Difference Between General Law and Special Law

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

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No idling ordinance a must Advertisement 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where the general act is later, the special statute will be construed as remaining an exception to its terms, unless repealed expressly or by necessary implication. 22 Thus, in City of Manila v. Teotico, the Court held that Article 2189 of the Civil Code which holds provinces, cities,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. 09, 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 constitutes a particular prescription making ? provinces, cities and municipalities . . . liable for damages for the death of, or injury suffered by, any person by reason? ? specifically ? ?of the defective condition of roads, streets, bridges, public buildings, and other public works under their control or supervision.? In other words, said section 4 refers to liability arising from negligence, in general, regardless of the object thereof, whereas Article 2189 governs liability due to ? efective streets,? in particular. Since the present action is based upon the alleged defective condition of a road, said Article 2189 is decisive thereon. In the case of Bagatsing v. Ramirez, the issue was which law should govern the publication of a tax ordinance, the City Charter of Manila, a special act which treats ordinances in general and which requires their publication before enactment and after 23 approval, or the Tax Code, a general law, which deals in particular with ? ordinances levying or imposing taxes, fees or other charges,? nd which demands publication only after approval. In holding that it is the Tax Code which should prevail, the Court elucidated that: There is no question that the Revised Charter of the City of Manila is a special act since it relates only to the City of Manila, whereas the Local Tax Code is a general law because it applies universally to all local governments. Blackstone defines general law as a universal rule affecting the entire community and special law as one relating to particular persons or things of a class.
And the rule commonly said is that a prior special law is not ordinarily repealed by a subsequent general law. The fact that one is special and the other general creates a presumption that the special is to be considered as remaining an exception of the general, one as a general law of the land, the other as the law of a particular case. However, the rule readily yields to a situation where the special statute refers to a subject in general, which the general statute treats in particular. Th[is] exactly is the circumstance obtaining in the case at bar.
Section 17 of the Revised Charter of the City of Manila speaks of ? ordinance? in general, i. e. , irrespective of the nature and scope thereof, whereas, Section 43 of the Local Tax Code relates to ? ordinances levying or imposing taxes, fees or other charges? in particular. In regard, therefore, to ordinances in general, the Revised Charter of the City of Manila is doubtless dominant, but, that dominant force loses its continuity when it approaches the realm of ? ordinances levying or imposing taxes, fees or other charges? in particular. There, the Local Tax Code controls.
Here, as always, a general provision must give way to a particular provision. Conflict Between Special and General Law Category: Persons and Family Relations Conflict Between Special and General Law What are the rules when a conflict arises between a special and a general law? 1. If the general law was enacted first, the special law is considered the exception to the general law. Therefore the general law remains a good law, and there is no repeal (Lichauco v. Apostol, 44 Phil 138), except insofar as the exception or special law is concerned.
However if there are inconsistencies with the general law it is considered as a repeal to the general law. 2. If the special law was enacted first, both special law and general law are good laws unless: a. There is an express declaration to tho contrary. b. Or the is a clear , necessary and unreconcilable conflict (Cia General v. Coll. of Customs, 46 Phil. Cool c. Or unless the subsequent general law covers the whole subject and is clearly intended to replace the special law on the matter. (Joaquin v. Navarro, 81 Phil. 373)

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