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ERMITA MALATE HOTEL ASSOCIATION V CITY MAYOR OF MANILA

G.R. No. L-24693 July 31, 1967

Fernando, J:

Doctrine:
There is no question but that the challenged ordinance was precisely enacted to minimize
certain practices hurtful to public morals, particularly fornication and prostitution. Due process is
not a narrow or "technical conception with fixed content unrelated to time, place and
circumstances," decisions based on such a clause requiring a "close and perceptive inquiry into
fundamental principles of our society."

Facts:
Ermita-Malate Hotel and Motel Operators Association, and one of its members Hotel del
Mar Inc. petitioned for the prohibition of Ordinance 4670 on June 14, 1963 to be applicable in
the city of Manila. They claimed that the ordinance was beyond the powers of the Manila
City Board to regulate due to the fact that hotels were not part of its regulatory powers.
They also asserted that Section 1 of the challenged ordinance was unconstitutional and
void for being unreasonable and violative of due process insofar because it would impose
P6,000.00 license fee per annum for first class motels and P4,500.00 for second class motels;
there was also the requirement that the guests would fill up a form specifying their personal
information.There was also a provision that the premises and facilities of such hotels, motels and
lodging houses would be open for inspection from city authorites. They claimed this to be
violative of due process for being vague.The law also classified motels into two classes and
required the maintenance of certain minimum facilities in first class motels such as a telephone
in each room, a dining room or, restaurant and laundry. The petitioners also invoked the lack of
due process on this for being arbitrary.It was also unlawful for the owner to lease any room or
portion thereof more than twice every 24 hours. There was also a prohibition for persons below
18 in the hotel.The challenged ordinance also caused the automatic cancellation of the license of
the hotels that violated the ordinance.
The lower court declared the ordinance unconstitutional.
Hence, this appeal by the city of Manila.

Issue:
1. Whether or not Ordinance No. 4760 of the City of Manila is a valid exercise of police
power?
2. Whether or not Ordinance No. 4760 of the City of Manila violates the due process
clause?
3. Whether or not Ordinance No. 4760 of the City of Manila violates the non-impairment of
contracts?
4. Whether or not Ordinance No. 4760 of the City of Manila is vague?

Held:
1. Yes, Ordinance No. 4760 of the City of Manila is a valid exercise of police power
2. No, Ordinance No. 4760 of the City of Manila does not violate the due process clause.
3. No, Ordinance No. 4760 of the City of Manila does not violate the non-impairment of
contracts.
4. No, Ordinance No. 4760 of the City of Manila is not vague.

Ratio:
1. "The presumption is towards the validity of a law.” However, the Judiciary should not
lightly set aside legislative action when there is not a clear invasion of personal or
property rights under the guise of police regulation.
Police power is the power to prescribe regulations to promote the health, morals, peace,
good order, safety and general welfare of the people. In view of the requirements of due process,
equal protection and other applicable constitutional guaranties, however, the power must not be
unreasonable or violative of due process.
"Public welfare, then, lies at the bottom of the enactment of said law, and the state in
order to promote the general welfare may interfere with personal liberty, with property, and with
business and occupations. Persons and property may be subjected to all kinds of restraints and
burdens, in order to secure the general comfort, health, and prosperity of the state x x x To this
fundamental aim of our Government the rights of the individual are subordinated. Liberty is a
blessing without which life is a misery, but liberty should not be made to prevail over authority
because then society will fall into anarchy. Neither should authority be made to prevail over
liberty because then the individual will fall into slavery. The citizen should achieve the required
balance of liberty and authority in his mind through education and personal discipline, so that
there may be established the resultant equilibrium, which means peace and order and happiness
for all.
Licenses for non-useful occupations are also incidental to the police power and the right
to exact a fee may be implied from the power to license and regulate, but in fixing amount of the
license fees the municipal corporations are allowed a much wider discretion in this class of cases
than in the former, and aside from applying the well-known legal principle that municipal
ordinances must not be unreasonable, oppressive, or tyrannical, courts have, as a general rule,
declined to interfere with such discretion. The desirability of imposing restraint upon the number
of persons who might otherwise engage in non-useful enterprises is, of course, generally an
important factor in the determination of the amount of this kind of license fee. Hence license fees
clearly in the nature of privilege taxes for revenue have frequently been upheld, especially in of
licenses for the sale of liquors. In fact, in the latter cases the fees have rarely been declared
unreasonable. Moreover, that taxation may be made to implement the state's police power. In this
senses, the licesense fee was implemeneted.
Moreover, the increase in the licensed fees was intended to discourage "establishments of
the kind from operating for purpose other than legal" and at the same time, to increase "the
income of the city government." It would appear therefore that the stipulation of facts, far from
sustaining any attack against the validity of the ordinance, argues eloquently for it.

2. There is no controlling and precise definition of due process. It has a standard to which
the governmental action should conform in order that deprivation of life, liberty or property, in
each appropriate case, be valid. What then is the standard of due process which must exist both
as a procedural and a substantive requisite to free the challenged ordinance from legal infirmity?
It is responsiveness to the supremacy of reason, obedience to the dictates of justice. Negatively
put, arbitrariness is ruled out and unfairness avoided.
There is no question but that the challenged ordinance was precisely enacted to minimize
certain practices hurtful to public morals, particularly fornication and prostitution. Due process is
not a narrow or "technical conception with fixed content unrelated to time, place and
circumstances," decisions based on such a clause requiring a "close and perceptive inquiry into
fundamental principles of our society." Questions of due process are not to be treated narrowly or
pedantically in slavery to form or phrase. Nothing in the petition is sufficient to prove the
ordinance’s nullity for an alleged failure to meet the due process requirement.

3. On the impairment of freedom to contract by limiting duration of use to twice every 24


hours- It was not violative of due process. 'Liberty' as understood in democracies, is not license;
it is 'liberty regulated by law.' Implied in the term is restraint by law for the good of the
individual and for the greater good of the peace and order of society and the general well-being.
Laurel- The citizen should achieve the required balance of liberty and authority in his mind
through education and personal discipline, so that there may be established the resultant
equilibrium, which means peace and order and happiness for all. The freedom to contract no
longer "retains its virtuality as a living principle, unlike in the sole case of People v Pomar. The
policy of laissez faire has to some extent given way to the assumption by the government of the
right of intervention even in contractual relations affected with public interest.
What may be stressed sufficiently is that if the liberty involved were freedom of the mind
or the person, the standard for the validity of governmental acts is much more rigorous and
exacting, but where the liberty curtailed affects at the most rights of property, the permissible
scope of regulatory measure is wider.
On the law being vague on the issue of personal information, the maintenance of
establishments, and the “full rate of payment”- Holmes- “We agree to all the generalities about
not supplying criminal laws with what they omit but there is no canon against using common
sense in construing laws as saying what they obviously mean."

4. It would appear from a recital in the petition itself that what seems to be the gravamen of
the alleged grievance is that the provisions are too detailed and specific rather than vague or
uncertain. Petitioners, however, point to the requirement that a guest should give the name,
relationship, age and sex of the companion or companions as indefinite and uncertain in view of
the necessity for determining whether the companion or companions referred to are those
arriving with the customer or guest at the time of the registry or entering the room With him at
about the same time or coming at any indefinite time later to join him. "We agree to all the
generalities about not supplying criminal laws with what they omit but there is no canon against
using common sense in construing laws as saying what they obviously mean."

Dispositive:
Wherefore, the judgment of the lower court is reversed and the injunction issued lifted
forthwith. With costs.