.

(e) The following provisions are hereby repealed or amended insofar as they are inconsistent with the provisions of this Code: Sections 2, 16, and 29 of Presidential Decree No. 704; Sections 12 of Presidential Decree No. 87, as amended; Sections 52, 53, 66, 67, 68, 69, 70, 71, 72, 73, and 74 of Presidential Decree No. 463, as amended; and Section 16 of Presidential Decree No. 972, as amended, and

(f) All general and special laws, acts, city charters, decrees, executive orders, proclamations and administrative regulations, or part or parts thereof which are inconsistent with any of the provisions of this Code are hereby repealed or modified accordingly.

Furthermore, it is a familiar rule that implied repeals are not lightly presumed in the absence of a clear and unmistakable showing of such intention. In Lichauco & Co. v. Apostol, 10 this Court explained:

The cases relating to the subject of repeal by implication all proceed on the assumption that if the act of later date clearly reveals an intention on the part of the lawmaking power to abrogate the prior law, this intention must be given effect; but there must always be a sufficient revelation of this intention, and it has become an unbending rule of statutory construction that the intention to repeal a former law will not be imputed to the Legislature when it appears that the two statutes, or provisions, with reference to which the question arises bear to each other the relation of general to special.

There is no sufficient indication of an implied repeal of P.D. 1869. On the contrary, as the private respondent points out, PAGCOR is mentioned as the source of funding in two later enactments of Congress, to wit, R.A. 7309, creating a Board of Claims under the Department of Justice for the benefit of victims of unjust punishment or detention or of violent crimes, and R.A. 7648, providing for measures for the solution of the power crisis. PAGCOR revenues are tapped by these two statutes. This would show that the PAGCOR charter has not been repealed by the Local Government Code but has in fact been improved as it were to make the entity more responsive to the fiscal problems of the government.

It is a canon of legal hermeneutics that instead of pitting one statute against another in an inevitably destructive confrontation, courts must exert every effort to reconcile them, remembering that both laws deserve a becoming respect as the handiwork of a coordinate branch of the government. On the assumption of a conflict between P.D. 1869 and the Code, the proper action is not to uphold one and annul the other but to give effect to both by harmonizing them if possible. This is possible in the case before us. The proper resolution of the problem at hand is to hold that under the Local Government Code, local government units may (and indeed must) prevent and suppress all kinds of gambling within their territories except only those allowed by statutes like P.D. 1869. The exception reserved in such laws must be read into the Code, to make both the Code and such laws equally effective and mutually complementary.

This approach would also affirm that there are indeed two kinds of gambling, to wit, the illegal and those authorized by law. Legalized gambling is not a modern concept; it is probably as old as illegal gambling, if not indeed more so. The petitioners' suggestion that the Code authorizes them to prohibit all kinds of gambling would erase the distinction between these two forms of gambling without a clear indication that this is the will of the legislature. Plausibly, following this theory, the City of Manila could, by mere ordinance, prohibit the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office from conducting a lottery as authorized by R.A. 1169 and B.P. 42 or stop the races at the San Lazaro Hippodrome as authorized by R.A. 309 and R.A. 983.

In light of all the above considerations, we see no way of arriving at the conclusion urged on us by the petitioners that the ordinances in question are valid. On the contrary, we find that the ordinances violate P.D. 1869, which has the character and force of a statute, as well as the public policy expressed in the decree allowing the playing of certain games of chance despite the prohibition of gambling in general.

The rationale of the requirement that the ordinances should not contravene a statute is obvious. Municipal governments are only agents of the national government. Local councils exercise only delegated legislative powers conferred on them by Congress as the national lawmaking body. The delegate cannot be superior to the principal or exercise powers higher than those of the latter. It is a heresy to suggest that the local government units can undo the acts of Congress, from which they have derived their power in the first place, and negate by mere ordinance the mandate of the statute.

Municipal corporations owe their origin to, and derive their powers and rights wholly from the legislature. It breathes into them the breath of life, without which they cannot exist. As it creates, so it may destroy. As it may destroy, it may abridge and control. Unless there is some constitutional limitation on the right, the legislature might, by a single act, and if we can suppose it capable of so great a folly and so great a wrong, sweep from existence all of the municipal corporations in the State, and the corporation could not prevent it. We know of no limitation on the right so far as to the corporation themselves are concerned. They are, so to phrase it, the mere tenants at will of the legislature. 11

This basic relationship between the national legislature and the local government units has not been enfeebled by the new provisions in the Constitution strengthening the policy of local autonomy. Without meaning to detract from that policy, we here confirm that Congress retains control of the local government units although in significantly reduced degree now than under our previous Constitutions. The power to create still includes the power to destroy. The power to grant still includes the power to withhold or recall. True, there are certain notable innovations in the Constitution, like the direct conferment on the local government units of the power to tax, 12 which cannot now be withdrawn by mere statute. By and large, however, the national legislature is still the principal of the local government units, which cannot defy its will or modify or violate it.

