G.R. No. L-45987 May 5, 1939


FACTS: Prosecuted for violation of Act No. 1639 (secs. 2 and 3), the accused, Cayat, a native of Baguio, Benguet, Mountain Province, was sentenced by the justice of the peace court of Baguio to pay a fine of five pesos (P5) or suffer subsidiary imprisonment in case of insolvency.
On appeal of the Court of First Instance, the following information was filed against him:

That on or about the 25th day of January, 1937, in the City of Baguio, Commonwealth of the Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this court, the above-named accused, Cayat, being a member of the non-Christian tribes, did then and there willfully, unlawfully, and illegally receive, acquire, and have in his possession and under his control or custody, one bottle of A-1-1 gin, an intoxicating liquor, other than the so-called native wines and liquors which the members of such tribes have been accustomed themselves to make prior to the passage of Act No. 1639.

Accused interposed a demurrer which was overruled. At the trial, he admitted all the facts alleged in the information, but pleaded not guilty to the charge for the reasons adduced in his demurrer and submitted the case on the pleadings.
The trial court found him guilty of the crime charged and sentenced him to pay a fine of fifty pesos (P50) or supper subsidiary imprisonment in case of insolvency. The case is now before this court on appeal.
Sections 2 and 3 of Act No. 1639 read:

SEC. 2. It shall be unlawful for any native of the Philippine Islands who is a member of a non-Christian tribe within the meaning of the Act Numbered Thirteen hundred and ninety-seven, to buy, receive, have in his possession, or drink any ardent spirits, ale, beer, wine, or intoxicating liquors of any kind, other than the so-called native wines and liquors which the members of such tribes have been accustomed themselves to make prior to the passage of this Act, except as provided in section one hereof; and it shall be the duty of any police officer or other duly authorized agent of the Insular or any provincial, municipal or township government to seize and forthwith destroy any such liquors found unlawfully in the possession of any member of a non-Christian tribe.
SEC. 3. Any person violating the provisions of section one or section two of this Act shall, upon conviction thereof, be punishable for each offense by a fine of not exceeding two hundred pesos or by imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months, in the discretion of the court.
The accused challenges the constitutionality of the Act on the following grounds:
(1) That it is discriminatory and denies the equal protection of the laws;
(2) That it is violative of the due process clause of the Constitution: and.
(3) That it is improper exercise of the police power of the state.
Counsel for the appellant holds out his brief as the “brief for the non-Christian tribes.” It is said that as these less civilized elements of the Filipino population are “jealous of their rights in a democracy,” any attempt to treat them with discrimination or “mark them as inferior or less capable rate or less entitled” will meet with their instant challenge.

ISSUE: WON the disputed legislative act is unconstitutional?



It is an established principle of constitutional law that the guaranty of the equal protection of the laws is not equal protection of the laws is not violated by a legislation based on reasonable classification. And the classification, to be reasonable, (1) must rest on substantial distinctions; (2) must be germane to the purposes of the law; (3) must not be limited to existing conditions only; and (4) must apply equally to all members of the same class. (Borgnis vs. Falk Co., 133 N.W., 209; Lindsley vs. Natural Carbonic Gas Co., 220 U.S. 61; 55 Law. ed., Rubi vs. Provincial Board of Mindoro, 39 Phil., 660; People and Hongkong & Shanghai Banking Corporation vs. Vera and Cu Unjieng, 37 Off. Gaz ., 187.)
Act No. 1639 satisfies these requirements. The classification rests on real and substantial, not merely imaginary or whimsical, distinctions. It is not based upon “accident of birth or parentage,” as counsel to the appellant asserts, but upon the degree of civilization and culture.


Neither is the Act an improper exercise of the police power of the state. It has been said that the police power is the most insistent and least limitable of all powers of the government.
It has been aptly described as a power co-extensive with self-protection and constitutes the law of overruling necessity. Any measure intended to promote the health, peace, morals, education and good order of the people or to increase the industries of the state, develop its resources and add to its wealth and prosperity (Barbier vs. Connolly, 113 U.S., 27), is a legitimate exercise of the police power, unless shown to be whimsical or capricious as to unduly interfere with the rights of an individual, the same must be upheld.

And to complement this policy of attraction and assimilation, the Legislature has passed Act No. 1639 undoubtedly to secure for them the blessings of peace and harmony; to facilitate, and not to mar, their rapid and steady march to civilization and culture. It is, therefore, in this light that the Act must be understood and applied. .,” is unquestionably designed to insure peace and order in and among the non-Christian tribes. It has been the sad experience of the past, as the observations of the lower court disclose, that the free use of highly intoxicating liquors by the non-Christian tribes have often resulted in lawlessness and crimes, thereby hampering the efforts of the government to raise their standard of life and civilization.

And, if in the application of the law, the educated non-Christians shall incidentally suffer, the justification still exists in the all-comprehending principle of salus populi suprema est lex.

• As early as 1551, the Spanish Government had assumed an unvarying solicitous attitude toward these inhabitants, and in the different laws of the Indies, their concentration in so-called “reducciones” (communities) have been persistently attempted with the end in view of according them the “spiritual and temporal benefits” of civilized life.

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