G.R. No. 152675 Batangas Power Corporation vs. Batangas City, et al. (2024)

G.R. No. 152675 April 28, 2004

BATANGAS POWER CORPORATION, petitioner,BATANGAS CITY and NATIONAL POWER CORPORATION, respondents.

x - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - x

G.R. No. 152771 April 28, 2004

NATIONAL POWER CORPORATION, petitioner,HON. RICARDO R. ROSARIO, in his capacity as Presiding Judge, RTC, Br. 66, Makati City; BATANGAS CITY GOVERNMENT; ATTY. TEODULFO DEGUITO, in his capacity as Chief Legal Officer, Batangas City; and BENJAMIN PARGAS, in his capacity as City Treasurer, Batangas City, respondents.

DECISION

PUNO, J.:

Before us are two (2) consolidated petitions for review under Rule 45 of the Rules of Civil Procedure, seeking to set aside the rulings of the Regional Trial Court of Makati in its February 27, 2002 Decision in Civil Case No. 00-205.

The facts show that in the early 1990’s, the country suffered from a crippling power crisis. Power outages lasted 8-12 hours daily and power generation was badly needed. Addressing the problem, the government, through the National Power Corporation (NPC), sought to attract investors in power plant operations by providing them with incentives, one of which was through the NPC’s assumption of payment of their taxes in the Build Operate and Transfer (BOT) Agreement.

On June 29, 1992, Enron Power Development Corporation (Enron) and petitioner NPC entered into a Fast Track BOT Project. Enron agreed to supply a power station to NPC and transfer its plant to the latter after ten (10) years of operation. Section 11.02 of the BOT Agreement provided that NPC shall be responsible for the payment of all taxes that may be imposed on the power station, except income taxes and permit fees. Subsequently, Enron assigned its obligation under the BOT Agreement to petitioner Batangas Power Corporation (BPC).

On September 13, 1992, BPC registered itself with the Board of Investments (BOI) as a pioneer enterprise. On September 23, 1992, the BOI issued a certificate of registration1 to BPC as a pioneer enterprise entitled to a tax holiday for a period of six (6) years. The construction of the power station in respondent Batangas City was then completed. BPC operated the station.

On October 12, 1998, Batangas City (the city, for brevity), thru its legal officer Teodulfo A. Deguito, sent a letter to BPC demanding payment of business taxes and penalties, commencing from the year 1994 as provided under Ordinance XI or the 1992 Batangas City Tax Code.2 BPC refused to pay, citing its tax-exempt status as a pioneer enterprise for six (6) years under Section 133 (g) of the Local Government Code (LGC).3

On April 15, 1999, city treasurer Benjamin S. Pargas modified the city’s tax claim4 and demanded payment of business taxes from BPC only for the years 1998-1999. He acknowledged that BPC enjoyed a 6-year tax holiday as a pioneer industry but its tax exemption period expired on September 22, 1998, six (6) years after its registration with the BOI on September 23, 1992. The city treasurer held that thereafter BPC became liable to pay its business taxes.

BPC still refused to pay the tax. It insisted that its 6-year tax holiday commenced from the date of its commercial operation on July 16, 1993, not from the date of its BOI registration in September 1992.5 It furnished the city with a BOI letter6 wherein BOI designated July 16, 1993 as the start of BPC’s income tax holiday as BPC was not able to immediately operate due to force majeure. BPC claimed that the local tax holiday is concurrent with the income tax holiday. In the alternative, BPC asserted that the city should collect the tax from the NPC as the latter assumed responsibility for its payment under their BOT Agreement.

The matter was not put to rest. The city legal officer insisted7 that BPC’s tax holiday has already expired, while the city argued that it directed its tax claim to BPC as it is the entity doing business in the city and hence liable to pay the taxes. The city alleged that it was not privy to NPC’s assumption of BPC’s tax payment under their BOT Agreement as the only parties thereto were NPC and BPC.

