Seng Kee & Co. v. Earnshaw, et al.

G.R. No. L-34976
Download Judgment: English

Petitioner Seng Kee & Co. owned a toyo factory in Manila. The manufacture of toyo involved fermenting beans, adding brown sugar, and then cooking the mixture over a slow fire for several hours. During fermentation, the beans were laid out for several days and the fermented beans and the presence of vast quantities of coarse brown sugar drew flies, cockroaches, and other insects to the area. The smoke from the slow-fire process was “a nuisance and injurious to the lungs.” The factory was located in a highly populated area.

Sections 120, 121, and 122 of the Revised Ordinances of the City of Manila divided Manila into two zones, residential and industrial. Industries deemed to be noxious could only be located in the industrial zone. As a result of complaints, a few years later, Ordinance No. 1287 was passed by the Manila municipal board and the manufacture of toyo was included in the classification of noxious industries. Ordinance No. 1287 was amended again a few years later and in 1927 both ordinances were embodied in sections 1067 and 1068 of the Revised Ordinances.

Seng Kee & Co. had established their toyo factory before the Revised Ordinances were passed and was located in what was deemed a residential zone. As such, the Petitioner’s licence was not renewed, and the Petitioner was asked to move the factory and operations to a location within the industrial zone.  When Petitioner refused to comply, they were charged with violation of municipal ordinances.

The Petitioner alleged that Sections 120, 121, 122, 1067 and 1068 of the Revised Ordinances were unconstitutional, because they exceeded the City’s legislative powers and deprived owners of their property without just compensation. They also challenged the classification of toyo manufacturing as a noxious industry. The Court of First Instances of Manila held those provisions of the Revised Ordinances valid. The Petitioner appealed.

The Court first rejected the Petitioner’s challenge on the facts, finding that there was no error in classifying toyo as a noxious industry. In the Court’s opinion, expert testimony and personal inspection by the trial judge clearly established that the toyo factory gave off strong odours and attracted vermin. The Court also rejected the Petitioner’s attempt to have certain items of expert testimony struck out from the record.

The Court then held that Sections 120, 121, 122, 1067, and 1068 of the Revised of Ordinances, No. 1600 of the City of Manila were constitutional. The power of the City of Manila to adopt ordinances for public health was derived from sections 1019 and 1020 (g) of the Administrative Code. Such provisions were therefore created under authority which flowed from the legislature’s inherent police power. Furthermore, the provisions did not deprive the Petitioner of property, but merely restricted their use.  As such, the Court held the provisions constitutional, and dismissed the appeal.

“There can be no doubt that the City of Manila has the power to divide its territory into residential and industrial zones, and to prescribe that offensive and unwholesome trades and occupations are to be established exclusively in the latter zone.”

“Likewise, it cannot be denied that the City of Manila has the authority of forbidding the appellant to continue the manufacture of toyo in the zone where it is now situated, which has been declared residential, without providing for any compensation; these provisions of the Revised Ordinances do not in fact deprive Manila residents of their property without just compensation, for it deprives then neither of the ownership nor of the possession thereof, but simply restricts them from the use of such property at certain places for the goods of the majority of inhabitants.”