The Supreme Court on Tuesday finally lifted the temporary restraining order it issued in June 2016 ordering 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 and donated to the Land Transportation Office last April.
The 15-member bench dismissed the petition filed by Representatives Jonathan dela Cruz and Gustavo Tambunting questioning the legality of Customs’ move to donate the plates to the LTO.
The high 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 Motor Vehicle License Plate Standardization Program of the Department of Transportation.
“The Court ruled that the 2014 GAA included an appropriation for the program and the use of the appropriation is constitutional,” high court spokesman Theodore Te, said in a media briefing.
Te said the high 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 MVPSP intended to supply the new license plates for both old and new vehicle registrants.
The program, which runs 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 Transport department awarded the project to the joint venture of The Netherlands-based J. Knieiriem B.V. Goes and local company Power Plates Development Concept with the contract being signed on Feb. 21, 2014.
The Transport department and the LTO said the project involved adding safety features to license plates, such as tamper-resistant locks and bolts and reflectorized sheeting.
The high court agreed with the Office of the Solicitor General that the controversy had been rendered moot by the passage of the 2014 GAA.
Whatever defects attended the procurement, the high court said, had been cured by the appropriation in the 2014 GAA of the full amount.
The Court said that while Jacomille's petition focused on the legality of the procurement of the MVPSP in consideration of the insufficient funding of the project under the 2013 GAA, it nevertheless determined that the 2014 GAA contained appropriation for the MVPSP amounting to P4.8 billion, and 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 high court said.