The Court understands and admires the concern of the petitioners for the welfare of their constituents and their apprehensions that the welfare of Cagayan de Oro City will be endangered by the opening of the casino. We share the view that "the hope of large or easy gain, obtained without special effort, turns the head of the workman" 13 and that "habitual gambling is a cause of laziness and ruin." 14 In People v. Gorostiza, 15 we declared: "The social scourge of gambling must be stamped out. The laws against gambling must be enforced to the limit." George Washington called gambling "the child of avarice, the brother of iniquity and the father of mischief." Nevertheless, we must recognize the power of the legislature to decide, in its own wisdom, to legalize certain forms of gambling, as was done in P.D. 1869 and impliedly affirmed in the Local Government Code. That decision can be revoked by this Court only if it contravenes the Constitution as the touchstone of all official acts. We do not find such contravention here.

We hold that the power of PAGCOR to centralize and regulate all games of chance, including casinos on land and sea within the territorial jurisdiction of the Philippines, remains unimpaired. P.D. 1869 has not been modified by the Local Government Code, which empowers the local government units to prevent or suppress only those forms of gambling prohibited by law.

Casino gambling is authorized by P.D. 1869. This decree has the status of a statute that cannot be amended or nullified by a mere ordinance. Hence, it was not competent for the Sangguniang Panlungsod of Cagayan de Oro City to enact Ordinance No. 3353 prohibiting the use of buildings for the operation of a casino and Ordinance No. 3375-93 prohibiting the operation of casinos. For all their praiseworthy motives, these ordinances are contrary to P.D. 1869 and the public policy announced therein and are therefore ultra vires and void.

WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED and the challenged decision of the respondent Court of Appeals is AFFIRMED, with costs against the petitioners. It is so ordered.

Narvasa, C.J., Feliciano, Bidin, Regalado, Romero, Bellosillo, Melo, Quiason, Puno, Vitug, Kapunan and Mendoza, JJ., concur.

 

 

 

Separate Opinions

 

PADILLA, J., concurring:

I concur with the majority holding that the city ordinances in question cannot modify much less repeal PAGCOR's general authority to establish and maintain gambling casinos anywhere in the Philippines under Presidential Decree No. 1869.

In Basco v. Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR), 197 SCRA 52, I stated in a separate opinion that:

. . . I agree with the decision insofar as it holds that the prohibition, control, and regulation of the entire activity known as gambling properly pertain to "state policy". It is, therefore, the political departments of government, namely, the legislative and the executive that should decide on what government should do in the entire area of gambling, and assume full responsibility to the people for such policy." (Emphasis supplied)

However, despite the legality of the opening and operation of a casino in Cagayan de Oro City by respondent PAGCOR, I wish to reiterate my view that gambling in any form runs counter to the government's own efforts to re-establish and resurrect the Filipino moral character which is generally perceived to be in a state of continuing erosion.

It is in the light of this alarming perspective that I call upon government to carefully weigh the advantages and disadvantages of setting up more gambling facilities in the country.

That the PAGCOR contributes greatly to the coffers of the government is not enough reason for setting up more gambling casinos because, undoubtedly, this will not help improve, but will cause a further deterioration in the Filipino moral character.

It is worth remembering in this regard that, 1) what is legal is not always moral and 2) the ends do not always justify the means.

As in Basco, I can easily visualize prostitution at par with gambling. And yet, legalization of the former will not render it any less reprehensible even if substantial revenue for the government can be realized from it. The same is true of gambling.

In the present case, it is my considered view that the national government (through PAGCOR) should re-examine and re-evaluate its decision of imposing the gambling casino on the residents of Cagayan de Oro City; for it is abundantly clear that public opinion in the city is very much against it, and again the question must be seriously deliberated: will the prospects of revenue to be realized from the casino outweigh the further destruction of the Filipino sense of values?

 

DAVIDE, JR., J., concurring:

While I concur in part with the majority, I wish, however, to express my views on certain aspects of this case.

I.