BPC adamantly refused to pay the tax claims and reiterated its position.8 The city was likewise unyielding on its stand.9 On August 26, 1999, the NPC intervened.10 While admitting assumption of BPC’s tax obligations under their BOT Agreement, NPC refused to pay BPC’s business tax as it allegedly constituted an indirect tax on NPC which is a tax-exempt corporation under its Charter.11

In view of the deadlock, BPC filed a petition for declaratory relief12

On February 23, 2000, while the case was still pending, the city refused to issue a permit to BPC for the operation of its business unless it paid the assessed business taxes amounting to close to ₱29M.

In view of this supervening event, BPC, whose principal office is in Makati City, filed a supplemental petition1314

On February 27, 2002, the Makati RTC dismissed the petition for injunction. It held that: (1) BPC is liable to pay business taxes to the city; (2) NPC’s tax exemption was withdrawn with the passage of R.A. No. 7160 (The Local Government Code); and, (3) the 6-year tax holiday granted to pioneer business enterprises starts on the date of registration with the BOI as provided in Section 133 (g) of R.A. No. 7160, and not on the date of its actual business operations.15

BPC and NPC filed with this Court a petition for review on certiorari1617

In G.R. No. 152771, the NPC contends:

I

RESPONDENT COURT ACTED WITH GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION AMOUNTING TO LACK OR EXCESS OF JURISDICTION WHEN IT ARBITRARILY AND CAPRICIOUSLY RULED THAT PETITIONER NPC HAS LOST ITS TAX EXEMPTION PRIVILEGE BECAUSE SECTION 193 OF R.A. 7160 (LOCAL GOVERNMENT CODE) HAS WITHDRAWN SUCH PRIVILEGE DESPITE THE SETTLED JURISPRUDENCE THAT THE ENACTMENT OF A LEGISLATION, WHICH IS A GENERAL LAW, CANNOT REPEAL A SPECIAL LAW AND THAT SECTION 13 OF R.A. 6395 (NPC LAW) WAS NOT SPECIFICALLY MENTIONED IN THE REPEALING CLAUSE IN SECTION 534 OF R.A. 7160, AMONG OTHERS.

II

RESPONDENT COURT ACTED WITH GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION AMOUNTING TO LACK OR EXCESS OF JURISDICTION WHEN IT ARBITRARILY AND CAPRICIOUSLY OMITTED THE CLEAR PROVISION OF SECTION 133, PARAGRAPH (O) OF R.A. 7160 WHICH EXEMPTS "NATIONAL GOVERNMENT, ITS AGENCIES AND INSTRUMENTALITIES" FROM THE IMPOSITION OF "TAXES, FEES OR CHARGES OF ANY KIND."

III

RESPONDENT COURT ACTED WITH GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION AMOUNTING TO LACK OR EXCESS OF JURISDICTION WHEN IT ERRONEOUSLY AND CAPRICIOUSLY ADMITTED BPC’s SUPPLEMENTAL PETITION FOR INJUNCTION NOTWITHSTANDING THAT IT HAD NO JURISDICTION OVER THE PARTY (CITY GOVERNMENT OF BATANGAS) SOUGHT TO BE ENJOINED.

In G.R. No. 152675, BPC also contends that the trial court erred: 1) in holding it liable for payment of business taxes even if it is undisputed that NPC has already assumed payment thereof; and, 2) in ruling that BPC’s 6-year tax holiday commenced on the date of its registration with the BOI as a pioneer enterprise.

The issues for resolution are:

1. whether BPC’s 6-year tax holiday commenced on the date of its BOI registration as a pioneer enterprise or on the date of its actual commercial operation as certified by the BOI;

2. whether the trial court had jurisdiction over the petition for injunction against Batangas City; and,

3. whether NPC’s tax exemption privileges under its Charter were withdrawn by Section 193 of the Local Government Code (LGC).

We find no merit in the petition.

