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Tuesday, July 23, 2024

SC also puts on hold payment of NCAP fines

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Motorists who were tagged by the no-contact apprehension policy (NCAP) before the Supreme Court stopped it with a temporary restraining order (TRO) should wait for the case to be resolved before paying any fines, a Court spokesman said Wednesday.

The statement, issued by SC spokesman Brian Keith Hosaka, contradicted the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) announcement that those who were apprehended before the TRO was issued on Aug. 30 would still be subject to penalties.

“For those apprehended prior to the issuance of the temporary restraining order (TRO) against NCAP, let us wait for the action of the SC in the main decision or even future order, if any,” Hosaka said in a text message to reporters.

“I assure the public that our Justices are aware of these concerns and they will be studying them very carefully,” he added.

In the resolution containing the TRO, which is immediately executory, the Court ordered that “any apprehensions through the NCAP programs and ordinances related thereto shall be prohibited until further orders from the Court.”

The SC also enjoined the Land Transportation Office and all parties acting on its behalf from giving out motorist information to all local government units, cities, and municipalities enforcing NCAP programs and ordinances.

The SC also resolved to conduct oral arguments on Jan. 24, 2023 on the two petitions which challenged the constitutionality of NCAP.

MMDA spokesman and chief of Legal Service Cris Saruca Jr. on Wednesday said that “collection of NCAP fines shall also stop for those who have been apprehended by the policy after the issuance of the TRO yesterday (Aug. 30). Apprehensions which happened prior to the TRO shall be subject to corresponding penalties.”

“The Supreme Court said that the TRO is effective immediately and shall continue until further notice, hence, it is prospective, and those who have been caught through the policy prior to the issuance of the TRO still have to pay their fines,” he said.

With the TRO, Metro Manila cities that have been implementing the NCAP announced they will abide by the SC order.

The TRO was issued on two petitions that claimed NCAP is unconstitutional.

The first petition against NCAP was filed by the Kilusan sa Pagbabago ng Industriya ng Transportasyon, Inc. (KAPIT), Pangkalahatang Sanggunian Manila and Suburbs Drivers Association Nationwide (Pasang-Masda), Alliance of Transport Operators and Drivers Association of the Philippines (ALTODAP), and Alliance of Concerned Transport Organization (ACTO).

Named respondents in the transport groups’ petition were the Land Transportation Office (LTO), the local governments of Manila, Quezon City, Valenzuela City, Muntinlupa City, and Paranaque City.

The second petition was filed by lawyer Juman B. Paa who also sought a TRO against the NCAP being implemented in the City of Manila.

In his petition, Paa asked the SC to declare unconstitutional Manila City Ordinance No. 8676, series of 2022, on NCAP.

A party-list lawmaker, meanwhile, said agencies and local government units (LGUs) that enforced the controversial NCAP should return the fines paid by supposed violators.

“Now that the Supreme Court has issued a TRO against this policy, the concerned agencies and LGUs should reimburse the alleged violators the fines collected from them,” Rep. Mikee Romero of party-list group 1-Pacman said in a statement.

Romero said these government offices must have collected tens of millions of pesos from supposed NCAP offenders.

Surigao del Norte Rep. Robert Ace Barbers lauded the Court’s decision to issue a TRO, saying this would give a chance for the House of Representatives to review alleged flaws, including the constitutionality of the program.

Barbers, chairman of the House committee on dangerous drugs, delivered a privilege speech last month calling for a stop and review of NCAP until all issues surrounding the program are resolved.

“The NCAP’s intention to discipline erring, abusive and wayward motorists is laudable and good for the public. But the excessive fines, its constitutionality, among other issues, should be resolved first,” he said.

Romero noted that lawyer Juman Paa, one of the complainants in the two cases against NCAP pending in the Supreme Court, had complained of being sent notices for four violations, for which he was asked to pay more than P20,000 in fines.

He said some Quezon City residents were notified of multiple NCAP violations of the 60-kilometer-per-hour speed limit along Commonwealth Avenue.

“The notices show that the alleged violations were just 1-2 minutes apart. The video footage showing the alleged offenses must have been taken by just one camera. This is proof that this scheme is open to abuse,” he said.

He said the violators in this case have no protection against abuse “because they cannot argue with the footage and the camera that took it.”

Romero also said the LTO should not have revealed to the MMDA and the five cities that enforced NCAP the names and home addresses of the alleged violators.

“The LTO might have violated the Data Privacy Act by disclosing this personal information, which it is bound under the law to protect. I hope the data does not fall into the hands of criminally-inclined persons who could use it for extortion activities,” he said.

He added that the MMDA and the five cities used the information in sending notices for NCAP violations.

The MMDA on Wednesday announced it will intensify its contact apprehension and deploy more personnel on-the-ground to catch erring motorists.

The move came a day after the agency declared it will comply with the Supreme Court’s TRO.

In a press conference, Saruca said the on-the-ground apprehension will continue and deployment of traffic enforcers will be adjusted to cover the areas where NCAP cameras are located.

These areas include Epifanio de los Santos Avenue, Commonwealth Avenue, Quezon Avenue, Roxas Boulevard, Circumferential Road – 5 (C-5 Road), and President Diosdado Macapagal Boulevard.

While Saruca said that the NCAP has contributed to behavioral shift among motorists, he said the MMDA will do its best to efficiently perform its mandate without NCAP.

The MMDA will also consult the Office of the Solicitor General to seek advice on its next action and whether it will have to intervene on the pending petition as it is not a respondent to the case, he added.

He said the MMDA registered about 107,000 NCAP apprehensions from January until Aug. 24 this year. Common violations include disregarding traffic and no loading and unloading signs, as well as violations of the number coding scheme.

Also on Wednesday, the National Center for Commuter Safety and Protection said commuters must be represented in the technical working group for the deliberation of the NCAP.

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