The concept of “general welfare” is most prominent in the Local Government Code of 1991 (RA 7160) specifically contained in Section 16. “Every local government unit shall
exercise the powers expressly granted, those necessarily implied therefrom, as well as powers necessary, appropriate, or incidental for its efficient and effective governance, and those which are essential to the promotion of the general welfare.
Within their respective territorial jurisdictions, local government units shall ensure and support, among other things, the preservation and enrichment of culture, promote health and safety, enhance the right of the people to a balanced ecology, encourage and support the development of appropriate and self-reliant scientific and technological capabilities, improve public morals, enhance economic prosperity and social justice, promote full employment among their residents, maintain peace and order, and preserve the comfort and convenience of their inhabitants.”
In other words, the very purments is for the promotion of the “general welfare”. Many national government functions
were devolved to local government units upon the implementation of the Local Government Code because of the principle that those who are closer to the people are in the best position to know and respond to their needs.
It can be said that the promotion of the general welfare is the very essence of the local governments.
The promotion of the general welfare flows from one of the inherent powers of the state: Police power. The famous case of SJS vs. Atienza (G.R. No. 156052 February 13, 2008) involved an ordinance which relocated the Pandacan Oil Depot by the City of Manila.
The City of Manila found that the oil depot poses danger because of its proximity to the Malacanan Palace and to dense residential area. An attack on the facility containing a
large quantity of combustible liquid will surely put a large number of lives in great peril.
It is for this reason that the City Council passed a Zoning Ordinance (Ordinance No. 8027) which classified the area where the depot is located as “commercial” from “industrial”.
This move by the City of Manila was questioned by the affected companies and considered it as “unfair and oppressive as it does not only regulate but also absolutely prohibits them from conducting operations in the City of Manila”.
The Supreme Court in that case said: “Ordinance No. 8027 was passed by the Sangguniang Panlungsod of Manila in the exercise of its police power. Police power is the plenary power vested in the legislature to make statutes and ordinances to promote the health, morals, peace, education, good order or safety and general welfare of the people.
This power flows from the recognition that salus populi est suprema lex (the welfare of the people is the supreme law). While police power rests primarily with the national legislature, such power may be delegated.
The Supreme Court upheld the power of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan to enact the Zoning Ordinance as a valid exercise of police power. The ordinance has taken into serious consideration the welfare of the residents who might be harmed should the depot explode, cause conflagration, by reason of an accident or an attack.
This SC decision once again upheld the autonomy of local government units and its power to legislate for the welfare of its constituents. The High Court also in this decision declared that the Department of Energy which is a under the
President, cannot exercise control over LGUs. The President is only granted the power of “general supervision” (Sec. 4, Art. 10 Philippine Constitution) which is not synonymous to the power of “control”.
Supervision involves the power to oversee and make sure the subordinate performs its functions under the law. The DOE being merely an alter-ego of the President cannot exercise a power greater than that of the latter.