Difference Between General Law and Special Law

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Legal Notes
Conflict between special and general law
By Judge Gabriel T. Ingles
Cebu Daily News First Posted 11:59:00 10/12/2007 Filed Under: Laws • [pic]Reprint this article
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Vinzons-Chato vs. Fortune Tobacco Corporation, G.R. No. 141309, June 19, 2007 - A general statute is one which embraces a class of subjects or places and does not omit any subject or place naturally belonging to such class. A special statute, as the term is generally understood, is one which relates to particular persons or things of a class or to a particular portion or section of the state only.

A general law and a special law on the same subject are statutes in pari materia and should, accordingly, be read together and harmonized, if possible, with a view to giving effect to both. The rule is that where there are two acts, one of which is special and particular and the other general which, if standing alone, would include the same matter and thus conflict with the special act, the special law must prevail since it evinces the legislative intent more clearly than that of a general statute and must not be taken as intended to affect the more particular and specific provisions of the earlier act, unless it is absolutely necessary so to construe it in order to give its words any meaning at all.

The circumstance that the special law is passed before or after the general act does not change the principle. Where the special law is later, it will be regarded as an exception to, or a qualification of, the prior general act; and where the general act is later, the special statute will be construed as remaining an exception to its terms, unless repealed expressly or by necessary implication. 22

Thus, in City of Manila v. Teotico, the Court held that Article 2189 of the Civil Code which holds provinces, cities, and municipalities civilly liable for death or injuries by reason of defective conditions of roads and other public works, is a special provision and should prevail over Section 4 of Republic Act No. 409, the Charter of Manila, in determining the liability for defective street conditions. Under said Charter, the city shall not be held for damages or injuries arising from the failure of the local officials to enforce the provision of the charter, law, or ordinance, or from negligence while enforcing or attempting to enforce the same. As explained by the Court:

Manila maintains that the former provision should prevail over the latter, because Republic Act 409 is a special law, intended exclusively for the City of Manila, whereas the Civil Code is a general law, applicable to the entire Philippines.

The Court of Appeals, however, applied the Civil Code, and, we think, correctly. It is true that, insofar as its territorial application is concerned, Republic Act No. 409 is a special law and the Civil Code a general legislation; but, as regards the subject matter of the provisions above quoted, Section 4 of Republic Act 409 establishes a general rule regulating the liability of the City of Manila for ?damages or injury to persons or property arising from the failure of? city officers ?to enforce the provisions of? said Act ?or any other law or ordinance, or from negligence? of the city ?Mayor, Municipal Board, or other officers while enforcing or attempting to enforce said provisions.? Upon the other hand, Article 2189 of the Civil Code...
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