It must at once be noted that private respondent Pryce Properties Corporation (PRYCE) directly filed with the Court of Appeals its so-called petition for prohibition, thereby invoking the said court's original jurisdiction to issue writs of prohibition under Section 9(1) of B.P. Blg. 129. As I see it, however, the principal cause of action therein is one for declaratory relief: to declare null and unconstitutional for, inter alia, having been enacted without or in excess of jurisdiction, for impairing the obligation of contracts, and for being inconsistent with public policy the challenged ordinances enacted by the Sangguniang Panglungsod of the City of Cagayan de Oro. The intervention therein of public respondent Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) further underscores the "declaratory relief" nature of the action. PAGCOR assails the ordinances for being contrary to the non-impairment and equal protection clauses of the Constitution, violative of the Local Government Code, and against the State's national policy declared in P.D. No. 1869. Accordingly, the Court of Appeals does not have jurisdiction over the nature of the action. Even assuming arguendo that the case is one for prohibition, then, under this Court's established policy relative to the hierarchy of courts, the petition should have been filed with the Regional Trial Court of Cagayan de Oro City. I find no special or compelling reason why it was not filed with the said court. I do not wish to entertain the thought that PRYCE doubted a favorable verdict therefrom, in which case the filing of the petition with the Court of Appeals may have been impelled by tactical considerations. A dismissal of the petition by the Court of Appeals would have been in order pursuant to our decisions in People vs. Cuaresma (172 SCRA 415, [1989]) and Defensor-Santiago vs. Vasquez (217 SCRA 633 [1993]). In Cuaresma, this Court stated:

A last word. This court's original jurisdiction to issue writs of certiorari (as well as prohibition, mandamus, quo warranto, habeas corpus and injunction) is not exclusive. It is shared by this Court with Regional Trial Courts (formerly Courts of First Instance), which may issue the writ, enforceable in any part of their respective regions. It is also shared by this court, and by the Regional Trial Court, with the Court of Appeals (formerly, Intermediate Appellate Court), although prior to the effectivity of Batas Pambansa Bilang 129 on August 14, 1981, the latter's competence to issue the extraordinary writs was restricted by those "in aid of its appellate jurisdiction." This concurrence of jurisdiction is not, however, to be taken as according to parties seeking any of the writs an absolute, unrestrained freedom of choice of the court to which application therefor will be directed. There is after all a hierarchy of courts. That hierarchy is determinative of the revenue of appeals, and should also serve as a general determinant of the appropriate forum for petitions for the extraordinary writs. A becoming regard for that judicial hierarchy most certainly indicates that petitions for the issuance of extraordinary writs against first level ("inferior") courts should be filed with the Regional Trial Court, and those against the latter, with the Court of Appeals. A direct invocation of the Supreme Court's original jurisdiction to issue these writs should be allowed only when there are special and important reasons therefor, clearly and specifically set out in the petition. This is established policy. It is a policy that is necessary to prevent inordinate demands upon the Court's time and attention which are better devoted to those matters within its exclusive jurisdiction, and to prevent further over-crowding of the Court's docket. Indeed, the removal of the restriction of the jurisdiction of the Court of Appeals in this regard, supra resulting from the deletion of the qualifying phrase, "in aid of its appellate jurisdiction" was evidently intended precisely to relieve this Court pro tanto of the burden of dealing with applications for extraordinary writs which, but for the expansion of the Appellate Court's corresponding jurisdiction, would have had to be filed with it. (citations omitted)

And in Vasquez, this Court said:

One final observation. We discern in the proceedings in this case a propensity on the part of petitioner, and, for that matter, the same may be said of a number of litigants who initiate recourses before us, to disregard the hierarchy of courts in our judicial system by seeking relief directly from this Court despite the fact that the same is available in the lower courts in the exercise of their original or concurrent jurisdiction, or is even mandated by law to be sought therein. This practice must be stopped, not only because of the imposition upon the previous time of this Court but also because of the inevitable and resultant delay, intended or otherwise, in the adjudication of the case which often has to be remanded or referred to the lower court as the proper forum under the rules of procedure, or as better equipped to resolve the issues since this Court is not a trier of facts. We, therefore, reiterate the judicial policy that this Court will not entertain direct resort to it unless the redress desired cannot be obtained in the appropriate courts or where exceptional and compelling circumstances justify availment of a remedy within and calling for the exercise of our primary jurisdiction.

II.

