Guideposts on Cockfighting in the Philippines: Local Government Units' Power to Regulate Cockfighting

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GUIDEPOSTS ON COCKFIGHTING IN THE PHILIPPINES:
Local Government Units' Power to Regulate Cockfighting

I.

As early as 1901, cockfighting was already recognized as an activity that needed to be regulated. Under Section 40 of Act No. 82, the municipal council was empowered to “license, tax or close cockpits.”

II.

In the 1930s, the Supreme Court thru Justice Villamor said that granting that the policy of the Government is to do away with gambling little by little, with special reference to cockpits, the Legislature has delegated its power over this matter to the municipal council, conferring upon it ample discretion to legislate upon the same, i.e. to regulate or prohibit cockpits.

Such power was referred in the Administrative Code as one of the “certain legislative powers of discretionary character”.

(Sec. 2243. Certain legislative powers of discretionary character:

x x xx x xx x x

(i) to regulate cockpits, cockfighting and the keeping or training of fighting cocks, or prohibit either.)

Furthermore, in the said case, the Supreme Court said that the municipal council of Dumaguete, Negros Oriental has used its sound discretion in enacting an ordinance for the opening of cockpits within the limits of its jurisdiction. It said that the municipal council is the best judge of such matters and in the exercise of its discretion, it is not subject to the power of the provincial board to revoke its local legislation because the provincial board only has jurisdiction to hold an ordinance invalid when it has been enacted beyond the powers expressly conferred upon the municipal council.

In another case (October 21, 1939), the Supreme Court thru Chief Justice Avanceña affirmed such power of the municipal council in a case involving the municipality of Tanauan, Leyte. It said that the municipal council is granted by law with the discretion to regulate or prohibit cockpits.

Discretionary power is defined as the authority granted by the law to a head of state or government or other high official to act on his own discretion. It is also exercised by administrative and legislative bodies. When discretionary power is alloted or given to an official or body, they are expressly authorized to make a decision on their own and to use their own wisdom and judgment. The related noun discretion means "choice or option." It is also referred to as a prerogative.

The official or body which exercises that power has the right of choice which he may exercise freely according to his judgment. deciding for himself who is best qualified among those who have the necessary qualifications and eligibilities. It is a prerogative of such official or body. III.

The power of the municipal council to regulate and license or prohibit or close cockpits was continued to be recognized even after the establishment of the Philippine Republic in 1946. (Sec. 1, Republic Act No. 938 entitled “An Act Granting Municipal or City Boards and Councils the Power to Regulate the Establishment, Maintenance and Operation of Certain Places of Amusement Within Their Respective Territorial Jurisdictions, June 20, 1953, and Par. (s), Section 1, Republic Act No. 1515 entitled “An Act Providing for a More Autonomous Government for Municipal Districts, Amending for the Purpose Article Six, Chapter Sixty-Four of the Administrative Code, June 16, 1956)

IV.

On May 17, 1955, Republic Act No. 1224 (An Act Amending Section One of Republic Act Numbered Nine Hundred Thirty-Eight, as Amended) was passed which sought to impose restrictions on the establishment of most places of amusement near public buildings, schools, hospitals and churches. Interestingly, cockpits were exempted from these restrictions.

Section 1 of R.A. 1224 states:

“The municipal or city board or council of each chartered city and the municipal council of each municipality and municipal district shall have the power to regulate or prohibit by ordinance the...
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