SC lifts TRO on release of  700,000 motor vehicle plates

THE Supreme Court (SC) on Tuesday lifted the temporary restraining order (TRO) it issued in June 2016, e joining the release of 300,000 pairs of license plates for motor vehicles and 400,000 plates for motorcycles earlier seized by the Bureau of Customs (BOC) and donated to the Land Transportation Office (LTO) last April.

SC  Spokesman Theodore O. Te said the order was issued during the 15-man regular en banc session, as the Court ruled to dismiss the petition filed by Party-list Rep. Jonathan de la Cruz of Abakada Rep. and Gustavo Tambunting of the Second District of Parañaque, questioning the legality of the BOC’s move to donate the plates to the LTO.

The petitioners argued that the confiscated license plates can’t be donated to the LTO by the BOC in view of the notice of disallowance issued by the Commission on Audit (COA) on LTO Motor Vehicle License Plate Standardization Program (LTO-MVLPSP).

In a resolution issued on June 14, 2016, the Court stopped the LTO and the Department of Transportation and Communications, which was later renamed Department of Transportation (DOTr), from distributing license plates which may be subsequently turned over by the BOC in connection with the LTO-MVLPSP.

In lifting the TRO, the Court unanimously declared as constitutional the use of the appropriation under the Motor Vehicle Registration and Driver’s Licensing Regulatory Services in the General Appropriations Act of 2014 for the implementation of the LTO-MVLPSP of the DOTr.

“The Court ruled that the 2014 GAA included an appropriation for the program and the use of the appropriation is constitutional,” Te announced.

Te added the Court took into consideration two issues raised in the petition: Whether the 2014 GAA included an appropriation for the MVLPSP and whether the use of the 2014 appropriation was constitutional.

The Court noted that it already ruled in the case of Jacomille v. Abaya on April 22, 2015, on the legality of the procurement of the MVLPSP intended  to supply the new license plates for both old and new vehicle registrants.

The program, which shall run from July 2013 to June 2018, has a budget of P3.8 billion for the procurement of license plates for 5,236,439 motor vehicles and 9,968,017 for motorcycles nationwide.

The DOTC has awarded the project to the joint venture of Netherlands-based J.Knieriem B.V. Goes and local company Power Plates Development Concepts with the contract being signed on February 21, 2014. The DOTr and the LTO said the project involved adding safety features to license plates, such as tamper-resistant locks and bolts and reflectorized sheeting.

In the said ruling, the Court agreed with the Office of the Solicitor General that the controversy has been rendered moot by the passage of the 2014 GAA.

Whatever defects attended the procurement, the SC said, had been cured by the appropriation in the 2014 GAA of the full amount.

The Court noted that, while Jacomille’s petition focused on the legality of the procurement of the MVLPSP in consideration of the insufficient funding of the project under the 2013 GAA,it
nevertheless determined that the 2014 GAA contained appropriation for the MVLPSP amounting to P4.8 billion , thus, could be implemented using the funds under the 2014 GAA.

“The appropriation, both for procurement and implementation, has been examined and decided by the Court and may not be assailed anew under the present petition based on the same grounds, which had already been dealt with in the Jacomille decision,” the Court ruled.

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