SC stops contested traffic policy for at least 5 months

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 30) — The Supreme Court on Tuesday stopped for at least five months the implementation of a controversial traffic scheme carried out by some Metro Manila cities and the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA).

The temporary restraining order (TRO) stemmed from a consolidated case -- based on separate petitions earlier filed by transport groups and a lawyer -- that challenged the No Contact Apprehension Policy (NCAP).

"The Court, resolved, and without necessarily giving due course to the Petitions, to: issue a temporary restraining order and until further orders from the Court enjoining all respondents from the implementation of the No Contact Apprehension Policy programs and ordinances thereto," the court's media briefer read.

"The Court also said that any apprehensions through NCAP programs and ordinances related thereto shall be prohibited until further orders from the Court."

Although the MMDA is not a respondent in the case, SC Public Information Officer Brian Hosaka explained that the TRO covers the agency's NCAP "because its Resolution No.16-10 Series of 2016 was the basis of the local ordinances of LGU (local government units) respondents."

The Supreme Court set the case for oral arguments on Jan. 24, 2023.

It also asked the Land Transportation Office (LTO) to stop releasing personal information of motorists to local government units enforcing NCAP.

Four transport groups filed a petition before the Supreme Court on Aug. 16 questioning the local ordinances of Quezon City, as well as the cities of Manila, Valenzuela, Parañaque, and Muntinlupa enforcing the NCAP.

Meanwhile, lawyer Juman Paa also asked the high court on Aug. 17 to declare the policy unconstitutional and issue a TRO for lack of due process and personal information security.

In his petition, Paa said he was told by the LTO to pay a fine of ₱20,360 for supposed traffic violations in Manila despite not receiving any notices. He later learned that the notices of violation were sent to the wrong address.

Paa further argued that the personal details of vehicle owners can be easily accessed on the city's website due to lack of security measures.

Response from LGUs

Both the local governments of Quezon City and Manila pointed out that the implementation of NCAP has helped ease traffic flow and reduced traffic violations and accidents in their jurisdictions. However, the two cities said they will respect the TRO.

"The Quezon City Government fully respects, and will abide by, the Temporary Restraining Order issued by the Honorable Supreme Court regarding the implementation of the No Contact Apprehension Program," the Quezon City government said in a statement.

"Nararapat lamang na pag-aralang mabuti sa korte ang mga naturang mga puna at sinasabing mga problema sa NCAP nang gayo'y mabigyan ito ng resolusyon," said Priscilla Marie Abante, Manila Mayor Honey Lacuna's spokesperson.

[Translation: It's just right for the court to further look into the criticisms and supposed problems in the implementation of NCAP so these will be resolved.]

In a separate statement, Valenzuela Mayor Wes Gatchalian said the implementation of the NCAP will also be suspended in the city starting Tuesday, Aug. 30.

"Nonetheless, city traffic enforcers will remain active on duty to ensure strict compliance with traffic regulations," Gatchalian added.

For their part, both the LTO and MMDA also vowed to comply with the court order.

"The Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) will no longer implement the No Contact Apprehension Policy (NCAP) in light of the statement of Supreme Court spokesperson Brian Keith Hosaka that the agency is covered by the SC's temporary restraining order on the implementation of NCAP," the agency said.

The LTO also said it "will continue to reach out to different stakeholders in crafting the guidelines for the access of LGUs to its information technology (IT) facility, pursuant to the provisions of Republic Act 10930 and its implementing rules and regulations (IRR)."