Adherence to the constitutional guaranty of due process of law is required for valid ordinance

Compliance of Ordinance No. 1664with the substantive requirements

The first substantive requirement for a valid ordinance is the adherence to the constitutional guaranty of due process of law. The guaranty is embedded in Article III, Section 1 of the Constitution, which ordains:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary

Section 1. 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 guaranty of due process of law is a constitutional safeguard against any arbitrariness on the part of the Government, whether committed by the Legislature, the Executive, or the Judiciary. It is a protection essential to every inhabitant of the country, for, as a commentator on Constitutional Law has vividly written:25

x x x. If the law itself unreasonably deprives a person of his life, liberty, or property, he is denied the protection of due process. If the enjoyment of his rights is conditioned on an unreasonable requirement, due process is likewise violated. Whatsoever be the source of such rights, be it the Constitution itself or merely a statute, its unjustified withholding would also be a violation of due process. Any government act that militates against the ordinary norms of justice or fair play is considered an infraction of the great guaranty of due process; and this is true whether the denial involves violation merely of the procedure prescribed by the law or affects the very validity of the law itself.

In City of Manila v. Laguio, Jr.,26 the Court expounded on the aspects of the guaranty of due process of law as a limitation on the acts of government, viz:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary

This clause has been interpreted as imposing two separate limits on government, usually called “procedural due process” and “substantive due process.”

Procedural due process, as the phrase implies, refers to the procedures that the government must follow before it deprives a person of life, liberty, or property. Classic procedural due process issues are concerned with that kind of notice and what form of hearing the government must provide when it takes a particular action.

Substantive due process, as that phrase connotes, asks whether the government has an adequate reason for taking away a person’s life, liberty, or property. In other words, substantive due process looks to whether there is sufficient justification for the government’s action. Case law in the United States (U.S.) tells us that whether there is such a justification depends very much on the level of scrutiny used. For example, if a law is in an area where only rational basis review is applied, substantive due process is met so long as the law is rationally related to a legitimate government purpose. But if it is an area where strict scrutiny is used, such as for protecting fundamental rights, then the government will meet substantive due process only if it can prove that the law is necessary to achieve a compelling government purpose.

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.27

The Jabans contend that Ordinance No. 1664, by leaving the confiscation and immobilization of the motor vehicles to the traffic enforcers or the regular personnel of the Philippine National Police (PNP) instead of to officials exercising judicial authority, was violative of the constitutional guaranty of due process; that such confiscation and immobilization should only be after a hearing on the merits by courts of law; and that the immobilization and the clamping of the cars and motor vehicles by the police or traffic enforcers could be subject to abuse.

On his part, Legaspi likewise contends that Ordinance No. 1664 violated the constitutional guaranty of due process for being arbitrary and oppressive; and that its provisions conferring upon the traffic enforcers the absolute discretion to be the enforcers, prosecutors, judges and collectors all at the same time were vague and ambiguous.28 He reminds that the grant of police powers for the general welfare under the LGC was not unlimited but subject to constitutional limitations;29 and that these consolidated cases should not be resolved differently from the resolution of a third case assailing the validity of Ordinance No. 1664 (Astillero case), in which the decision of the same RTC declaring Ordinance No. 1664 as unconstitutional had attained finality following the denial of due course to the appeal of the City of Cebu and its co–defendants.

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.

To us, the terms encroachment and obstacles used in Section 458 of the LGC, supra, were broad enough to include illegally parked vehicles or whatever else obstructed the streets, alleys and sidewalks, which were precisely the subject of Ordinance No. 1664 in avowedly aiming to ensure “a smooth flow of vehicular traffic in all the streets in the City of Cebu at all times” (Section 1). This aim was borne out by its Whereas Clauses, viz:chanRoblesvirtualLawlibrary

WHEREAS, the City of Cebu enacted the Traffic Code (Ordinance No. 801) as amended, provided for Parking Restrictions and Parking Prohibitions in the streets of Cebu City;

WHEREAS, despite the restrictions and prohibitions of parking on certain streets of Cebu City, violations continued unabated due, among others, to the very low penalties imposed under the Traffic Code of Cebu City;

WHEREAS, City Ordinance 1642 was enacted in order to address the traffic congestions caused by illegal parkings in the streets of Cebu City;

WHEREAS, there is a need to amend City Ordinance No.1642 in order to fully address and solve the problem of illegal parking and other violations of the Traffic Code of Cebu City;30 (emphasis supplied)

Considering that traffic congestions were already retarding the growth and progress in the population and economic centers of the country, the plain objective of Ordinance No. 1664 was to serve the public interest and advance the general welfare in the City of Cebu. Its adoption was, therefore, in order to fulfill the compelling government purpose of immediately addressing the burgeoning traffic congestions caused by illegally parked vehicles obstructing the streets of the City of Cebu.

Legaspi’s attack against the provisions of Ordinance No. 1664 for being vague and ambiguous cannot stand scrutiny. As can be readily seen, its text was forthright and unambiguous in all respects. There could be no confusion on the meaning and coverage of the ordinance. But should there be any vagueness and ambiguity in the provisions, which the OSG does not concede,31 there was nothing that a proper application of the basic rules of statutory construction could not justly rectify.


About Erineus

Born on December 28, 1965, Surallah, South Cotabato, Southern Mindanao, Philippines.
This entry was posted in Constitutional Law, Constitutional Rights, Legislation, LGU, Ordinance, Political Law and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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