Wrong court: SC junks petitions vs MMDA provincial bus ban along EDSA

Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 03 2020 08:32 PM | Updated as of Jan 03 2020 11:30 PM

But preliminary injunction on ban still in effect

MANILA – The Supreme Court (SC) has junked petitions questioning the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority’s (MMDA) ban on bus stations along EDSA, saying the petitions should have been filed before lower courts instead.

The SC en banc dismissed 3 separate petitions filed by AKO Bicol Party-list, Albay Rep. Joey Salceda, and Bayan Muna Party-list chair Neri Colmenares and several others because they violated the high court’s doctrine of hierarchy of courts, based on excerpts of the tribunal’s December 3, 2019 resolution provided to the media on Friday.

The doctrine prohibits parties from filing a petition directly with the Supreme Court when relief may be obtained from lower courts such as the regional trial courts or the Court of Appeals.

“The logic behind this policy is grounded on the need to prevent inordinate demands upon the Court’s time and attention which are better devoted to those matters within its exclusive jurisdiction, as well as to prevent the congestion of the Court’s dockets,” it explained.

AKO Bicol Party-list filed its petition on April 29 last year while Albay Rep. Joey Salceda followed suit on May 27. The Makabayan bloc filed its own petition on June 7 questioning the legality of MMDA Regulation No. 19-002, which prohibits or revokes issuance of business permits to terminals along EDSA.

All petitioners claimed the MMDA does not have the authority to ban provincial buses along EDSA as the agency does not have legislative nor police powers, relying on a 2007 Supreme Court ruling which invalidated former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s similar directive to shut down bus terminals along EDSA in 2003.

They also questioned whether the provincial bus ban will effectively address traffic congestion.

AKO Bicol said the regulation will put its constituents from the Bicol region at a disadvantage, in reference to trips between Cubao to Bicol cities and provinces and back.

Salceda said the measure is “anti-poor” and against “probinsyanos,” or people who hail from provinces.

The Makabayan bloc, for its part, argued that the provincial bus ban does not have scientific bases and will result in “horrible” consequences on cost, convenience and safety of passengers.

All the petitioners cited different statistics to show that provincial buses constitute only a small portion of vehicles plying EDSA.

But the Supreme Court did not even look into the merits of the petition, explaining that their arguments, such as how the ban was approved and its effect on traffic congestion, require determination of facts which the high court cannot do.

“These factual questions require reception of evidence and/or hearing which must be relegated to the Court of Appeals or to the proper trial court. Verily, this Court is not a trier of facts, more so in the consideration of the extraordinary writ of certiorari where neither questions of fact nor of law are entertained, but only questions of lack or excess of jurisdiction,” it said.

Despite the dismissal of the 3 petitions, a writ of preliminary injunction against the provincial bus ban is still in place, issued by a Quezon City court on July 31, 2019.

Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 223 Judge Caridad Walse-Lutero granted the plea of bus operators to stop the implementation of Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) Memorandum Circular No. 2019-001 and the MMDA regulation.

LTFRB MC No. 2019-001 prohibits provincial buses from passing through EDSA and requires them to stop at designated endpoints.