On the first issue, petitioners BPC and NPC contend that contrary to the impugned decision, BPC’s 6-year tax holiday should commence on the date of its actual commercial operations as certified to by the BOI, not on the date of its BOI registration.

We disagree. Sec. 133 (g) of the LGC, which proscribes local government units (LGUs) from levying taxes on BOI-certified pioneer enterprises for a period of six years from the date of registration, applies specifically to taxes imposed by the local government, like the business tax imposed by Batangas City on BPC in the case at bar. Reliance of BPC on the provision of Executive Order No. 226,18six-year tax holiday provided therein which commences from the date of commercial operation refers to income taxes imposed by the national government on BOI-registered pioneer firms. Clearly, it is the provision of the Local Government Code that should apply to the tax claim of Batangas City against the BPC. The 6-year tax exemption of BPC should thus commence from the date of BPC’s registration with the BOI on July 16, 1993 and end on July 15, 1999.

Anent the second issue, the records disclose that petitioner NPC did not oppose BPC’s conversion of the petition for declaratory relief to a petition for injunction or raise the issue of the alleged lack of jurisdiction of the Makati RTC over the petition for injunction before said court. Hence, NPC is estopped from raising said issue before us. The fundamental rule is that a party cannot be allowed to participate in a judicial proceeding, submit the case for decision, accept the judgment only if it is favorable to him but attack the jurisdiction of the court when it is adverse.19

Finally, on the third issue, petitioners insist that NPC’s exemption from all taxes under its Charter had not been repealed by the LGC. They argue that NPC’s Charter is a special law which cannot be impliedly repealed by a general and later legislation like the LGC. They likewise anchor their claim of tax-exemption on Section 133 (o) of the LGC which exempts government instrumentalities, such as the NPC, from taxes imposed by local government units (LGUs), citing in support thereof the case of Basco v. PAGCOR.20

We find no merit in these contentions. The effect of the LGC on the tax exemption privileges of the NPC has already been extensively discussed and settled in the recent case of National Power Corporation v. City of Cabanatuan.21 In said case, this Court recognizedremoval of the blanket exclusion of government instrumentalities from local taxation as one of the most significant provisions of the 1991 LGC. Specifically, we stressed that Section 193 of the LGC,22withdrew the sweeping tax privileges previously enjoyed by the NPC under its Charter. We explained the rationale for this provision, thus:

In recent years, the increasing social challenges of the times expanded the scope of state activity, and taxation has become a tool to realize social justice and the equitable distribution of wealth, economic progress and the protection of local industries as well as public welfare and similar objectives. Taxation assumes even greater significance with the ratification of the 1987 Constitution. Thenceforth, the power to tax is no longer vested exclusively on Congress; local legislative bodies are now given direct authority to levy taxes, fees and other charges pursuant to Article X, section 5 of the 1987 Constitution, viz:

Section 5.- Each Local Government unit shall have the power to create its own sources of revenue, to levy taxes, fees and charges subject to such guidelines and limitations as the Congress may provide, consistent with the basic policy of local autonomy. Such taxes, fees and charges shall accrue exclusively to the Local Governments.

This paradigm shift results from the realization that genuine development can be achieved only by strengthening local autonomy and promoting decentralization of governance. For a long time, the country’s highly centralized government structure has bred a culture of dependence among local government leaders upon the national leadership. It has also "dampened the spirit of initiative, innovation and imaginative resilience in matters of local development on the part of local government leaders. The only way to shatter this culture of dependence is to give the LGUs a wider role in the delivery of basic services, and confer them sufficient powers to generate their own sources for the purpose. To achieve this goal, x x x the 1987 Constitution mandates Congress to enact a local government code that will, consistent with the basic policy of local autonomy, set the guidelines and limitations to this grant of taxing powers x x x."

