Friday, February 24, 2012

Villanueva vs. City of Iloilo [December 28, 1968, L-26521]

Facts: On September 30, 1946 the municipal board of Iloilo City enacted Ordinance 86. The Supreme Court, however, declared the ordinance ultra vires. On January 15, 1960 the municipal board of Iloilo City, believing that with the passage of Republic Act 2264, otherwise known as the Local Autonomy Act, it had acquired the authority or power to enact an ordinance similar to that previously declared by the Supreme Court as ultra vires, enacted Ordinance 11 (eleven), series of 1960, imposing municipal license tax on persons engaged in the business of operating tenement houses. 

In Iloilo City, the appellees Eusebio Villanueva and Remedios S. Villanueva are owners of five tenement houses, aggregately containing 43 apartments, while the other appellees and the same Remedios S. Villanueva are owners of ten apartments. By virtue of the ordinance in question, the appellant City collected from spouses Eusebio Villanueva and Remedios S. Villanueva, for the years 1960-1964, the sum of P5,824.30, and from the appellees Pio Sian Melliza, Teresita S. Topacio, and Remedios S. Villanueva, for the years 1960-1964, the sum of P1,317.00. 

On July 11, 1962 and April 24, 1964, the plaintiffs-appellees filed a complaint, and an amended complaint, respectively, against the City of Iloilo, praying that Ordinance 11, series of 1960, be declared "invalid for being beyond the powers of the Municipal Council of the City of Iloilo to enact, and unconstitutional for being violative of the rule as to uniformity of taxation and for depriving said plaintiffs of the equal protection clause of the Constitution," and that the City be ordered to refund the amounts collected from them under the said ordinance. The lower court rendered judgment declaring the ordinance illegal. 

Issues: 
(1) Whether or not the City of Iloilo is empowered by the Local Autonomy Act to impose tenement taxes. 

(2) Whether or not Ordinance 11, series of 1960, does violate the rule of uniformity of taxation. 

Held: 
(1) Yes. The lower court has interchangeably denominated the tax in question as a tenement tax or an apartment tax. Called by either name, it is not among the exceptions listed in Section 2 of the Local Autonomy Act. The imposition by the ordinance of a license tax on persons engaged in the business of operating tenement houses finds authority in Section 2 of the Local Autonomy Act which provides that chartered cities have the authority to impose municipal license taxes or fees upon persons engaged in any occupation or business, or exercising privileges within their respective territories, and "otherwise to levy for public purposes, just and uniform taxes, licenses, or fees." 

(2) No. The ordinance is not violative of the rule of uniformity in taxation. The Supreme Court has already ruled that tenement houses constitute a distinct class of property. It has likewise ruled that "taxes are uniform and equal when imposed upon all property of the same class or character within the taxing authority." The fact, therefore, that the owners of other classes of buildings in the City of Iloilo do not pay the taxes imposed by the ordinance in question is no argument at all against uniformity and equality of the tax imposition. Neither is the rule of equality and uniformity violated by the fact that tenement taxes are not imposed in other cities, for the same rule does not require that taxes for the same purpose should be imposed in different territorial subdivisions at the same time. So long as the burden of the tax falls equally and impartially on all owners or operators of tenement houses similarly classified or situated, equality and uniformity of taxation is accomplished. 

Hence, the judgment of the lower court is reversed. The ordinance in question is valid.

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