The challenged ordinances are (a) Ordinance No. 3353 entitled, "An Ordinance Prohibiting the Issuance of Business Permit and Canceling Existing Business Permit To Any Establishment for the Using and Allowing to be Used Its Premises or Portion Thereof for the Operation of Casino," and (b) Ordinance No. 3375-93 entitled, "An Ordinance Prohibiting the Operation of Casino and Providing Penalty for Violation Therefor." They were enacted to implement Resolution No. 2295 entitled, "Resolution Declaring As a Matter of Policy to Prohibit and/or Not to Allow the Establishment of the Gambling Casino in the City of Cagayan de Oro," which was promulgated on 19 November 1990 nearly two years before PRYCE and PAGCOR entered into a contract of lease under which the latter leased a portion of the former's Pryce Plaza Hotel for the operation of a gambling casino which resolution was vigorously reiterated in Resolution No. 2673 of 19 October 1992.

The challenged ordinances were enacted pursuant to the Sangguniang Panglungsod's express powers conferred by Section 458, paragraph (a), subparagraphs (1)-(v), (3)-(ii), and (4)-(i), (iv), and (vii), Local Government Code, and pursuant to its implied power under Section 16 thereof (the general welfare clause) which reads:

Sec. 16. General Welfare. Every local government unit shall exercise the powers expressly granted, those necessarily implied therefrom, as well as powers necessary, appropriate, or incidental for its efficient and effective governance, and those which are essential to the promotion of the general welfare. Within their respective territorial jurisdictions, local government units shall ensure and support, among other things, the preservation and enrichment of culture, promote health and safety, enhance the right of the people to a balanced ecology, encourage and support the development of appropriate and self-reliant scientific and technological capabilities, improve public morals, enhance economic prosperity and social justice, promote full employment among their residents, maintain peace and order, and preserve the comfort and convenience of their inhabitants.

The issue that necessarily arises is whether in granting local governments (such as the City of Cagayan de Oro) the above powers and functions, the Local Government Code has, pro tanto, repealed P.D. No. 1869 insofar as PAGCOR's general authority to establish and maintain gambling casinos anywhere in the Philippines is concerned.

I join the majority in holding that the ordinances cannot repeal P.D. No. 1869.

III.

The nullification by the Court of Appeals of the challenged ordinances as unconstitutional primarily because it is in contravention to P.D. No. 1869 is unwarranted. A contravention of a law is not necessarily a contravention of the constitution. In any case, the ordinances can still stand even if they be conceded as offending P.D. No. 1869. They can be reconciled, which is not impossible to do. So reconciled, the ordinances should be construed as not applying to PAGCOR.

IV.

From the pleadings, it is obvious that the government and the people of Cagayan de Oro City are, for obvious reasons, strongly against the opening of the gambling casino in their city. Gambling, even if legalized, would be inimical to the general welfare of the inhabitants of the City, or of any place for that matter. The PAGCOR, as a government-owned corporation, must consider the valid concerns of the people of the City of Cagayan de Oro and should not impose its will upon them in an arbitrary, if not despotic, manner.

 

 

# Separate Opinions

PADILLA, J., concurring:

I concur with the majority holding that the city ordinances in question cannot modify much less repeal PAGCOR's general authority to establish and maintain gambling casinos anywhere in the Philippines under Presidential Decree No. 1869.

In Basco v. Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR), 197 SCRA 52, I stated in a separate opinion that:

. . . I agree with the decision insofar as it holds that the prohibition, control, and regulation of the entire activity known as gambling properly pertain to "state policy". It is, therefore, the political departments of government, namely, the legislative and the executive that should decide on what government should do in the entire area of gambling, and assume full responsibility to the people for such policy. (emphasis supplied)

However, despite the legality of the opening and operation of a casino in Cagayan de Oro City by respondent PAGCOR, I wish to reiterate my view that gambling in any form runs counter to the government's own efforts to re-establish and resurrect the Filipino moral character which is generally perceived to be in a state of continuing erosion.

It is in the light of this alarming perspective that I call upon government to carefully weigh the advantages and disadvantages of setting up more gambling facilities in the country.

That the PAGCOR contributes greatly to the coffers of the government is not enough reason for setting up more gambling casinos because, undoubtedly, this will not help improve, but will cause a further deterioration in the Filipino moral character.

It is worth remembering in this regard that, 1) what is legal is not always moral and 2) the ends do not always justify the means.

As in Basco, I can easily visualize prostitution at par with gambling. And yet, legalization of the former will not render it any less reprehensible even if substantial revenue for the government can be realized from it. The same is true of gambling.

