THE Department of Justice (DOJ) has declared that the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) has no power to apprehend, impound and dispose of colorum vehicles.
“We advise that LTFRB has no power to apprehend, impound and dispose [of] colorum vehicles. Its authority extends only in the coordination cooperation with other government agencies in the apprehension, impounding and disposal of such vehicles,” Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla said in a legal opinion dated May 31, 2023.
The DOJ’s legal opinion contradicts the position of the Department of Transportation (DOTr) headed by Secretary Jaime Bautista, who believes that the LTFRB has enforcement authority under Commonwealth Act No. 146, also known as the Public Service Act, which allows the agency to make reasonable rules and regulations for the operation of public service and to enforce these rules.
Bautista, along with the LTFRB, have both sought the DOJ’s legal opinion on the issue.
The DOTr noted that Executive Order No. 202, which created the LTFRB, mandates the agency to promulgate, administer, and enforce policies, laws and regulations on public transportation.
It also pointed out that while Joint Administrative Order No. 2014-01 prescribes penalties for violations in connection with franchise, including apprehension and impounding of vehicles without stating that the agency has the authority to implement the same, it may be inferred that it has the authority to do so under Commonwealth Act No. 146.
Furthermore, Bautista noted that LTFRB is spearheading the effort of the Inter-Agency Council for Traffic (I-ACT) of apprehending and impounding colorum vehicles.
The DOTr chief also said the President’s directive to conduct a nationwide crackdown on all colorum vehicles, including the arrest of drivers and seizure of vehicles and approval by Congress of budgets for acquisition of impounding areas for this purpose, “reinforces, if not affirms,” the agency’s power to apprehend and impound vehicles.
However, the DOJ said Section 5 of EO No. 202, which enumerates the powers and functions of LTFRB, “does not contain any express provision which authorizes LTFRB to apprehend, impound and dispose colorum vehicles.”
If there was no express grant of authority to apprehend, impound and dispose column vehicles, could such power be inferred from others of EO No. 202. The answer to this is in the negative.
While Section 5 (k) of EO 2020 grants LTFRB the power to enforce rules and regulations, the DOJ stressed that it applies only to specific purposes listed in the said provision.
Section 5(k) states: “To formulate, promulgate, administer, implement and enforce rules and regulations on land transportation public utilities, standards of measurements and/or design, and rules and regulations requiring operators of any public land transportation service to equip, install and provide in their utilities and in their stations such devices, equipment facilities and operating procedures and techniques as may promote safety, protection, comfort and convenience to persons and property in their charges as well as the safety of persons and property within their areas of operations.”
“Nothing therein can be remotely used to justify the power to apprehend and impound colorum vehicles,” the DOJ said.
With respect to DOTr’s position that the power to apprehend and impound colorum vehicles may be inferred from JAO No. 2014-01, the DOJ reiterated that without any provision of law granting such power to LTFRB, it has no authority to exercise such powers.
“Administrative issuances must be in harmony with the law upon which such issuances are based,” the justice department stated.
It explained that JAO No. 2014-01 is in the nature of an administrative issuance whose purpose is to provide for the details of the law and serve as a guide in the implementation of the same.
“If EO No. 202 did not expressly grant to LTFRB the power to apprehend, impound and dispose [of] colorum vehicles, such powers cannot be inferred from JAO No. 2014-01,” the DOJ pointed out.
The DOJ declared that it is the Land Transportation Office and the Traffic Management Unit of the Philippine National Police which are authorized to enforce traffic rules and regulations under Section 4 (5) of Republic Act 4136, also known as the Land Transportation and Traffic Code and Section 35 (b) (8) of RA No. 6975, otherwise known as the Department of the Interior and Local Government Act of 1990.
Thus, the DOJ said unless duly deputized by the LTO or PNP, “LTFRB has no power to enforce the provisions of EO No. 202 and other related laws and, hence, cannot legally apprehend and impound colorum vehicles.”