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People vs. Siton, et al., GR 169364, 18 Sept.

2009 Facts: Respondents Evangeline Siton and Krystel Kate Sagarano were charged with vagrancy pursuant to Art. 202 (2) of the RPC in two separate Informations. Accused were found wandering and loitering around San Pedro and Legaspi Streets of Davao City, without any visible means to support herself nor lawful and justifiable purpose. Respondents filed separate Motions to Quash on the ground that Art. 202 (2) is unconstitutional for being vague and overboard. The municipal trial court denied the motions, directed respondents to file their respective counter-affidavits, and declared that the law on vagrancy was enacted pursuant to the States police power (or the power of promoting public welfare by restraining and regulating the use of liberty and property) and justified by the Latin maxim salus populi est suprema lex (which calls for the subordination of individual benefit to the interest of the greater number). Respondents filed a petition for certiorari and prohibition with the RTC challenging the constitutionality of the anti-vagrancy law and claiming that Art 202 (2) violated the equal protection clause. The RTC granted the petition of the herein respondents and declared Art. 202 (2) unconstitutional. Issue: Does Article 202 (2), RPC on vagrancy violate the equal protection clause? Ruling: No. Article 202 (2) of the RPC does not violate the equal protection clause; neither does it discriminate against the poor and the unemployed. Offenders of public order laws are punished not for their status, as for being poor or unemployed, but for conducting themselves under such circumstances as to endanger the public peace or cause alarm and apprehension in the community. Being poor or unemployed is not a license or a justification to act indecently or to engage in immoral conduct.