MANILA - The local government of Mandaluyong City should refund millions of pesos in riding-in-tandem fines after the Court of Appeals deemed the ordinance unconstitutional, the lawyer who questioned the measure said Thursday.
Dino De Leon, who was apprehended in 2019 for riding with a male driver aboard a motorcycle that he booked through a mobile app, secured a victory at the Court of Appeals as the tribunal declared unconstitutional the ordinances prohibiting male back riders for being oppressive, arbitrary and discriminatory.
In an interview with ANC's Headstart, De Leon claimed the city government collected about P200 million after some 100,000 individuals were apprehended and were made to pay the P2,000 fine.
He said the people who paid the fines were "people [who] cannot afford more posh ways of commute" and had to ride motorcycles to get to their destinations faster.
"The P2,000 is just unacceptable. You’ll be surprised, so it's around 200 million pesos worth of illegal exaction based on an unconstitutional policy and you will be surprised, a lot of people have been messaging me and they were saying, 'Atty, how can I get my P2,000?' Sometimes P4,000 because they’ve been caught again," he said.
"This is very important to me, to us because sayang rin 'yun, hirap na hirap akong kinita yung pera kong 'yun. That was my salary for 14 days, 15 days, and they just got it and I didn’t have a choice.' It’s very painful."
"It’s as if the poorest of the poor are not being understood by the City of Mandaluyong and instead of providing them alternatives, they are making it more difficult and more costly for them to survive everyday—without empirical basis," he said.
De Leon said the P200-million pot was from "illegal exaction based on an unconstitutional policy" and should therefore be returned to those who paid the penalties.
He said after the CA ruled that the ordinances were unconstitutional, Mandaluyong City "should have the moral obligation to return" the fines collected "without any prodding."
"We intend to pursue this and the City of Mandaluyong and all local government units out there should be reminded that they cannot just implement arbitrary policies because people, citizens will push back against an oppressive policy and they will have accountabilities," he said.
He said in the ordinances that were declared unconstitutional, "innocent people are the ones being penalized just because of isolated actions of criminals."
"If you really want to strike that perfect balance, the state must be able to justify its actions, show that they’ve exerted all efforts to make society safer, and they should not inconvenience people and penalize them arbitrarily just because of their sex," he said.
"Government should be more intelligent in thinking about policies to make people safer and not just assert and already categorize males as automatically criminals or have the propensity to become criminals," he added.
Mandaluyong City Mayor Menchie Abalos earlier said the local government will elevate this case to the Supreme Court. De Leon said although the process will be cumbersome, he is ready to continue the fight up to the high tribunal.