'No action' yet on transport groups' TRO petition vs. 'no contact apprehension' policy

Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 16 2022 08:51 PM

MANILA — The Supreme Court has yet to act on a petition filed by transport groups seeking to stop the implementation of the “no contact apprehension” policy of the Land Transportation Office (LTO) and some local government units in Metro Manila.

“No action yet on the prayer for TRO (temporary restraining order),” Supreme Court spokesperson Brian Keith Hosaka told reporters in a message Tuesday.

He earlier confirmed the filing of a petition for certiorari with an application for a TRO on August 3 by transport groups Kilusan sa Pagbabago ng Industriya ng Transportasyon, Inc. (KAPIT), Pangkalahatang Sanggunian Manila & Suburbs Drivers Association Nationwide, Inc. (Pasang Masda), Alliance of Transport Operators and Drivers Association of the Philippines (ALTOCAP) and Alliance of Concerned Transport Organization (ACTO).

Named as respondents in the petition were the LTO and the LGUs of Manila, Quezon City, Valenzuela, Parañaque City and Muntinlupa City.

The transport groups challenge the issuance of 7 ordinances issued between 2016 and 2021 which, they said, would allow traffic enforcers to apprehend motorists without citing which specific provision of the Land Transportation and Traffic Code (RA 4136) they allegedly violated.

Under these ordinances, the citations for traffic violations are sent to the registered owners of the apprehended motor vehicles, who are considered primarily liable for the commission of traffic violations.

The failure to pay the fine or penalty will bar the renewal of the LTO registration of the vehicle.

But according to the transport groups, there is no law passed by Congress that creates a “no contact apprehension” policy.

The policy, they said, contradicts the Land Transportation and Traffic Code which supposedly mandates face-to-face apprehension and imposes liability on the erring driver, not the registered owner.

They cited section 29 of the law which allows confiscation of the driver’s license as basis that it is the driver who should be held liable for traffic violations.

Section 62 of the same law prohibits provincial boards, city or municipal boards or councils from passing ordinances in conflict with the law.

“Under RA 4136, it is clear that only face to face apprehensions for traffic violations are contemplated and there is no provision that makes the registered owner liable for traffic violations of the erring driver,” the petition said.

“In applying the mandate of Sec. 62, R.A. No. 4136, the Local Government Units through their city councils are thereby not allowed and in fact are prohibited from enacting or enforcing ordinances which are in direct conflict with the provisions of said Act,” it added.

Transport groups also questioned the automatic suspension of vehicle registration for non-payment of a single traffic violation.

They claimed the policy violates their right to due process because a motorist is “deprived of the benefit of proximity in time to the alleged occurrence of a purported traffic offense, when events and circumstances are still easily recalled, aiding any advocacy to prove innocence, as it would during a face-to-face apprehension.”

The policy also allegedly shifts the burden to the registered owner to prove that there was no violation and creates a presumption of liability of the registered owner.

“[T]he No Physical Contact Policy, where the very picture alone is the proof of the violation, shifts the burden of proof to the registered owner, even though in administrative proceedings, ‘complainants carry the burden of proving their allegations with substantial evidece or such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind will accept as adequate to support a conclusion,” the petition said.

In asking for a TRO, the transport groups claimed “unquantifiable damage and prejudice” on the part of drivers and transport workers, particularly those operating public utility vehicles, because they supposedly remain under constant threat of not being able to register their motor vehicles and impounding.

“Once a vehicle is not registered, it cannot be used. If it cannot be used, drivers and other public transport workers whose livelihood is dependent on the operation of the vehicle, will be deprived of their right to earn a living,” they argued.

Although Supreme Court magistrates did not issue a TRO, they required respondents to file their respective comments within 10 days, Hosaka said.