In the present case, it is my considered view that the national government (through PAGCOR) should re-examine and re-evaluate its decision of imposing the gambling casino on the residents of Cagayan de Oro City; for it is abundantly clear that public opinion in the city is very much against it, and again the question must be seriously deliberated: will the prospects of revenue to be realized from the casino outweigh the further destruction of the Filipino sense of values?

DAVIDE, JR., J., concurring:

While I concur in part with the majority, I wish, however, to express my views on certain aspects of this case.

I.

It must at once be noted that private respondent Pryce Properties Corporation (PRYCE) directly filed with the Court of Appeals its so-called petition for prohibition, thereby invoking the said court's original jurisdiction to issue writs of prohibition under Section 9(1) of B.P. Blg. 129. As I see it, however, the principal cause of action therein is one for declaratory relief: to declare null and unconstitutional for, inter alia, having been enacted without or in excess of jurisdiction, for impairing the obligation of contracts, and for being inconsistent with public policy the challenged ordinances enacted by the Sangguniang Panglungsod of the City of Cagayan de Oro. The intervention therein of public respondent Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) further underscores the "declaratory relief" nature of the action. PAGCOR assails the ordinances for being contrary to the non-impairment and equal protection clauses of the Constitution, violative of the Local Government Code, and against the State's national policy declared in P.D. No. 1869. Accordingly, the Court of Appeals does not have jurisdiction over the nature of the action. Even assuming arguendo that the case is one for prohibition, then, under this Court's established policy relative to the hierarchy of courts, the petition should have been filed with the Regional Trial Court of Cagayan de Oro City. I find no special or compelling reason why it was not filed with the said court. I do not wish to entertain the thought that PRYCE doubted a favorable verdict therefrom, in which case the filing of the petition with the Court of Appeals may have been impelled by tactical considerations. A dismissal of the petition by the Court of Appeals would have been in order pursuant to our decisions in People vs. Cuaresma (172 SCRA 415, [1989]) and Defensor-Santiago vs. Vasquez (217 SCRA 633 [1993]). In Cuaresma, this Court stated:

A last word. This court's original jurisdiction to issue writs of certiorari (as well as prohibition, mandamus, quo warranto, habeas corpus and injunction) is not exclusive. It is shared by this Court with Regional Trial Courts (formerly Courts of First Instance), which may issue the writ, enforceable in any part of their respective regions. It is also shared by this court, and by the Regional Trial Court, with the Court of Appeals (formerly, Intermediate Appellate Court), although prior to the effectivity of Batas Pambansa Bilang 129 on August 14, 1981, the latter's competence to issue the extraordinary writs was restricted by those "in aid of its appellate jurisdiction." This concurrence of jurisdiction is not, however, to be taken as according to parties seeking any of the writs an absolute, unrestrained freedom of choice of the court to which application therefor will be directed. There is after all a hierarchy of courts. That hierarchy is determinative of the revenue of appeals, and should also serve as a general determinant of the appropriate forum for petitions for the extraordinary writs. A becoming regard for that judicial hierarchy most certainly indicates that petitions for the issuance of extraordinary writs against first level ("inferior") courts should be filed with the Regional Trial Court, and those against the latter, with the Court of Appeals. A direct invocation of the Supreme Court's original jurisdiction to issue these writs should be allowed only when there are special and important reasons therefor, clearly and specifically set out in the petition. This is established policy. It is a policy that is necessary to prevent inordinate demands upon the Court's time and attention which are better devoted to those matters within its exclusive jurisdiction, and to prevent further over-crowding of the Court's docket. Indeed, the removal of the restriction of the jurisdiction of the Court of Appeals in this regard, supra resulting from the deletion of the qualifying phrase, "in aid of its appellate jurisdiction" was evidently intended precisely to relieve this Court pro tanto of the burden of dealing with applications for extraordinary writs which, but for the expansion of the Appellate Court's corresponding jurisdiction, would have had to be filed with it. (citations omitted)

And in Vasquez, this Court said:

One final observation. We discern in the proceedings in this case a propensity on the part of petitioner, and, for that matter, the same may be said of a number of litigants who initiate recourses before us, to disregard the hierarchy of courts in our judicial system by seeking relief directly from this Court despite the fact that the same is available in the lower courts in the exercise of their original or concurrent jurisdiction, or is even mandated by law to be sought therein. This practice must be stopped, not only because of the imposition upon the previous time of this Court but also because of the inevitable and resultant delay, intended or otherwise, in the adjudication of the case which often has to be remanded or referred to the lower court as the proper forum under the rules of procedure, or as better equipped to resolve the issues since this Court is not a trier of facts. We, therefore, reiterate the judicial policy that this Court will not entertain direct resort to it unless the redress desired cannot be obtained in the appropriate courts or where exceptional and compelling circumstances justify availment of a remedy within and calling for the exercise of our primary jurisdiction.

