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Monday, June 24, 2024

SC nullifies rule on traffic violation receipts, licenses

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The Supreme Court (SC) has nullified the provision in 15 traffic ordinances in Metro Manila allowing the issuance of traffic violation receipts known as the Ordinance Violation Receipts (OVRs) and the confiscation of drivers’ licenses by traffic enforcers.

In a 41-page en banc decision penned by Associate Justice Benjamin Caguiao, the SC granted the petition for review filed by various transport groups seeking the reversal of the Court of Appeals’ (CA) decision dated Dec. 7, 2012 and resolution dated Oct. 3, 2013, which declared the assailed ordinances as legal and constitutional.

The 15-member bench held that the said ordinances are invalid for violation of Republic Act No. 7924 or the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) Law which gives the agency the exclusive power to come up with policies concerning traffic in the metropolis and to coordinate and regulate the implementation of all programs and projects concerning traffic.

Section 5 of the said law mandates the MMDA to “install and administer single ticketing system…and confiscate and suspend or revoke driver’s licenses in the enforcement of such traffic laws and regulations…”

“All told, the Court thus declares as invalid the common provision in the said traffic codes or ordinances of the LGUs in Metro Manila empowering each of them to issue OVRs to erring drivers and motorists.

The other provisions of the traffic codes or ordinances remain valid and unaffected by this decision,” the SC declared.

With this ruling, the SC issued a permanent injunction enjoining the cities of Makati, Taguig, Paranaque, Pasay, Quezon City, San Juan, Navotas, Las Piñas, Pasig, Muntinlupa, Valenzuela, Caloocan, Manila, the municipality of Pateros from further issuing OVRs and confiscating licenses through their own traffic enforcers unless they are deputized by the MMDA.

The high court directed all LGUs to comply with the Joint Metro Traffic Circular No. 12-01 issued in 2012 by the MMDA which sets the guidelines for the implementation of the Uniform Ticketing System in Metro Manila.

Under the Joint Circular, the Uniform Ticketing System shall be implemented within the 16 cities and one municipality in Metro Manila.

Through the Uniform Ticketing System, traffic violators shall be issued a UOVR which will be recognized by the MMDA, the Land Transportation Office and all LGU traffic operatives as a valid traffic citation receipt and temporary driver’s license.

As of 2021, the LGUs that have complied with the circular and implementing the single ticketing system  are Mandaluyong, San Juan, Manila, Taguig, Pasig, and Paranaque.

But the the cities of San Juan, Pasig, Paranaque and Taguig noted that while they have been implementing the single ticketing system, the fines penalties and surcharges continuously differ because the LGUs are still implementing their local ordinances in the exercise of their local autonomy.

Meanwhile, Caloocan City manifested that it still follows its own traffic ordinance and that it issues its own OVR to persons or entities found to have violated any provision of the Ordinance.

“As a necessary consequence of the foregoing discussion on the MMDA possessing the necessary powers to implement the single ticketing system as provided for by the MMDA Law, the Court so holds that the Joint Circular is valid and must thus be implemented with full force and effect so as to accomplish the intent of the legislature in enacting the MMDA Law,” the SC ruled.

The SC also assured that the autonomy of the LGUs will not be undermined by the Court ruling “as their interest are amply protected by the very structure of the MMDA as established by the MMDA Law.”

It noted that except the MMDA chairperson who is appointed by the President, the membership of the Metro Manila Council, which is the governing board and policy making body of the MMDA , is composed of all the mayors of the 16 cities and lone municipality as well as the presidents of the Metro Manila Vice Mayors League and the Metro Manila Councilors League.

It added that while the national government has representatives in the MMC, these representatives have not voting power in the council.

“This structure breathes life to the avowed objectives of the MMDA Law which is to promote efficiency, cohesion, harmony, and order, in the delivery of metro-wide services such as trafficmanagement in Metro Manila – without undermining local autonomy, as its decisions are reached through a governing body composed primarily of the local chief executives themselves,” the SC said.

Meanwhile, the SC said the recent  adoption by  the MMC of MMDA Resolution No. 23-02, or the Metro Manila Traffic Code (MMTC) of 2023 has not rendered the case moot.

The MMTC  reiterates  the implementation of the single ticketing system through the use of the UOVRs  and provides for the interoperability of citation tickets issued within Metro Manila.

The SC pointed out that MMTC did not repeal the provisions in the respective OVR ordinances of the LGUs but merely “encouraged” LGUs to adopt the traffic code by amending their traffic ordinances.

The case stemmed from the petition for injunction and mandamus filed by  led by the Federation of Jeepney Operators and Drivers Association of the Philippines (FEJODAP) seeking to compel LGUs in Metro Manila to comply with MMDA’s single ticketing system.

Aside from FEJODAP, other petitioners in the case are the of Concerned Transport Operators (ACTO), Alliance of Transport Operators and Drivers Association of the Philippines (ALTODAP), Pangkalahatang Sangguniang Manila and Suburbs Drivers Association Inc. (Pasang Masda), Metro Manila Bus Operators Association (MMBOA), Pagkakaisa ng mga Samahan ng Tsuper at Operator Nationwide (Piston), Makati Jeepney Operators and Drivers Alliance, Inc (MJODA), Integrated Metro Bus Operators (IMBOA), Northeast Manila Bus Operators Group (Nembog) National Trans-Workers Union (NTU), and Provincial Bus Operators Association of the Philippines (PBOAP).

The petitioners accused LGUs of making their driver-members as milking cows through the implementation of their own traffic ordinances which allow their deputized traffic enforcers to confiscate their licenses.

Contrary to the clear mandate of R.A. 7924, the petitioners said, LGUs currently implements its own ticketing system through their respective deputized traffic enforcers.

The transport groups said LGUs should be disallowed from implementing their own traffic ordinances in order to put an end to the ongoing confusion in the streets brought about by the issuance of different traffic violation receipts by the LGUs, MMDA and LTO.

They added that when the licenses of their members are confiscated by LGU deputized traffic enforcers and are issued OVRs, the LTO traffic enforcers who subsequently catch the same erring drivers, do not recognize the OVRs.

Instead, the LTO traffic enforcers cite the erring drivers for driving without license, which is a serious traffic offense.

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