Tiu v CA – GR 127410, 20 Jan 1999

Facts:
The constitutional rights to equal protection of the law is not violated by an executive order, issued pursuant to law, granting tax and duty incentives only to the business and residents within the “secured area” of the Subic Special Economic Zone and denying them to those who live within the Zone but outside such “fenced-in” territory. The Constitution does not require absolute equality among residents. It is enough that all persons under like circumstances or conditions are given the same privileges and required to follow the same obligations. In short, a classification based on valid and reasonable standards does not violate the equal protection clause.

Issue:
Whether Executive Order No. 97-A violates the equal protection clause of the Constitution. Specifically the issue is whether the provisions of Executive Order No. 97-A confining the application of R.A. 7227 within the secured area and excluding the residents of the zone outside of the secured area is discriminatory.

Held:
No, SC rule in favor of the constitutionality and validity of the assailed EO. Said Order is not violative of the equal protection clause; neither is it discriminatory. Rather, than we find 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.
The equal protection of the law clause is against undue favor and individual or class privilege, as well as hostile discrimination or the oppression of inequality. It is not intended to prohibit legislation which is limited either [by] the object to which it is directed or by [the] territory within which it is to operate. It does not demand absolute equality among residents; it merely requires that all persons shall be treated alike, under like circumstances and conditions both as to privileges conferred and liabilities enforced. The equal protection clause is not infringed by legislation which applies only to those persons falling within a specified class, if it applies alike to all persons within such class, and reasonable. grounds exist for making a distinction between those who fall within such class and those who do not.
Classification, to be valid, must
(1) rest on substantial distinctions,
– SC find real and substantive distinctions between the circumstances obtaining inside and those outside the Subic Naval Base, thereby justifying a valid and reasonable classification.
(2) be germane to the purpose of the law,
– SC believe 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. Why the seeming bias for the big investors? Undeniably, they are the ones who can pour huge investments to spur economic growth in the country and to generate employment opportunities for the Filipinos, the ultimate goals of the government for such conversion.
(3) not be limited to existing conditions only, and
– SC believe that the classification set forth by the executive issuance does not apply merely to existing conditions. As laid down in RA 7227, the objective is to establish a “self-sustaining, industrial, commercial, financial and investment center” in the area. There will, therefore, be a long-term difference between such investment center and the areas outside it.
(4) apply equally to all members of the same class.
– Classification applies equally to all the resident individuals and businesses within the “secured area.” The residents, being in like circumstances or contributing directly to the achievement of the end purpose of the law, are not categorized further. Instead, they are all similarly treated, both in privileges granted and in obligations required.

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