The Iloilo Ice and Cold Storage Company v. Public Utility Board (G.R. No. L-19857)

Facts:

Petitioner maintains and operates a plant for the manufacture and sale of ice in the City of Iloilo. The business of petitioner has been carried on with selected customers only. Sec of Public Utility Commission upon investigation reported that petitioner should be considered a public utility. Petitioner alleges that it is and has always been operating as a private enterprise.

Issue:

Whether or not petitioner is a public utility.

Ruling: NO.

The criterion by which to judge of the character of the use is whether the public may enjoy it by right or only by permission. The essential feature of a public use is that it is not confined to privileged individuals, but is open to the indefinite public. The use is public if all persons have the right to the use under the same circumstances. If the company did in truth sell ice to all persons seeking its service, it would be a public utility. But if on the other hand, it was organized solely for particular persons under strictly private contracts, and never was devoted by its owners to public use, it could not be held to be a public utility without violating the due process of law clause of the Constitution. And the apparent and continued purpose of the Iloilo Ice and Storage Company has been, and is, to remain a private enterprise and to avoid submitting to the Public Utility law.

“Public use” means the same as “use by the public.” The essential feature of the public use is that it is not confined to privileged individuals, but is open to the indefinite public. It is this indefinite or unrestricted quality that gives it its public character. In determining whether a use is public, we must look not only to the character of the business to be done, but also to the proposed mode of doing it. If the use is merely optional with the owners, or the public benefit is merely incidental, it is not a public use, authorizing the exercise of the jurisdiction of the public utility commission. There must be, in general, a right which the law compels the owner to give to the general public. It is not enough that the general prosperity of the public is promoted. Public use is not synonymous with public interest. The true criterion by which to judge of the character of the use is whether the public may enjoy it by right or only by permission.

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