Ordinance vs. National Law

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Local governments have been vested by the Local Government Code the power to legislate for the general welfare of their constituents. Local Sanggunians are the equivalent of the Congress of the Philippines which promulgates laws. From the enactment of the Local Government Code back in 1991 until the present many members of local legislative bodies most probably have no sufficient understanding of the power of the local sanggunian. As a member of a sanggunian myself, I have yet to have a full grasp of the extent of power of the sanggunian as a local legislative body. Over the years there have been noted conflicts, misunderstandings, and usually overlaps with national laws.

Batangas CATV vs. CA

The city of Batangas passed an ordinance requiring CATV (cable television) operators to apply for a permit from the City Government before operating, putting up structures, and fixing or increasing rates. When the Batangas CATV increased its rate, the City Mayor threatened to cancel the permit of the CATV company if it did not seek the permission of the Sanggunian to increase its rates. Batangas CATV filed before the Regional Trial Court a petition for injunction alleging that the Sanggunian has no authority to regulate the rates of CATV companies. The RTC granted the petition and declared that indeed, regulation of CATV operations is beyond the power of the Sanggunian. The City of Batangas then went to the Court of Appeals seeking to reverse the RTC decision. The CA reversed the RTC decision which was also elevated to the Supreme Court on the issue of whether local governments have the power to regulate the operation of CATVs.

City of Batangas Exceeded its Powers

The Supreme Court said that the RTC was correct and that the CA erred in its decision. LGUs do not have the power to regulate the operation of CATVs since the only agency with the power to do so is the National Telecommunications Commission as contained in Executive Order 205 of then President Corazon Aquino and Executive Order 436 of then President Fidel Ramos. Although LGUs have been granted the power to enact its own ordinances and resolutions for the promotion of the General Welfare, such enactments cannot contravene the provisions of laws enacted by the national legislature. The SC said: “…it is appropriate to stress that where the state legislature has made provision for the regulation of conduct, it has manifested its intention that the subject matter shall be fully covered by the statute, and that a municipality, under its general powers, cannot regulate the same conduct.” (Batangas CATV vs. CA, G.R. 138810, 29 September 2004) This is not to clip the power of the LGU to enact ordinances for the promotion of the general welfare but only that they must conform to limits of the power granted them and that their enactments must be consisted with those of the national legislature. “It is a fundamental principle that municipal ordinances are inferior in status and subordinate to the laws of the state. An ordinance in conflict with a state law of general character and statewide application is universally held to be invalid. The principle is frequently expressed in the declaration that municipal authorities, under a general grant of power, cannot adopt ordinances which infringe the spirit of a state law or repugnant to the general policy of the state. In every power to pass ordinances given to a municipality, there is an implied restriction that the ordinances shall be consistent with the general law.” With these the SC declared the resolution of the City of Batangas regulating the rates of CATV as invalid.

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