In third world countries like the Philippines, equal justice will have asynthetic ring unless the economic rights of the people, especially the poor, areprotected with the same resoluteness as their right to liberty. The cases at bar are of utmost significance for they concern the right of our people to electricity and to bereasonably charged for their consumption. In configuring the contours of thiseconomic right to a basic necessity of life, the Court shall define the limits of thepower of respondent MERALCO, a giant public utility and a monopoly, to charge ourpeople for their electric consumption. The question is: should public interest prevailover private profits?X x x The regulation of rates to be charged by public utilities is founded upon thepolice power of the State and statutes prescribing rules for the control andregulations of public utilities are a valid exercise thereof. When private property isused for a public purpose and is affected with public interest, it ceases to be
only and becomes subject to regulation. The regulation is to promote thecommon good. Submission to regulation may be withdrawn by the owner bydiscontinuing use; but as long as the use of the property is continued, the same issubject to public regulation
(Munn v. People of the State of Illinois, 94 U.S. 113, 126).
In regulating rates charged by public utilities, the State protects the publicagainst arbitrary and excessive rates while maintaining the efficiency and quality of services rendered. However, the power to regulate rates does not give the State theright to prescribe rates which are so low as to deprive the public utility of areasonable return on investment.
Thus, the rates prescribed by the State mustbe one that yields a fair return on the public utility upon the value of theproperty performing the service and one that is reasonable to the public forthe service rendered
(IV A.F. Agbayani, Commentaries and Jurisprudence on theCommercial Laws of the Philippines 500 ).
The fixing of just and reasonablerates involves a
of the investor and the consumer interests
(FederalPower Commission v. Hope Natural Gas Co., 320 U.S. 591).
In his famous dissenting opinion in the 1923 case of
Southwestern Bell Tel.Co. v. Public Service Commission (262 U.S. 290-291, 43 S. Ct. 544, 547 )
, Mr. Justice Brandeis wrote:“The thing devoted by the investor to the public use is not specificproperty, tangible and intangible, but capital embarked in an enterprise.Upon the capital so invested, the Federal Constitution guarantees to the utilitythe opportunity to earn a
x x x. The Constitution does notguarantee to the utility the opportunity to earn a return on the value of allitems of property used by the utility, or of any of them.X x x The investor agrees, by embarking capital in a utility, that its
chargesto the public shall be reasonable. His company is the substitute forthe State in the performance of the public service, thus becoming apublic servant.
The compensation which the Constitution guarantees anopportunity to earn is the reasonable cost of conducting the business.”
(Republic of the Philippines v. Manila Electric Company, G.R. No. 141314,Nov. 15, 2002, 3
4. Discuss the “Void for Vagueness” Doctrine, and why is itrepugnant to the Constitution. Distinguish a “perfectly vague act” from“legislation couched in imprecise language.”Held:
Due process requires that the terms of a penal statute must besufficiently explicit to inform those who are subject to it what conduct on their partwill render them liable to its penalties
(Connally v. General Construction Co., 269 US385, 70 L Ed 322 46 S Ct 126 )
. A criminal statute that “fails to give a personof ordinary intelligence fair notice that his contemplated conduct is forbidden by thestatute,” or is so indefinite that “it encourages arbitrary and erratic arrests andconvictions,” is void for vagueness
(Colautti v. Franklin, 439 US 379, 58 L Ed 2d 596,99 S Ct 675 ).
The constitutional vice in a vague or indefinite statute is the