Saturday, March 10, 2012

Tiu vs. CA (GR. No. 127410 January 20, 1999)

Facts: Congress, with the approval of the President, passed into law RA 7227 entitled "An Act Accelerating the Conversion of Military Reservations Into Other Productive Uses, Creating the Bases Conversion and Development Authority for this Purpose, Providing Funds Therefor and for Other Purposes." Section 12 thereof created the Subic Special Economic Zone and granted there to special privileges. President Ramos issued Executive Order No. 97, clarifying the application of the tax and duty incentives. The President issued Executive Order No. 97-A, specifying the area within which the tax-and-duty-free privilege was operative. The petitioners challenged before this Court the constitutionality of EO 97-A for allegedly being violative of their right to equal protection of the laws. This Court referred the matter to the Court of Appeals. Proclamation No. 532 was issued by President Ramos. It delineated the exact metes and bounds of the Subic Special Economic and Free Port Zone, pursuant to Section 12 of RA 7227. Respondent Court held that "there is no substantial difference between the provisions of EO 97-A and Section 12 of RA 7227. In both, the 'Secured Area' is precise and well-defined as '. . . the lands occupied by the Subic Naval Base and its contiguous extensions as embraced, covered and defined by the 1947 Military Bases Agreement between the Philippines and the United States of America, as amended . . .'" 

Issue: Whether or not Executive Order No. 97-A violates the equal protection clause of the Constitution 

Held: No. The Court found real and substantive distinctions between the circumstances obtaining inside and those outside the Subic Naval Base, thereby justifying a valid and reasonable classification. The fundamental right of equal protection of the laws is not absolute, but is subject to reasonable classification. If the groupings are characterized by substantial distinctions that make real differences, one class may be treated and regulated differently from another. The classification must also be germane to the purpose of the law and must apply to all those belonging to the same class. Classification, to be valid, must (1) rest on substantial distinctions, (2) be germane to the purpose of the law, (3) not be limited to existing conditions only, and (4) apply equally to all members of the same class. The Supreme Court believed it was reasonable for the President to have delimited the application of some incentives to the confines of the former Subic military base. It is this specific area which the government intends to transform and develop from its status quo ante as an abandoned naval facility into a self-sustaining industrial and commercial zone, particularly for big foreign and local investors to use as operational bases for their businesses and industries.

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