DOJ spurns bills banning parking fees in malls

By Joel San Juan, BusinessMirror

Posted at Oct 17 2011 07:12 AM | Updated as of Oct 17 2011 07:09 PM

MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Justice (DOJ) has opposed proposed laws in the House of Representatives that would ban commercial establishments, including malls and hotels, from collecting parking fees from their patrons.

In a letter-reply to Bataan Second District Rep. Albert Garcia, chairman of the House Committee on Trade and Industry, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said the department has reservations on the constitutionality of House Bills 1841, 3233 and 3468.

She said the proposed legislations “may run counter to the established principles? governing the exercise of police power and equal protection,” considering the lack of legal basis to stop owners of business establishments from collecting parking fees.

“This might violate the equal-protection clause of the Constitution because there is no valid reason why the business of providing parking spaces for a fee may not also be undertaken by a mall or other commercial establishments, so long as this is properly regulated,” de Lima said.

De Lima also cited a Supreme Court ruling that declared unconstitutional “an ordinance stopping the issuance of business permits to nightclubs in a municipality.”

“The Supreme Court declared the ordinance unconstitutional as going beyond mere regulation into prohibition of an enterprise, which, if properly regulated, can be legitimate,” she added.

While absolute prohibition on the imposition of parking fees may be considered unconstitutional, its mere regulation could be allowed as embodied in House Bill 1837, sponsored by Marikina First District Rep. Marcelino Teodoro.Two other proposed laws—HB 2047 and 4535—have a similar purpose.

“The regulation thereof, such as in a manner proposed by House Bill 1837 [on what should be included in a parking contract between a proprietor and its/his customer], 2047 [on the possible civil liability of proprietor in case of theft of parked vehicles or items placed inside said vehicles], and 4535 [on the prohibition to collect fees by malls or similar establishments for a certain number of hours of use only] may be undertaken,” the DOJ chief said.