II.

The challenged ordinances are (a) Ordinance No. 3353 entitled, "An Ordinance Prohibiting the Issuance of Business Permit and Canceling Existing Business Permit To Any Establishment for the Using and Allowing to be Used Its Premises or Portion Thereof for the Operation of Casino," and (b) Ordinance No. 3375-93 entitled, "An Ordinance Prohibiting the Operation of Casino and Providing Penalty for Violation Therefor." They were enacted to implement Resolution No. 2295 entitled, "Resolution Declaring As a Matter of Policy to Prohibit and/or Not to Allow the Establishment of the Gambling Casino in the City of Cagayan de Oro," which was promulgated on 19 November 1990 nearly two years before PRYCE and PAGCOR entered into a contract of lease under which the latter leased a portion of the former's Pryce Plaza Hotel for the operation of a gambling casino which resolution was vigorously reiterated in Resolution No. 2673 of 19 October 1992.

The challenged ordinances were enacted pursuant to the Sangguniang Panglungsod's express powers conferred by Section 458, paragraph (a), subparagraphs (1)-(v), (3)-(ii), and (4)-(i), (iv), and (vii), Local Government Code, and pursuant to its implied power under Section 16 thereof (the general welfare clause) which reads:

Sec. 16. General Welfare. Every local government unit shall exercise the powers expressly granted, those necessarily implied therefrom, as well as powers necessary, appropriate, or incidental for its efficient and effective governance, and those which are essential to the promotion of the general welfare. Within their respective territorial jurisdictions, local government units shall ensure and support, among other things, the preservation and enrichment of culture, promote health and safety, enhance the right of the people to a balanced ecology, encourage and support the development of appropriate and self-reliant scientific and technological capabilities, improve public morals, enhance economic prosperity and social justice, promote full employment among their residents, maintain peace and order, and preserve the comfort and convenience of their inhabitants.

The issue that necessarily arises is whether in granting local governments (such as the City of Cagayan de Oro) the above powers and functions, the Local Government Code has, pro tanto, repealed P.D. No. 1869 insofar as PAGCOR's general authority to establish and maintain gambling casinos anywhere in the Philippines is concerned.

I join the majority in holding that the ordinances cannot repeal P.D. No. 1869.

III.

The nullification by the Court of Appeals of the challenged ordinances as unconstitutional primarily because it is in contravention to P.D. No. 1869 is unwarranted. A contravention of a law is not necessarily a contravention of the constitution. In any case, the ordinances can still stand even if they be conceded as offending P.D. No. 1869. They can be reconciled, which is not impossible to do. So reconciled, the ordinances should be construed as not applying to PAGCOR.

IV.

From the pleadings, it is obvious that the government and the people of Cagayan de Oro City are, for obvious reasons, strongly against the opening of the gambling casino in their city. Gambling, even if legalized, would be inimical to the general welfare of the inhabitants of the City, or of any place for that matter. The PAGCOR, as a government-owned corporation, must consider the valid concerns of the people of the City of Cagayan de Oro and should not impose its will upon them in an arbitrary, if not despotic, manner.

#Footnotes

1 Rollo, pp. 64-94.

2 Ibid., pp. 53-62.

3 Pryce was dropped as private respondent in the resolution of the Court dated June 13, 1994.

4 197 SCRA 53.

5 Sec. 458, [2(vi-xv)]; [3(ii-vii)]; [4(i-ix)], Local Government Code, 1991.

6 Where the law does not distinguish, neither ought we to distinguish.

7 39 Phil. 102.

8 Garcia v. Executive Secretary, 204 SCRA 516, quoting Cooley, Constitutional Limitations, 8th ed., 379-380.

9 Tatel v. Municipality of Virac, 207 SCRA 157; Solicitor General v. Metropolitan Manila Authority, 204 SCRA 837; De la Cruz v. Paras, 123 SCRA 569; U.S. v. Abandan, 24 Phil. 165.

10 44 Phil. 138.

11 Clinton v. Ceder Rapids, etc. Railroad Co., 24 Iowa 455.

12 Art. X, Sec. 5, Constitution.

13 Planiol, Droit Civil, Vol. 2, No. 2210.

14 Ibid.

15 77 Phil. 88.


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