SC upholds QC housing tax but junks yearly garbage fee
The Supreme Court on Tuesday junked a Quezon City ordinance for being unconstitutional but upheld another, saying it was consistent with the law.
Voting unanimously, the high tribunal struck down the ordinance imposing an annual garbage fee on Quezon City residents and ordered local officials to refund the amount collected since its enforcement last year.
At the same time, it affirmed the city’s socialized housing tax ordinance, saying it was “consistent” with Section 43 of the law on the Comprehensive and Continuing Urban Development and Housing Program which provides for such a tax. It also lifted the temporary restraining order (TRO) it issued in February 2014 on its implementation.
According to the court, the imposition of the annual garbage fee was “unconstitutional and illegal.”
“Respondents are directed to refund with reasonable dispatch the sums of money collected relative to its enforcement,” it ordered.
The Quezon City government earned P4.7 million in garbage fees under the ordinance authored by Councilor Victor Ferrer Jr. until the high court issued a TRO stopping its implementation as well as the collection of the socialized housing tax.
According to the court, the annual trash fee was inconsistent with the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000 which allows cities to impose charges “only [on] the collection and transport of non-recyclable and special waste and for the disposal of these into the sanitary landfill.”
It noted that the ordinance, which based the garbage fee on an estimated per capita waste generation volume of 0.66 kilograms among Quezon City residents, “does not make a distinction as to the type of waste generated.”
“…[I]t is reasonable to presume that the amount pertains to the totality of wastes without distinction generated by residents of Quezon City,” the court said.
It added that Ferrer’s ordinance “violates the equal protection clause and the provisions of the Local Government Code that an ordinance must be equitable and based, as far as practicable, on the taxpayer’s ability to pay, and not be unjust, excessive, oppressive and confiscatory.”
Contacted for comment, Mayor Herbert Bautista thanked the court for upholding the local government’s socialized housing tax.
“If the socialized housing tax (SHT) was indeed affirmed by the [court] then this becomes a landmark decision. Local government units may now ordain SHT to address the six million housing backlog our government needs to address,” he said in a text message to the Inquirer.
At the same time, Bautista assured residents that the ruling would not affect solid waste collection in the city.
As for Ferrer, the author of the ordinance, he told the Inquirer that he has yet to read the court decision.
The annual garbage fee imposed on Quezon City households ranged from P100 to P500 based on the land area occupied by the homeowner. For owners of condominiums and socialized housing units, the charge was between P25 and P200, also based on the size of their dwelling.
The 2011 socialized housing tax ordinance, on other hand, imposed a 0.5-percent annual realty tax on the owner of a property with a value of over P100,000. The proceeds, according to the city government, would go to the construction of houses for the city’s squatters.
The Supreme Court ruling was based on a petition filed by Quezon City resident Jose Ferrer Jr. asking it to declare the two ordinances unconstitutional.
He had argued that the socialized housing tax was a form of punishment for real property owners owing to the city government’s failure to protect their land from informal settlers.
The garbage fee, on the other hand, amounted to “double taxation” because trash collection was a primary function and duty of the city government which should be funded through taxes and its internal revenue allotment share, he added.–With Erika Sauler
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