THE Supreme Court on Tuesday decided to indefinitely enjoin the implementation of the no-contact apprehension (NCAP) program being implemented by several local government units (LGUs) in Metro Manila on erring motorists.
SC Public Information Office (PIO) chief and spokesman Brian Keith Hosaka said the Court, at its regular en banc session, issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) against NCAP which had been the object of public outcry for allegedly being unconstitutional and oppressive.
The TRO also covers ordinances issued by local government units to implement the NCAP.
It also barred traffic authorities from making apprehensions under the NCAP programs until further orders from the Court.
“In G.R. No. 261892 (Kilusan sa Pagbabago ng Industriya ng Transportasyon, Inc. [KAPIT], et al. v. City of Manila, et al.) and G.R. No. 262192 (Atty. Paa v. Sangguniang Panglungsod ng Manila and Mayor Lacuna-Pangan), the Court resolved, and without necessarily giving due course to the Petitions, to: Issue a TRO, effective immediately and until further orders from the Court, enjoining the Land Transportation Office and all parties acting on its behalf from giving out motorist information to all local government units, cities, and municipalities enforcing NCAP programs and ordinances,” the SC said.
The TRO stemmed from the consolidated petitions filed by several transport groups such as the Kilusan sa Pagbabago ng Industriya ng Transportasyon Inc. (KAPIT), Pangkalahatang Sangguniang Manila and Suburbs Drivers Association Nationwide (Pasang-Masda), Alliance of Transport Operators and Drivers Association of the Philippines (ALTODAP), and Alliance of Concerned Transport Organization (ACTO) and lawyer Juman B. Paa.
Paa’s petition questions the constitutionality of the NCAP being implemented by the Manila City government after he was forced to pay huge fines and penalties for four traffic violations (obstruction of the pedestrian lane) before he could register his vehicle.
He named the Manila City government and its Mayor Honey Lacuna-Pangan as respondents.
The Court issued the TRO two weeks after it issued an order last August 16 directing the respondents Land Transportation Office, the City of Manila, Quezon City, Valenzuela City, Parañaque City and Muntinlupa City to comment on the petitions within a non-extendible period of 10 days.
In its resolution, Hosaka said the magistrates decided to set the petitions for oral arguments on January 24, 2023 before coming up with a decision on the merit of the petitions.
It was not explained, however, why the Court would have to wait five months to hear the parties’ oral arguments on the issue.
“I do not know the reason why the case was set for hearing in January next year. However, in the meantime the TRO will be in effect,” Hosaka said.
The transport groups are questioning the legality of the implementation of NCAP, noting that it has no basis either in the Republic Act 7924 that serves as the enabling charter of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) and RA 4136 which created the LTO.
They added that the ordinances of the LGUs allowing NCAP are invalid since there are no existing laws passed by Congress that allows the implementation of such regulation.
RA 4136, according to the petitioners, allows only face-to-face apprehension of traffic violators and declares traffic violations as a liability of the erring drivers and not the registered owners.
The petitioners are also complaining against the unreasonable provisions of the NCAP that include non-renewal of the vehicle registration until such time that the fines are settled, and for including innocent third persons liable for traffic violations.
Paa, on the other hand, said Manila’s NCAP should be declared unconstitutional for being violative of the motorists’ constitutional right to due process; for being oppressive and confiscatory; and for violation of privacy rights under Republic Act 10173 or the Data Privacy Act of 2012.
He noted that the NCAP lacks the technical capability to ensure that notices of violations are received by the motorists.
Paa also noted that the traffic fines and penalties being imposed by the Manila City government for obstruction of pedestrian lanes are 100 to 300 percent higher than the fines imposed by MMDA and LTO.
Furthermore, Paa said the 56-percent penalty imposed on the unpaid fines by the Manila City government is “unconscionable” compared to the legal interest of 12 percent.
He also argued that NCAP violates the provisions of Data Privacy Act of 2021 as it can be used to conduct unlawful surveillance and monitoring of people’s movements by private individuals.