To recall, prior to the enactment of the x x x Local Government Code x x x, various measures have been enacted to promote local autonomy. x x x Despite these initiatives, however, the shackles of dependence on the national government remained. Local government units were faced with the same problems that hamper their capabilities to participate effectively in the national development efforts, among which are: (a) inadequate tax base, (b) lack of fiscal control over external sources of income, (c) limited authority to prioritize and approve development projects, (d) heavy dependence on external sources of income, and (e) limited supervisory control over personnel of national line agencies.

Considered as the most revolutionary piece of legislation on local autonomy, the LGC effectively deals with the fiscal constraints faced by LGUs. It widens the tax base of LGUs to include taxes which were prohibited by previous laws x x x.

Neither can the NPC successfully rely on the Basco case23

Consequently, when NPC assumed the tax liabilities of the BPC under their 1992 BOT Agreement, the LGC which removed NPC’s tax exemption privileges had already been in effect for six (6) months. Thus, while BPC remains to be the entity doing business in said city, it is the NPC that is ultimately liable to pay said taxes under the provisions of both the 1992 BOT Agreement and the 1991 Local Government Code.

IN VIEW WHEREOF, the petitions are DISMISSED. No costs.

SO ORDERED.

Quisumbing, Austria-Martinez, Callejo, Sr., and Tinga, JJ., concur.

Footnotes

1 G.R. No. 152771 Rollo, p. 66.

2 In the amount of ₱34, 551, 543.96; G.R. No. 152675 Rollo, p. 60.

3 Republic Act No. 7160 which took effect on January 1, 1992; See letter of BPC President Miguel T. Gaffud, Jr.; G.R. No. 152675 Rollo, p. 61.

4 Amount of business tax assessed was lowered to ₱28, 689, 732.41 as of July 1999, based on the gross receipt of every preceding year; G.R. No. 152675 Rollo, p. 62.

5 See BPC Letter, G.R. No. 152675 Rollo, p. 63.

6 G.R. No. 152771 Rollo, p. 67; BOI cited Article 7 (14) of Executive Order 226 to support its decision to designate a later date.

7 G.R. No. 152675 Rollo, p. 64.

8 BPC Letter, dated July 21, 1999; G.R. No. 152675 Rollo, pp. 65-66.

9 See Letter of City Legal Officer; G.R. No. 152675 Rollo, p. 67.

10 See Letter of NPC OIC Comie P. Doromal, G.R. No. 152675 Rollo, pp. 68-70.

11 Under Section 13, Republic Act No. 6395, as amended.

12 Docketed as Civil Case No. 00-205 and raffled to RTC Branch 66, Makati City, presided by public respondent Judge Ricardo R. Rosario; G.R. No. 152771 Rollo, pp. 58-65.

13 G.R. No. 152771 Rollo, pp. 89-94.

14 G.R. No. 152771 Rollo, pp. 97-99.

15 Decision, id., pp. 49-57.

16 Docketed as G.R. No. 152675.

17 October 2, 2002 Resolution, G.R. No. 152771 Rollo, p. 130.

18 Otherwise known as the 1987 Omnibus Investment Code, as amended in 1995 by Republic Act No. 7918.

19 Roxas vs. Court of Appeals, 391 SCRA 351 (2002).

20 197 SCRA 51 (1991).

21 Promulgated April 9, 2003, G.R. No. 149110.

22 "Sec. 193. Withdrawal of Tax Exemption Privileges. - Unless otherwise provided in this Code, tax exemptions or incentives granted to, or presently enjoyed by all persons, whether natural or juridical, including government-owned or controlled corporations, except local water districts, cooperatives duly registered under R.A. No. 6938, non-stock and non-profit hospitals and educational institutions, are hereby withdrawn upon the effectivity of this Code."

Section 534, the repealing clause of the LGC, also states that all general and special laws, acts, city charters, decrees, executive orders, proclamations and administrative regulations or parts thereof inconsistent with the provisions of this Code are repealed or modified accordingly.

23 Supra.

G.R. No. 152675 Batangas Power Corporation vs. Batangas City, et al. (2024)
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