Basco vs PAGCOR (197 SCRA 52)

Basco vs Philippine Amusements and Gaming Corporation
197 SCRA 52 [GR No. 91649 May 14, 1991]

Facts: A TV ad proudly announces: “The New PAGCOR – Responding Through Responsible Gaming.” But the petitioners think otherwise, that is why, they filed the instant petition seeking to annul the PAGCOR charter – PD 1869, because it is allegedly contrary to morals, public policy and order, and because –

a. It constitutes a waiver of a right prejudicial to a third person with a right recognized by law. It waived the Manila city government’s right to impose taxes and license fees, which is recognized by law;

b. For the same reason stated in the immediately preceeding paragraph, the law has intruded into the local government’s right to impose local taxes and license fees. This, in contravention of the constitutionally enshrined principle of local autonomy;

c. It violates the equal protection clause of the constitution in that it legalizes PAGCOR – conducted gambling, while most other forms of gambling are outlawed, together with prostitution, drug trafficking and other vices;

d. It violates the avowed trend of the Cory government away from the monopolistic and crony economy, and toward free enterprise and privatization.

Issue: Whether or not the city of Manila may levy taxes on PAGCOR.

Held: No. The city of Manila, being a mere municipal corporation has no inherent right to impose taxes. Thus, the charter or statute must plainly show an intent to confer that power or the municipality cannot assume it. Its power to tax therefore must always yield to a legislative act which is superior having been passed upon by the state itself which has the inherent power to tax.

The city of Manila’s power to impose license fees on gambling has long been revoked. As early as 1975, the power of local governments to regulate gambling thru the grant of “franchise, licenses or permits” was withdrawn by PD no. 771 and was vested exclusively on the national government.

Therefore, only the national government has the power to issue “license or permits” for the operation of gambling. Necessarily the power to demand or collect license fees which is a consequence of the issuance of “licenses or permits” is no longer vested in the City of Manila.

Local governments has no power to tax instrumentalities of the National Government. PAGCOR is a government owned or controlled corporation with an original charter, PD 1869. All of its shares of stocks are owned by the national government.

The power of the local government to “impose taxes and fees” is always subject to “limitations” which congress may provide by law. Since PD 1869 remains an operative law until amended, repealed or revoked, its exemption clause remains as an exception to the exercise of the power of local governments to impose taxes and fees. It cannot therefore be violative but rather is consistent with the principle of local autonomy.

Besides, the principle of local autonomy under the 1987 constitution simply means “decentralization.” It does not make local governments sovereign within the state or an “imperium in imperio.”

What is settled is that the matter of regulating; taxing or otherwise dealing with gambling in a state concern and hence, it is the sole prerogative of the state to retain it or delegate it to local governments.

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