THE Supreme Court has unanimously upheld the validity of the orders issued by the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) imposing the number coding scheme on public-utility buses (PUB) to ease the traffic congestion in Metro Manila.
In a 28-page decision penned by Associate Justice Marvic Leonen, the Court junked the petition filed by bus drivers Samson Pantaleon, Eduardo Tacoyo Jr., Jesus Bautista and Monico Agustin seeking to enjoin the MMDA from implementing its Unified Vehicular Volume Reduction Program, otherwise known as the number coding scheme, as embodied in Metro Manila Development Authority Resolution l0-16 and Metro Manila Development Authority Memorandum Circular 08, Series of 2010 (challenged issuances) and to declare the nullity of said issuances.
It can be recalled that on October 15, 2010, the Metro Manila Council adopted MMDA Resolution 10-16, Series of 2010 re-implementing the number coding scheme for all PUBs, both provincial and city, on experimental basis due to the recurring heavy traffic along major thoroughfares in Metro Manila, partly due to rampant traffic violations committed by their drivers.
On October 27, 2010, MMDA issued Circular 08, removing all PUBs from the list of vehicles exempted from the number coding scheme.
This prompted the petitioners to seek redress from the SC through a petition for injunction seeking to declare null and void the said issuances.
In their petition, the petitioners argued that MMDA Resolution 10-16 and Memorandum Circular 08, Series of 2010 contravene Republic Act 7924, as well as decisions of this Court, which held that the MMDA and MMC have no legislative and police power, as all its functions are administrative in nature.
The petitioners said the administrative issuances constitute an exercise of rule-making authority that is beyond the powers of the heads of the Metropolitan Manila Commission and MMDA.
They added that a legislative enactment from the respective local government units is necessary to uphold the implementation of the challenged issuances.
Furthermore, even if the issuances were supported by the appropriate local ordinances, petitioners posited that they would still be invalid and ineffective because they unduly encroached upon the powers and prerogatives of the Land Transportation and Franchising Regulatory Board (LTFRB).
Petitioners argued that under Section 16 of Commonwealth Act 146, it is the LTFRB which has the exclusive jurisdiction “ to grant, amend, modify or revoke franchises issued to public utility operators.”
However, the SC declared that the assailed MMDA issuances “were validly issued” pursuant to the agency’s power to regulate traffic under Republic Act 7924, the law that created MMDA.
It added that its discretion to reimpose the number coding scheme on PUBs was a reasonably appropriate response to the serious traffic problem pervading Manila.
“The arbitrariness, oppressiveness and unreasonableness of the implementation of the issuances have not been sufficiently shown. The buses driven by petitioners have not been totally banned or prohibited from plying the Metro Manila roads. However, as in private vehicles, the operation of public-utility buses in Metro Manila was merely regulated with a view to curb traffic congestion,” the Court ruled.
While it recognizes the possible adverse effect of the inclusion of PUBs in the number coding scheme on the petitioners’ livelihood, the SC said the general welfare of the public is of paramount importance.
“Hence, petitioners’ individual interests must be subordinated to the benefit of the greater number,” the Court stressed.
The Court stressed that “there is no outright deprivation of property but merely a restriction in the operation of PUBs along the major roads of Metro Manila through the number coding scheme.”